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Beabreen
02-07-2011, 12:44 AM
In gratitude for the many, many “Pet Peeves” and “Helpful Hints” columns that agents like to post for writers, here’s one just for them. The following Top Five Helpful Hints for Agents is the result of both my own querying experiences and trolling writers' forums while drinking too much red wine.


Agent Bios
Remember your advice that bios must relate to our work? That winning the National Kazoo Play-Off might not be relevant? That this is the seventy-fifth bio you’ve read this week and just don’t care that Charlotte’s Web inspired me to write? Well, Agent A-list, funny as this may seem—we feel the same way about your bio! Strange world, isn’t it?


The Vague “Wish” List
Where is that bold and innovative agent looking for weak narrative, forgettable characters, and marginal themes that will only connect with a limited audience? There’s a reason I spent the last four hours trying to figure out whether my novel is paranormal urban romance or steampunk chick lit with a cozy mystery edge—genres, not just for writers any more!


The Faux Personalized Rejection
When sending form rejections, resist the urge to say things like “The subject is just not compelling enough” when you really didn’t even get past the first line because 1) the protagonist has the same name as your rotten ex-husband; 2) you aren’t even sure what telepathic cybots are; 3) you aren’t really looking for new writers and only accept queries in case Stieg Larsson is on an island somewhere with Elvis just looking for the right agent. If you checked one or more of the above boxes, my list of “Top 5 Bland and Harmless Rejection Letters” will be coming soon. Look for it.


Snail Queries Only
It’s quaint to be an Old World agent in a New, New World. But I lose sleep at night contemplating the fate of those SASEs when you never reply, or better yet, reply in an email.


No Response = No Interest
In order to understand the cycle of destruction unleashed by this wildly misguided policy, let’s take a peek into the strange, desperate world of The Querying Writer:

Querying Writer: Never heard from Agent A-list, so I’ll close this one out.
[Opens database, decides to check NYC weather first]

QW: There was that snow storm last month. Maybe my email didn’t go through, and since I’ve been reworking my query anyway…

One month later…

QW: Still haven’t heard from Agent A-list-- but then again that lunar eclipse may have gotten in the way, and I did add a catchy new subtitle….

Note to non-responding Agent A-lists everywhere: writers earn a living by making things up. No means no, but silence is the fertile ground in which dark and twisted re-queries come back to life again… and again… and again…

Cyia
02-07-2011, 12:52 AM
Bitter much?

Jersey Chick
02-07-2011, 01:05 AM
I must be missing the point. :Shrug:

Phaeal
02-07-2011, 01:14 AM
So nice of you to pop in with a first post diatribe. Would you like some tea, or won't you be staying that long?

COchick
02-07-2011, 01:19 AM
Oy.

Bubastes
02-07-2011, 01:44 AM
Rejection Queen, is that you?

BenPanced
02-07-2011, 01:53 AM
Agent Bios

Remember your advice that bios must relate to our work? That winning the National Kazoo Play-Off might not be relevant? That this is the seventy-fifth bio you’ve read this week and just don’t care that Charlotte’s Web inspired me to write? Well, Agent A-list, funny as this may seem—we feel the same way about your bio! Strange world, isn’t it?
Funny, most of the bios I've read pertain to their experience in the business.




The Vague “Wish” List

Where is that bold and innovative agent looking for weak narrative, forgettable characters, and marginal themes that will only connect with a limited audience? There’s a reason I spent the last four hours trying to figure out whether my novel is paranormal urban romance or steampunk chick lit with a cozy mystery edge—genres, not just for writers any more!Then you should have tried to figure out your genre before you decided to look up a particular agent to see if they were a good fit for your work.




The Faux Personalized Rejection

When sending form rejections, resist the urge to say things like “The subject is just not compelling enough” when you really didn’t even get past the first line because 1) the protagonist has the same name as your rotten ex-husband; 2) you aren’t even sure what telepathic cybots are; 3) you aren’t really looking for new writers and only accept queries in case Stieg Larsson is on an island somewhere with Elvis just looking for the right agent. If you checked one or more of the above boxes, my list of “Top 5 Bland and Harmless Rejection Letters” will be coming soon. Look for it.So you've been rejected. BFD. We all have. An agent is under no obligation to say anything more than "no" when they mean "no". If they have the time and inclination, they might scribble a short note on the form rejection. If they don't, suck it up and move along.




