Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Afraid of Santa?

OK, so 'round here, it's been hot as all get outs, with the heat index upward of 115 degrees.

Why, then, am I thinking about Santa Claus?

Because I was thinking of agents and editors, of course, and the fear so many writers have for them.

Maybe it was all the RWA talk on Twitter. Maybe it was the fact that I had the privilege of critiquing a new writer's work (and it was GOOD!) and I saw afresh how scary the writing biz can be to a person just starting out.

But it got me thinking ... about Santa Claus.

When The Kiddo was two, I was working as an editor/reporter/chief-cook-and-bottle-washer for a small weekly newspaper. Christmas was a crazy time for me, what with all the year-end banquets and Christmas programs and special events. It meant time away from The Kiddo.

So a lot of times, I tried to multi-task and bring The Kiddo along, if it were appropriate for her and if I thought she'd enjoy it. Ergo, my brilliant idea about Breakfast With Santa.

I had to cover it anyway, and it was a sure fire way of making sure The Kiddo got to see Santa. Like most "sure-fire" things, it didn't go exactly to plan. As a multi-tasker, the endeavor went over about as well as washing your socks in your dishwater would.

It was the first time she got to meet The Jolly Old Elf, at least in her memory. I didn't get within 20 feet of him before she twisted in my arms. One look at him, sitting in his big wooden chair with his long beard and his beachball tummy, and her mind was made up. If she could have climbed on my head, she would have.

"NO, Mommy, NO. Don't wanna." she said. You couldn't get more emphatic than that. No crying. No real panic. Just a very clear, very no-nonsense declaration that there would be no Santa pix for The Kiddo at age two.

I tried explaining to her that she had to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas, that she knew about Santa, that she'd seen pictures of Santa. And she had. She'd plop one fat finger on Santa's pictures in books and tell me all about him. But she was having nothing to do with the real deal.

Writers can be like that. While they understand that they have to ask in order to receive (a query letter must go out before a partial request can come in), sometimes they can't get past that fear.

I've given up trying to cajole, trying to convince new writers that agents and editors are human (and yes, that means they can be cranky, just like us). I've given up repeating, "You can't win if you don't enter!" in my best Ed McMahon impression.

Why? Because I remember that The Kiddo just needed time to process such a fearful choice of making herself vulnerable. A year later, when I had not even mentioned Santa to The Kiddo (after all, the previous year's debacle was still fresh in my mind), she asked ME.

She snuggled into my bed one Saturday morning and warbled, "Mommy, when I get to see Santa? Can I see him TODAY?"

So right then and there I re-arranged my full-to-bursting schedule and took her to the nearest mall. She wanted to see Santa all by herself. So off I let her toddle up to the Big Red Guy. She bent his ear for the longest time about everything she wanted for Christmas. When she climbed off his lap and walked back down the carpeted path to me, she stopped, turned and said, "Santa, I wuv you."

Oh, yeah. When you're ready, you're ready, and absolutely nothing can stop you.


Piedmont Writer said...

MB did the same thing. The nice thing is, now when she doesn't do her chores, I can threaten her with, "I'm going to tell Santa." Oh yes, I am a wicked evil Mommy.

Lickety Splitter said...

I'm personally ready to see our sweltering and record breaking heat take on FALL, but I am not ready for SANTA!

Jessica said...

*very big grin* LOVE this post. Such a good point, you're ready when you're ready.

Dana Elmendorf said...

This is so where I am right now. I'm procrastinating on finishing my novel and rewriting it because I fear the rejection coming down the road. (Also my kiddos are home for summer too) But your post has inspired me to get my act in gear and be ready to tackle what I need to once the kids do return to school.

Great fear of Santa/Agents analogy.

Also loved the southern classics (southern girl here too)
"as all get out"
"sure fire" way

But new to me and I plan to use:
"the endeavor went over about as well as washing your socks in your dishwater would." If I have your permission, I'll be quoting you from now on with that one. Love it.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

1) That's adorable.
2) I'm perfectly okay with an agent sneaking into my house and leaving a book deal under the tree for me to find. For the record.

Donna Hosie said...

At least Santas are not as scary as clowns!

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, I didn't have the heart to threaten The Kiddo with no Santa ... I never promise what I can't deliver!

Lickety Splitter, I am SO ready for the heat to break. Honestly, at 8 p.m., it feels like noon in June.

Jessica, you're READY. :-)

Dana, you have my permission to quote away ... I probably stole it myself. VBG!

Elizabeth, so that's why I haven't had an agent slipping in the house on Christmas Eve ... I didn't leave out the bottle of gin! ;-)

Donna, clowns are scary? Reminds me of my mom -- and the clown she painted ... it was a sad clown.