Friday, February 11, 2011


We all know what slush is, and god knows there's going to be a lot of it out there in the very near future. It's supposed to warm up to just above freezing, daytime temperatures starting tomorrow, so all that knee deep snow will start to melt. Then we get black ice (snow melt water that freezes into slick ice at sunset), and everybody who is driving professionally would almost be money ahead to park it for a week, rather than risk higher insurance premiums.

In publishing, slush refers unsolicited queries. I'm not sure if it's the whole query, or if it's just the sample of the work the author is hoping they'll publish. I do know that reading slush is considered drudgery by the people in the business.

An agent turned author had a contest of sorts on his blog. Post a first paragraph on the blog in the comments and it's entered. The winner basically gets an agent. No, I did not win, nor did I make it into the finals. BUT, I did enter. A step forward. Next time, I'll do better.

Which brings me to what I'm really thinking. First paragraphs......

The last time I seriously thought about writing a paragraph (that I remember) was when Kennedy was either running for, or had just become, president. A long time ago, to be sure. After that, instructors assume you have already learned basic English, and don't present it again. And why would you care anyway, if you can speak, you can write. This makes sense and works fine until someone expects you to do a good job on something longer.

Which is where we come to that first paragraph, and that "slush pile" on a literary agents desk. 100's, or 1000's of submissions (they call them queries), and if that agent is late for his kids little league game, he might not care how good the top query on that pile is.

My reaction to this is to get myself a big collection of first paragraphs. I can't keep them on the internet because I don't want somebody chasing me around over copy rite issues, but I can keep them in a file on a disk, and study them. I'm not scanning them, I'm typing them in, so book by book, I'm seeing what finally made it into print. AND the comments of that agent who got to judge the finalists of that contest begin to make a lot more sense.

Why didn't my 4th grade teacher tell me about this stuff? I seriously doubt she had a clue. She'd just gotten her Mrs. degree, was only minimally interested in teaching, and was just like a lot of the other morons teaching in the public schools in my home town back then. She was putting in her time, and putting her husband through grad school (another big 10 town), and wanted a nice neat little formula she could use in class. She had NO CLUE what a paragraph was really used for, and didn't care. I'm sure she's a grandmother today, and I'll bet her ears still touch. Oh well..............

Back to transcribing those first paragraphs.....

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's funny anyhow?

Back in the day, I used to sit in front of the awning at the Essen Haus if there was nothing else better to do. One night I'm sitting there, and Mike and Neil drag this struggling guy out and toss him on the pavement. Back in they go. Mike's the door man, and Neil 's the bouncer.

The guy comes up to me and asks me if I'll give him a ride to Langdon st. I say ok. He gets in, and we're off.

Almost immediately he's telling me what happened. One of the things you learn is you don't have to ask, usually they'll tell you what happened. If they're ashamed of what happened they won't tell you, and it doesn't matter if you ask or not.

He tells me he went there with his room mate. That's pretty common. They were drinking a pitcher of beer, sitting at the bar. Also pretty common. It's a week night, and on week nights they don't have that UUUoom Paaaahh polka band going. If you go there, it's to dine or more likely to drink. German beer on tap, and the best freshly made warm soft pretzels you could ask for to munch on while you drink.

He gets up and tells his room mate he's going to the bathroom to relieve himself. We all know you don't buy beer, you rent it.

He comes back and his room mate is cracking up. He asks the guy what's so funny. The room mate just snickers on trying hard to control the giggles and breaking into fits of laughing his ass off. Just what the hell is so funny?

So he takes a sip of beer and asks again. The room mate goes bonkers, laughing his ass off.

Finally after much pressing, the room mate confides that what's so funny is he pissed in the guys beer. It was only 3/4 full, so he unzipped his pants, slipped the stein down under the bar and topped it up.

What would you do? Almost anybody I've ever met would be ready to kill the guy. He acted just how you'd expect.

Neil doesn't wait for explanations, he breaks up fights and tosses people out. So the poor victim got tossed out, and was sitting in my cab telling me the story.

Now comes the punch line, sort of ....................... The guy tells me that the ultimate insult, what he's really really really pissed off about, is that his room mate is still inside the bar drinking. They didn't boot him out, so he can't kick the guys ass!

You've got to wonder what happened when the guy who didn't get kicked out finally got home.