A personal update

By Caitlin Kelly

Like many of you, I’m pooped!

We’re coming up on a year of the pandemic and I can’t see getting access to a vaccination for months — even as Jose and I newly qualify.

I’ve been trying for months to find an agent who wants to represent my book proposal. I’m extremely frustrated at how slow this process is and how it feels like begging for attention — it is — even after having already sold and published two books with major publishers.

The fantasy is that agents are cool, smart, helpful.

Some are.

Some are just…really rude. Like the one I was referred to a few years ago, at a fancy New York City agency. I described the book I hoped to produce and he warned me not to be…shrill. For Christ’s sake.

Then the one this year, also referred by a friend, who hadn’t even bothered to look at my work or realize I had already published twice before.

The lack of respect is appalling, fed by the thousands and thousands of people desperate for a book deal. It’s not pretty.

There are a few ways to find an agent. If you have friends who write in your genre, and are generous, several will offer you a referral to theirs, who may or may not want your book or not be a fit. Or you go find books similar to yours and see who the agent was the author thanked and try them. Or…cold pitch strangers.

None of which is quick or easy or fun.

I’ve also been facing a battery of medical tests to determine why my blood has excess iron. Turns out I have a genetic mutation that causes it but still have to have an MRI of my liver to make sure there isn’t another reason as well. The solution to the former is 16th century — blood-letting!

And I have been trying and trying and trying to lose weight, starting with intermittent fasting November 1. I see my GP Feb. 23 and will see what progress, if any, this has made for my health.

Add to this pile ‘o stress the loss or fading of several friendships.

I know COVID has affected many people, if not their health, their attention span or ability to spare time for others. But it’s hard to go through this much stuff all at once without people to talk to, so I’ve been over-burdening my husband. I very rarely cry, but it’s been a time of tears here recently.

Sheer frustration!

And none of this, objectively, is terrible.

No one but me cares if I sell this damn book

Only my GP cares if I lose weight.

The liver issue won’t require surgery.

And we are very lucky to have work and savings and no one else dependent on us, as so many are.

I really really miss travel!

But I’m cooked.

Only after writing it all down, getting it out of my head, did I realize that trying to manage three damn difficult things at the same time — each of which is slow as hell and anxiety-producing and the successful outcome of which is, to some degree, beyond my control — is so tiring.

Yes, I’m impatient!

I work my ass off and I’m generally used to succeeding,

I loathe failing.

Like everyone, I hate medical surprises; I had no clue my liver was weird. No symptoms. This all showed up thanks to a routine blood test.

I really hate grovelling to find an agent — meeting repeated rejection — watching everyone crow on social media about their book, movie and TV deals.

Sorry if this is all too tedious or whiny,

But it’s where things are right now.

How are you doing?!

19 thoughts on “A personal update

  1. Yes, we’re all getting fatigued by this miserable virus. I wouldn’t pay much attention to what people say about themselves on social media. There’s a lot of exaggeration (and lies) out there. As an employer, I am regularly reminded of the degree to which people will mislead, exaggerate and just outright lie. When I quickly became concerned about a recent hire and started a somewhat superficial check, I found out that the resume was almost complete fiction. (It was going to be found by the quals board; I just decided to do my own because of my concerns.) I was amazed at the audacity, and, I think, the belief that we wouldn’t check because it’s the north. Yikes.
    I hope things turn around for you soon.

  2. Boy, I can feel the strain..I am so sorry. Lately, I have focused very deeply on how I can better respond to multiple, urgent issues. My goal? To remain peaceful, positive and clear headed.. reminding myself of the ‘greater life-context’ that surrounds my problems. Sounds goofy, but for my own health (physically and mentally), I need to continually short circuit my default responses which usually involve facial flushing and the sound of blood pressure swooshing in my ears–HA!

  3. this sounds so stressful and exhausting. try to give yourself a break in the spaces where you can. this is all so much to balance. try to focus on the things you can control, since you have no choice about the other. you are an accomplished journalist and it must be frustrating to have to fight for your livelihood. hopefully your medical issues will be addressed and not too overwhelming.
    I wouldn’t put much stock in people bragging about themselves on social media, things are quite often not as they appear. hopefully you can both get your vaccines sooner rather than later, so many of us who are eligible are having to wait for now. I do think the pace is beginning to pick up a bit.

  4. Suggestion – read The New Atkins for a new you. I’m a believer. Book – self publish? I’m bored and restless. And tired. Enough already. But like you say, it could be a lot worse.

  5. I’ve been on a roller coaster. On the one hand, my life is pretty stable. I just adopted some cats and I’m slowly bonding with them. And I am losing weight, which is something I’ve been trying to do for ages.
    On the other, my anxiety is trying to make me miserable, the weather isn’t helping and I’m also struggling to get more work published. I miss my family and want to travel, and I don’t see myself getting the vaccine any time soon.
    So, like I said, roller coaster.

  6. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, I am shocked, although I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, at the dismissive treatment an accomplished writer like you is receiving from agents. And I do hope your liver problem turns out to not be serious.
    I am – believe it or not – not bored, because I have found a number of very intellectually stimulating
    Meetups that I attend, on Zoom, regularly.
    I have been disappointed in many friendships for quite. There are very few people I can really talk to. Most people listen so poorly, they mostly projectt their own issues onto others. That is the antithesis of a conversation, in my book.
    I am spending too much time with Netflix, have gotten quite engrossed in The Blacklist with James Spader.
    I force myself to exercise.
    And my dog, who is quite the cuddler, is an enormous help. I got her from the shelter last summer after my previous, much loved and very elderly dog, had to be put to sleep. Dogs have always comforted me.

  7. How many books sold last time? How many fewer books (%) would need to sell if you self-published with better margins. (no middle men to pay) I’ve listened to Sam Harris describe how many books he actually sells as compared to the number of folks in his audience for a podcast and it makes me wonder why anyone publishes a book when you can build your own audience (subscribers, book buyers) online.

    Good luck with all the stressful goings on. Be well.

    1. I’m aware that some authors do very very well with their own audiences. I have nothing like theirs to sell to and this blog is already 11 years old. I’m not going to spend MORE unpaid energy trying to boost it further.

      My past book sold well enough to not dissuade a traditional publisher to take on the next, but today, someone with a huge social media presence — and NO writing skills or ability — will and does win a fast and lucrative book deal based purely on those numbers.

      People who pay attention to data know that engagement matters more….this blog (according the data that WordPress feeds me) has 23,020 followers….of which maybe 20 take time to comment. I am appreciative of them! But 20 people even potentially buying my book is not the ROI I need or want.

      The book I want to publish is a collection of interviews with very senior people — some of whom I literally have to wait months to speak to. Asking them, on top of that, to offer their time for a spec project seems unlikely to get me what I want.

  8. This all sounds tough. Sometimes it feels like everything comes at once in life, doesn’t it? Not just one worry but several… And now all against the backdrop of the pandemic.

    Wishing you good health and luck with finding an agent.

    Is there an American equivalent of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook? In the UK, this is published annually and has (among lots of other industry info) a directory of useful contacts in the publishing world.

  9. Susan Dunphy

    Sorry you’ve been having a rough time. I hope you feel better soon and that things turn around for you. It takes courage to speak up about what’s bothering you and I admire you for it.

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