Snail Queries Only

It’s quaint to be an Old World agent in a New, New World. But I lose sleep at night contemplating the fate of those SASEs when you never reply, or better yet, reply in an email.Pity you.




No Response = No Interest

In order to understand the cycle of destruction unleashed by this wildly misguided policy, let’s take a peek into the strange, desperate world of The Querying Writer:

Querying Writer: Never heard from Agent A-list, so I’ll close this one out.
[Opens database, decides to check NYC weather first]

QW: There was that snow storm last month. Maybe my email didn’t go through, and since I’ve been reworking my query anyway…

One month later…

QW: Still haven’t heard from Agent A-list-- but then again that lunar eclipse may have gotten in the way, and I did add a catchy new subtitle….

Note to non-responding Agent A-lists everywhere: writers earn a living by making things up. No means no, but silence is the fertile ground in which dark and twisted re-queries come back to life again… and again… and again…:cry::e2violin:
:e2arms: Here's a hug. Hope you're feeling better.

kaitie
02-07-2011, 01:54 AM
I have to admit that while I think this is kind of overly snarky and negative, if I did get to give advice to an agent, it would be about the vague "wish" list thing. It's not something I'm losing sleep over, but from the writer's perspective, it's very difficult to know whether or not your manuscript is something an agent would appreciate when they say they want a book with a strong voice and good characters and stellar writing. Are there any of us querying who don't think our book has that?

I think it would be more beneficial to writers and agents if they could be a bit more specific and say something like, "I enjoy voices in the vein of (whoever)" or "I like mystery novels like (so-and so) but I'm not a big fan of (some other dude)." Or if the answer really is just "I'll take on anything as long as I like the writing," specifically that would be good as well. I always worry that I'm sending to agents who then think, "This is nothing like what I'd ever read. Why did this person send me this?"

Not trying to add to the snark and negativity, but it is something I've thought would make everyone's lives a little easier.

Devil Ledbetter
02-07-2011, 02:53 AM
The non-response to queries doesn't bother me at all. I just jot a date in my query spreadsheet and mark it rejected when the date passes. To me it's less painful than a rejection email.

I frequently get proposals from people hoping my company will provide them some material support for a special project or event. In addition to everything else I have to do, I must write each one a heartfelt, personalized explanation as to why their project isn't a good fit for our marketing? I've noticed that when I bother to do this, about half want to argue their case, or tell me I'm stupid for missing a great opportunity, or plead their charity case, or drag the conversation further, etc.

I don't doubt agents have it a thousand times worse than I do. Agents who don't respond have more time read the writing samples coming through.

Susan Littlefield
02-07-2011, 03:11 AM
Hi Bea,

Welcome. I suspect you are trying to share a bit of humor? Or, are you really angry about how agents respond? Please share more on where you are coming from.

This is how I see it- there is one of me sending out all those queries to many agents. For every agent, they probably receive many (100's, maybe?) queries every day. They are busy people and don't have time to cater to the insecurities and weird needs of us writers.

Whether or not they give a response, and what type of response that is, is up to them. As Devil said, if they don't response within allotted time, then I cross them off the list. If they send me a form rejection, fine. If they give me something other than a form rejection, they get a thank you not from me.

We all have our jobs to do here. ;)

Jamesaritchie
02-07-2011, 03:21 AM
Rejection Queen, is that you?

Ouch!

ChaosTitan
02-07-2011, 03:31 AM
Um...welcome to AW?

scarletpeaches
02-07-2011, 03:35 AM
Much of the OP I can understand or identify with, but for God's sake, I have to clear up something regarding snail mail queries:

You may well object to it being so slow but from the agent's point of view this is a good thing. It's far too easy to hit 'send' on an email which costs nothing to send. Snail mail queries slow you down and this in turn forces the sender to double-, triple- and quadruple check everything. Generally speaking snail mail queries are more polished because you can't just run along to the post office and send it in seconds, on a whim, at three in the morning because you've got nothing better to do.

ajkjd01
02-07-2011, 03:40 AM
I will say this...

