summer reading

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Summer has arrived, as evidenced by the thermostat in my house, which is registering a balmy 87 degrees at least until my new AC system is installed and/or the heat wave breaks. I may resemble a wilted flower, but my state of mind (rather, body) hasn’t slowed me down. Summer wouldn’t be summer without books, and I’ve been reading them faster than a popsicle melts.

If you’re looking for a good summer (or any season) read, here are my favorites this year, in the order I read them because there is no way I could actually order them in my heart. Whether it’s your turn to host book club or you have a vacation coming up or you just need new fodder for your bedside table, look for these titles at your local bookstore.

1. A Life in Men by Gina Frangello. This story is like a beautiful tapestry; the plot lines are intricately woven together. I coughed when the main protagonist coughed. I cringed when she made moves that were unsafe. I cried. I caught the travel bug.

2. Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead. I have a girl crush on Maggie both for her beautiful prose which just makes me want to write better and because she is delightful in person. Her most recent novel flows like a ballet and made me long for pointe shoes (though I could do without the rigors of ballerina-dom).

3. Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. If this story didn’t take place in the summer, I’d want to read it in front of the fireplace. A little gothic and mysterious with a quick pace, you’ll be wondering who is good, who is evil and oh my god, the setting reminds me of my friends’ family compound on a lake near Cooperstown. (Janet and Wendy, read this book.)

4. Cutting Teeth by Julia Fierro. I won a signed copy of this book, and Julia is my most recent twitter friend I want to know in real life. Putting aside for a second that her debut novel is so very dark but funny and painful yet entertaining, I want to invite her over for wine and cupcakes. Next time you are in DC, Julia…

5. Euphoria by Lily King. I had a bit of a Margaret Mead obsession as a child, but even if anthropologists aren’t your thing, please read this love story. I’m going to spend the rest of my days looking for that person who is both bread and wine.

Am I at five already? I’m tempted to take my list to ten, but my ice cream is turning to soup. Seriously, each is lovely (gritty, intriguing, fun) and your life will be richer for adding them to your reading list.

and now the waiting

94,400 words, two professional rounds of edits and an uncountable number of marks with my dying red pen later, I’ve started pitching agents.

The first experience was only made tolerable by the help I got from my dad, who it turns out is an ace at writing proposals. On Facebook, I compared sending the first query to the first time having sex. It was dreadful. Uncomfortable. I was full of self doubt, but experienced a sense of relief when it was done. Six hours later, the agent in question rejected me (another parallel to my first sexual encounter) but each query I’ve made since has been easier. Better. And on the plus side, it only took two hours and four minutes for an agent in my top three to request my full manuscript.

Yes, as I described a few months ago, the agent pitching process is a lot like online dating. But worse in a way because you can’t tell whether someone peeked at your profile, and it could take four to six weeks to get a wink. Or you might not get a wink at all, as the downside to electronic submissions is that many agents only respond if they are interested. So at some point in the average response window, if you haven’t heard anything, you have to reach your own conclusion that s/he is just not that into you(r writing). I’m not good at reaching that conclusion in my dating life, so this part is going to be particularly tough for your favorite debut novelist wannabe.

In the meantime, while I wait to either hear back (or not) from the remaining 24 agents I’ve queried, I don’t really know how to channel my creative energy. Do I start writing the second book? Enter some writing contests? Revamp my Modern Love essay that was rejected? Reconnect with the real world, which I’ve more or less disappeared from since the  beginning of the new year? Recommit to finding a new client? Bask at the pool and read?

Or maybe, while I’m steeled for rejection, I’ll try online dating.