Sunday, July 18, 2010


That P is because it is only a Pseudo Slushpile, but PseudoPslush seemed like overkill... Oh, yeah, I get that if I have to explain the title, it's a fail, but too much seemed worse than clever followed by an explanation... erm... or did at the time.

So what am I talking about?

I had to go through a pile of mostly COMPLETELY incompatible MUCK this week for the first time in two years. You see, in my DAY JOB, I am the supervisor... Now y'all don't need to laugh that somebody put me in charge... I get the irony. But the STORY of it THAT MATTERS, is I FELT for a moment like an agent wading through slush.

Michigan has been in the bottom three economies in the US for going on 10 years now. It has NEVER ranked better than 48 (pretty bad, when you consider they measure these things every month... that is 120 TIMES we've been in the bottom 3). It's bad—lotta people unemployed. But on top of that, 2 years ago, at UM, my employer, a hiring freeze went into effect. NO NEW JOBS. NONE. NADA. ZILCH. ZIPPO. That means the ONLY HIRING DONE is to replace people who leave (100% grant funded positions aside, but don't even get me STARTED on how much harder it has gotten to get grant money—since about 2002 in fact, because the Bush Administration didn't believe in science, and Obama came into this financial MESS). So for my measly Admin/Research position, in a week of posting, there were 81 applicants.

Guess who got to weed them?

If you guessed me, you wouldn't be too far off. Pretty much I had to go through ALL, and I put them in three piles: “Good God, no.” “Possibly, if I've interpreted what my boss wants wrong.” and “Now we're getting somewhere.”

Then I take piles 2 and 3 to my boss so SHE can determine whether she agrees with me or not, and we decide who to interview. (she liked 7 of my 12 yes ones and 1 of my 20 maybes: not too bad for agreement) Might be worth it to note SOME of my Yes's she didn't like had to do with things like odd font changes—you see, the person will be sending correspondence in her name, and so she wants them to have good aesthetic judgment. The reason I am telling YOU, is you never know when somebody might get picky on you for ODD stuff. It ALL needs to be right, so the only thing they have to evaluate on is YOUR WORK.

But the point of this POST (yes, there is a point)... strike that... there are TWO points...

[note: this is a Debbie Ohi cartoon]

1) I felt like an agent weeding through a slushpile... SO MANY PEOPLE either didn't read what we were looking for, or were just desperately grasping at straws when we were NOT THE JOB FOR THEM.

Among these were people who couldn't even be bothered to personalize the darned letter—this REALLY stuck out to me. How bad could they possibly want the job if they couldn't change the sentence from 'a position in human resources' to 'a position as an administrative assistant'. For Pete's sake! At LEAST individualize it to the right freaking JOB LISTING!

This is TOTALLY something I can see causing an auto reject in an agent pile... Querying for genres they don't pub, calling them the wrong name... saying 'to whom it may concern'. If you are serious, you have to be a professional, which means bothering to do a little darned homework! Find out who you are sending the Query to!

2) The other thing I noticed is I have become a rather bitchy person where letter writing skills are concerned. If someone wasn't professional? NO. If someone had poor grammar? NO. And no small number of people were moved UP a pile (no to maybe or maybe to yes) strictly for their ability to communicate well in letter form. I've become a prose junky. So it is worth it to spend the time on writing the query WELL. And it is REALLY REALLY worth it to spend the time making sure you haven't made a BONEHEAD of yourself by thoughtlessly firing off impersonal sludge. Know your audience, personalize and then POLISH.

BONUS CONTENT! Getting to Know you *shifty*

This is going around, but I copied it from Rosie, one of my new friends via the Burrowers, Books & Balderdash where there is a new IMAGE up today if you want to participate in the Drabble contest (I think it is one of Rayna's photographs, which are ALWAYS cool, though I am writing before it is posted, so if I am wrong, don't sue me...).

Anyway... More about ME! *cough*These are the questions...

1.What is YOUR definition of sexy?
2.Would you rather clean up puke or change a poopy diaper?
3. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
4. If you had to give up one of your 5 senses for a year..which one would you give up?
5. Cake or Pie?
6. If you could play any character on TV (old or current) who would you play?
7. My favorite website is.....?
8. The highlight of my day is....?