If I can't tell from a bio or website what they're looking for, I Google them, I look here on AW, I look on PW, I look on agentquery.com, on querytracker.com (or for a short story ralan.com or duotrope.com) I look anywhere I can think to look. If I still can't find it, I don't query them.

I'm cool with the no response means no agents if they've given me a time period to wait it out. If their website says "we'll respond within two weeks if we're interested" or four weeks, or two months, or whatever, I mark it on my calendar and my spreadsheet, and then mark it off as rejected once it passes that time.

It is frustrating when you get no response for months and months and there is no such policy. When that happens, I check again for response times, wait a month or so past that time, and status query. I'll status query again a month or so later, and if I still don't get a response a couple of months after that, I would consider a professional note saying

"I did not find a no-response-means-no policy on your website or submission guidelines, but because I have received no answer to my query of xxx date, my status query of xxx date, or my second status query of xxx date, I am assuming that you are not interested or that you did not receive. Based on this, I am writing to withdraw my xxx story from consideration."

I've truly only done this with short stories, because of the inability to send simultaneous submissions, but I would consider doing it with agents if the wait time was unrealistic. I had one agent keep a full for fourteen months, and when I said something to a friend who was a client of another agent at that agency, she told me to call. I hemmed and hawed for a while before I finally did, and just left a message with the admin as to all the details, status queries and etc. It was still a month or so later before I got the response...at which time I was seriously considering sending the above withdrawal, but I got an apology in the response from the agent in a personalized rejection that was encouraging.

NOTE: That response time was listed as much less than 14 months. And yet, I appreciated the response, and wouldn't have wanted to skip it.

Be professional. Understand the pressures they have. Just 'cause you're robo-checking your email a million times a day (and I'm there with you) doesn't mean that they owe you. Once you're a client, sure. And if you don't like an agent's policies, it's okay to cross them off your list and move on to one that fits what you want. Just like it's okay to change your mind about that if you meet them at a conference and find your impression to be wrong. Do research before you send; so that you know all of this before you submit. That lessens the angst later if you know what to expect.

mscelina
02-07-2011, 06:04 AM
Good Lord.

I think I'm going to start a new blog, giving pearls of wisdom to young writers. Obviously, someone needs to.

When you're looking for a job, do you begin your interview process by bitching about the interview process? Dogging the people who make the hiring decisions? Complaining about the outdated hiring techniques of presenting a resume, having an interview, providing references, having those references checked and so forth? Do you whine about how that company does business or who works for the business?

No. Of course not.

Until writers who are just beginning the submission process learn how to treat the whole affair as a professional, until they learn to conduct themselves as if they were looking for a career--which, as a writer, you really are, and until they learn to keep some perspective when they're rejected, then they're not going to be in a position to find an agent, much less a publisher.

Want to be a writer? Act like a professional is the first step. And a post like this is NOT the way to establish yourself as a pro. Just some friendly advice.

Welcome to Absolute Write.

rainsmom
02-07-2011, 06:06 AM
I, personally, love agent bios. My WIP is a dog story, and an agent at a conference I attended told me I really should look for agents who love dogs. Guess where I find that kind of info? In their bios. Those bios also let me know if we have anything else in common that might make us a good match.

Can't say anything else in the OP's rant bothers me much either. I appreciate knowing what they're interested in, even when it's vague. I don't expect a response (particularly a personalized one) to queries. And I don't mind if an agent prefers snail mail queries.

IWannaWrite
02-07-2011, 07:11 AM
If I had to guess, the OP is a new screen name, but not a new member. They made up this screen name so they could bitch. Hey, I am all for bitching anonymously on the Internet. Isn't that what the Internet is for? I mean other than porn.

Libbie
02-07-2011, 07:56 AM
Doop dee doo. Welcome, I suppose.

seun
02-07-2011, 08:40 PM
Oy.

