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Off the Covid Benches and Into the Query Trenches | S.D. Henke

I finished my manuscript.

There, I said it. That statement used to be gilded with large CAPS, exclamation points, and rainbow font in true ROYGBV fashion, yet somehow it feels different this time. For some reason, I’m not feeling the typical show of excitement to shout it out and exclaim how I got from page one to done. I simply don’t have the energy.

It is something to celebrate, I know, and as I move through the query trenches, I already have a few grand slams as I await the ‘industry-standard’ R&R after nearly three years crafting this story. Requests and rejections are steadily trickling in. The kind of rejections to pin up on the wall. Here’s one I received yesterday that came from someone I highly respect in the industry that was so positively inspiring (even with an empathic ‘no’) that I was left with actual hope.

“I wish I had better news for you, but after sharing your submission with —- and the other members of my team, I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any takers. It’s such a strong submission, though—great concept, great execution. So don’t give up. The —- agents, while being in love with sci-fi are currently experiencing a lot of ennui in response to the recent mergers and resulting contraction among publishing houses—especially in sci-fi and fantasy.”

It didn’t quite feel like the relegated bombshell that it was. It simply got me thinking. It isn’t my time or this story’s time. Not yet, and it wasn’t like I woke up this morning and decided to shake off the heavy weight of that rejection along with the weirdest and longest two years ever.

The thing is, this manuscript was my Covid baby, wrought out of pure blood, snot, and tears, and finished in one hello-ton crapshoot of a time. So much happened in that time, so many transitions and life-changing events. I changed teaching jobs after twenty-two years, adapted to teaching online, and my family and I fought off our own bout of Covid. Even with all that going on there was still time and energy for this story. The fact that I didn’t just quit writing is a feat in itself.

I don’t share this to make myself or anyone else feel better, or to assuage the reality that the industry is truly a subjective beast, but I share this to keep going and to help others keep going. It’s been a hard couple of years for everyone. We’ve all felt it, but in these last few years, I also felt the light of possibility for the first time in a long time. There is no going back to the person I was before I wrote this story, and I as I stand at the entry where the gatekeepers keep pointing me in the other direction to steer me away from my goal, I realize I can’t give up on this. I won’t give up on this. And just like that hope, my story itself inspires; I believe in the energy it brings. The world might not be ready for such a story yet, but it sure as hell deserves a fighting shot, and when the fates are ready to invite hope in after two years of slim pickings, my manuscript and I will be here waiting. 

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