1) Sexy is this mind meld thing that happens with a direct stare in which you and the other person really GET each other. It can be as purely sexual as what I get looking at Captain Jack (his eyes HAVE that look that somehow don't require bi-directional contact) or as personal as truly and deeply knowing somebody. It can appear instantly in a person you've known for years because you've had a strange dream, or learned something, whereby you touched their soul for an instance. It is typically playful, sometimes a little dangerous, and ALWAYS makes me feel naked.

2)  Poopy diaper. I'm not a huge fan of poop, but everybody poops, even when healthy. Puke is a sign of illness, and so adds fright (and a smell that turns my stomach, instead of just one that is unpleasant) to the task at hand. And a poopy diaper is CONTAINED... (usually, there was an exploding diaper or two when my kids were small) Puke is almost always somewhere it shouldn't BE. *ponders why firefox doesn't like the word poopy*

3)  Introvert. I really LIKE people, but I am not particularly SKILLED with them in a real world setting. And I need a TON of down time. I like being alone.(well... with my characters, I mean) I guess the deciding factor comes with the question, if you had to ALWAYS be with people (no alone time) or NEVER be with people, which which you choose. Yeah... I'm a never. (though the middle ground is preferable)

4)  Probably taste. Much of it can be made up for with smell, and maybe if I couldn't taste much, I'd be less tempted to overdo it. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE tasty stuff, but it is where my biggest control problem lies, so giving it up for a year might be good for me.

5)  Pie. I LIKE cake, but I like pie better.

6)  Sidney Bristow. Oh, sure... lots of parental drama, but she kicked butt, was gorgeous, got to do REALLY cool stuff, and married Michael Vaughn in the end... I could be Sidney.

7)  Probably Blogger, possibly Facebook... used to be HPANA... where my friends are, basically.

8)  WRITING TIME. At about 8:30 each day, I GET NAKED, run a bath, fix a drink, do a Sudoku, and then I WRITE. LOVE that time.

So there we have it. Now you know me!  Well not Biblically... but pretty well anyway...

AND THIS JUST IN:  July 18 is National Ice Cream Day.  Eat some.  And that's an order!


Cruella Collett said...

Interesting how you count yourself as an introvert (or - I really liked the phrasing of this - a never) too. I think you and I are both people who by many would be considered extroverts (especially online, but also in real life), but we don't see ourselves that way. I would have pinned you as an EXTROvert from knowing you online only, and after I met you in person, still an extrovert (but no capital letters).

Since I've noticed this difference in how I see me and how others see me, then, I took a (fast, cheap and simplistic) test on the internet, and it told me "you're somewhere in between". No kidding, Freud... (or Fraud..)

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips. I am trying to figure out how to submit for a magazine article, I will keep those things in mind. You have an interesting way of putting things, I would like to visit again.

Old Kitty said...

Oh we had a job vacancy where I work full time - a temporary post for 4 months and we had over 300 applications. It was very very sad and an indictment of just how messy the whole world is economically! Oh dear!! I don't envy your position of having to shortlist - but I guess you had to do what you had to do to get the best candidate. And yes I can well imagine the same process goes through those having to work through the slushpile in the publishing industry! It's very sobering really.

Oh great questions and fab answers! Apart from the poop and puke question -EEWWWW!!!!! lol!

The sense one is difficult - if I had to give one up... gosh. That's hard!!

Have a lovely day!
Take care

Deb and Barbara said...

I don't have to deal with slush piles, but I have the same peeves and would dismiss or advance as you do.

I was so gonna say what Cruella said -- the most surprising thing about this post is that you're an introvert! Really? Almost impossible to imagine. But there is the biggest disconnect, I guess, between how the internet world works and how real life works.


RosieC said...

Thanks for the query tips. It's funny how I see the same tips over and over in different blogs--writers', agents', editors'--and how they keep complaining about it. I want to know who these people are who call themselves writers who can't use proper grammar?

And now I will shyly add that I have yet to officially query and am scared to pieces of how mine will come off...

On to you: I crumble at your pictures of both Johnny Depp and pie. *swoon* And excellent choice on Sidney Bristol.

As for being intro/extroverted, I don't think it's possible for a writer to be entirely extroverted. I think we all need to have enough time to escape the rest of humanity and live in our own minds and the worlds of our characters. Granted, this isn't so cut and dry, and some of us have more extroverted qualities than others. I'd have to say, though, Hart, that of all of my new online friends, you're one of the more extroverted, at least in cyberspace. :)

RosieC said...