You missed a vey.

To the OP: frustration is completely understandable and expected, but this sort of thing is going to get you precisely nowhere. Think long and hard about what you want from publishing/writing and remember that while it's healthy to bitch instead of bottling it all up, you're better off not doing it where the whole world can see it.

kaitie
02-07-2011, 08:43 PM
Good Lord.

I think I'm going to start a new blog, giving pearls of wisdom to young writers. Obviously, someone needs to.

When you're looking for a job, do you begin your interview process by bitching about the interview process? Dogging the people who make the hiring decisions? Complaining about the outdated hiring techniques of presenting a resume, having an interview, providing references, having those references checked and so forth? Do you whine about how that company does business or who works for the business?

No. Of course not.

Until writers who are just beginning the submission process learn how to treat the whole affair as a professional, until they learn to conduct themselves as if they were looking for a career--which, as a writer, you really are, and until they learn to keep some perspective when they're rejected, then they're not going to be in a position to find an agent, much less a publisher.

Want to be a writer? Act like a professional is the first step. And a post like this is NOT the way to establish yourself as a pro. Just some friendly advice.

Welcome to Absolute Write.

I just wanted to say this was brilliantly put.

kaitie
02-07-2011, 08:56 PM
I think it is possible to respect agents while holding a mirror in front of them: Look this is what you are doing to us. How does it feel to you?



I think what makes it come across as snarky/negative is the "what you are doing to us" aspect here, as you put it.

Yes, agents often have little snarky rants on their blogs, however, look at what they're being snarky about. People who completely disregard their guidelines, people who are horribly rude and write back raving emails about how the agent knows nothing and "I'll show you," people who call even when they've explicitly said "Don't call" on the website, people who send the same query letter every day, etc.

Those people are being rude, disrespectful, and arrogant. Maybe out of sheer ignorance, but the point is still when you are trying to make a career out of something you take seriously, you should do a little research. If you have done your research and still behave this way, then yes, you are being rude, disrespectful, and arrogant.

They are being snarky about people being jackasses.

Yes, a lot of people might consider a non-response to be rude, so that one is up for debate, but the rest of these issues? No agent is doing anything "to us." It's not like we're being wronged because the agent sent a form letter. An agent isn't being arrogant because she includes that she likes to knit sweaters for dogs in her biography (in fact, I'd giggle at that).

There are a couple of potentially valid points, for instance the issue of vague wish lists that I mentioned before, but they are valid only in that it is something that an agent might be able to change to better suit a writer that might also have a benefit for the agent as well. We aren't being wronged because the agent is vague--we're being inconvenienced. There's a big difference.

If this had been approached from a more humble standpoint and less one of victimhood, it would be more beneficial. The OP could have said, "I've been querying for awhile, and I've noticed a couple of things that, from a writer's standpoint, could potentially be changed to help make things easier for everyone. For instance, maybe agents could consider..." Even if people disagree, it comes across as more constructive.

The snark and playing the victim in this when the agent hasn't done anything wrong is akin to an agent being snarky and saying "Why the frak are all these writers sending me queries? I'm so sick of my inbox being full of these things. And what's with this status inquiry after six months on that full I didn't read yet? How dare that author be so arrogant!"

See what I mean? There are some things here that are part of the process. Form rejections are part of it--and you can't complain about that and then bitch about non responses in the same paragraph, IMO, because the form rejection is a good way of avoiding the latter. Yes, there might be a valid point or two in here, but unfortunately due to the tone, it's lost in what comes across as overt negativity and snarkiness.

Monkey
02-07-2011, 09:04 PM
Welcome to AW. I hope you don't get put off by the general negativity in this thread...we're usually a fun-loving bunch. Really. :)

But most of us respect the difficult job that agents do, and appreciate the publishing process for what it is (a barrier that protects readers from an endless stream of tripe, amongst other things.) We don't do much agent-bashing or industry-bashing, usually, and there are quite a few of us who are put off by it.