AH! You see? I can't even write a blog comment without a split infinitive! I'm doomed....

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'd remembered that you considered yourself an introvert--I think maybe your feelings about talking on the telephone plays into that.

Also I think there's a range of introvert. Maybe you're closer to being a moderate introvert. Then on the most extreme side there would be the people who live out in the middle of nowhere and grow their own food so they don't have to leave home. :) I think I'm in between the two.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Great writer tips. I too like pie over cake. And I think sexy is a state of mind. When you feel sexy others see your sexiness.


Erin said...

Ice cream.... YUM. Now I have to go convince my mother to buy some.

Hart Johnson said...

Mari-I think you and I DO have a lot in common that way--especially the being pretty 'out there' online, but slightly less so in person. And the tests usually put me in the middle too. Barely toward the introvert.

Kat-Welcome! I hope you DO come back!

OK: 300 applications for a TEMP spot!? Ouch! Though I know those also get students and such who only WANT short term. But still.

Barbara--yeah--my online personality is a little zany... hard to think of someone who's encouraging everyone to get Naked as an introvert, but there you have it.. *snort*

Rosie- *snicker* you're not doomed! You can do it! But seriously, if you're worried, have someone proof it for you.

Elizabeth-I think you also have that "ONLINE" extroversion going--friendly and open--but it is a little easier to see your quiet side. I KNOW though, you are also someone who commits left and right in real life, so you've got some outgoing in there.

Teresa-Nicely put on the sexy thing! I think that's really true and may be why some people can do it with a look, even when you don't know them.

Hart Johnson said...

Erin-you just let her know it is National Ice Cream day! I'm sure she'll go for that!

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! Rosie-I only saw your shorter one first time through... function of going up to read, down to write... so I knew you were NEXT going up, and stopped too soon!

It IS sort of baffling to think there are writers who can't master the grammar for a letter--not very promising for the BOOK.

I think it IS worth it to have some writer friends look at the query, though I think the MUCH harder part is the 'pitch piece' of it--getting your whole book across in about 2 paragraphs... yeah, right.

One of the more extroverted, eh? Then my nefarious plan must be working! Even as a kid I mastered some silly party tricks so I didn't have to TALK to people. *shifty* Part of my introversion though, has to do with brain speed. I can do math stuff fast, but the words come to mind at about the pace I can WRITE them. Makes for poky conversation.

LTM said...

Captain Jack... :D yes, it's the eyes... Give up a sense for a year? wow. That one stumped me. But you nailed it on the poopy... And that's all I have~ ;p Oh, except writing time... miss those uninterrupted stretches so much!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry you had to go through slush without the benfit of snow.

Unknown said...

Great tips on querying agents and publishers. I had no idea you had to muddle through slushpiles. I often do this when choosing students for our inclusion program. I have to read through endless individual education plans and see who would be such high risk behavior (big determining factor when trying to transition your child into general education).

Loved your answers for the Getting to Know You. I always thought of you as an extrovert. I still think that you are . . . secretly. :D

RosieC said...

Oh, don't worry. I have no illusions about how hard it's going to be to write a query and the pitch, and I expect I will go through a bajillion drafts before it ever gets sent anywhere.

And please don't judge my writing ability on my comments ;)

My thoughts come at about that pace, too. The last couple of times I've had a fight with the hubby, he'll say something and I have to walk away for about 20 minutes before I can come up with a retort. Ha! Doesn't really make for effective persuasion, huh?

Hart Johnson said...

Leigh *giggles*

Alex- I know, right? Snow would have helped a BUNCH!

Chary--that sounds really HARD to me, as you are including and excluding for an opportunity, and it seems the FORMS aren't in the students control... it would SUCK to be the victim of a bonehead former teacher who hadn't filled out FORMS right (though I suspect that is rarish) *snort* yeah, super secret extrovert... BUWAHAHAHAHA!

Rosie*giggles* I ALWAYS see typos in my comments after I push 'post' so believe men--no judging from ME! And yeah... my hubby is both quicker, and has a STEEL TRAP for a memory. Fighting is pointless. I just insist I'm right and call it quits.