Phaeal
02-07-2011, 10:07 PM
If you are rational about it, yes, this is how things are, and you'd better adjust. But in moments when you think of the hundreds of hours you have spent with, what you think, is something special.... It is your baby somebody says is not pretty enough. ;)


LOL, just before my agent offered, I was looking at this teetering four-foot pile of MSS that was all the drafts of the novel in question, plus all the notes, plus all the revision outlines, and I burst into hysterical tears at all the time and love I had poured into it, and what if that offer didn't come?

Hysterical laughter soon followed, then hiccups. Hiccups are Nature's way of telling you to put a damn lid on it, so I did. :D

Polenth
02-07-2011, 10:49 PM
If I had to guess, the OP is a new screen name, but not a new member. They made up this screen name so they could bitch. Hey, I am all for bitching anonymously on the Internet. Isn't that what the Internet is for? I mean other than porn.

AW rules don't let people create multiple accounts, so for the OP's sake, I hope they are a new member in every way.

Phaeal
02-07-2011, 10:52 PM
I'm betting it's a driveby posting.

kaitie
02-07-2011, 10:56 PM
kaitie, I agree with most of what you said.

I think there is two ways of looking at things: one with your mind and one with your heart.

If you are rational about it, yes, this is how things are, and you'd better adjust. But in moments when you think of the hundreds of hours you have spent with, what you think, is something special.... It is your baby somebody says is not pretty enough. ;)

Yes, you should not talk like this in front of your future boss, but, at least to yourself, you have to admit that it hurts.

How do you want to be a good writer if you are out of touch with your own feelings, if you suppress them?
Yes, if you do it for the money, OK, this story line doesn't work, so I'll just change to another one, but if you feel you have put into a story more than just time, you can't help but feel sad.




First, I wasn't implying your choice of words was incorrect. I wanted to say that it was spot on--I think you hit the nail on the head with what the original person was saying, but that also stood out as why it came across as so negative. So it's all good. :)

I actually do agree. I've been at this for a long time. I've been on submission for a long time. I've queried two separate books (many people a lot more) and racked up hundreds of rejections. I've had to set one aside because it wasn't good enough, and while I'm at a particularly exciting time right now with my current sub that looks promising, just a week ago I was coming to terms with the fact that it wasn't going to get an agent and it was yet another lost cause. And I definitely think both works were publishable and great. I adore them, so I do understand that.

On the other hand, I wouldn't say that it was my baby, either. My first book I had this kind of attachment to because there was so much emotional investment, but looking back at it now I don't think that's really healthy.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not denigrating rejection. It seriously sucks and I've spent a lot of time in tears feeling like the hard work hadn't paid off. But after that you have to get back up, dust yourself off, and learn from the experience. You have to say "How can I make the next one even better? How has my writing improved this time? What kind of feedback did I get to help me out?"

Being overly negative makes it a lot harder to improve, and focusing energy on those negatives is only going to make you even more unhappy.

I do think sometimes we need to have a rant. I've had my fair share of "I don't get it. What am I doing wrong?" rants and even "I don't understand how this agent said this because it makes no sense" rants, but it's the kind of thing you do, preferably with someone else in private.

One of the biggest problems with finding fault with agents and placing blame on them for things that aren't really blame-worthy, particularly if this is in response to rejections and what not, is that instead of looking for space where we can improve as writers, it's placing the blame outside of us. I hardly see this kind of thing as constructive in the long run.

I have the utmost respect for authors willing to put themselves out there, but I think it's important to realize that a rejection isn't personal, and that multiple rejections are normal, and that our work is our work and can always be improved. It's also important to look back at what we've gotten out of the experience and whether or not we enjoyed it. Otherwise the negativity can overwhelm you.

I hope I'm not overstepping any bounds and hope this doesn't offend anyone. It's just my opinion.

OneWriter
02-07-2011, 11:07 PM
LOL, just before my agent offered, I was looking at this teetering four-foot pile of MSS that was all the drafts of the novel in question, plus all the notes, plus all the revision outlines, and I burst into hysterical tears at all the time and love I had poured into it, and what if that offer didn't come?

Hysterical laughter soon followed, then hiccups. Hiccups are Nature's way of telling you to put a damn lid on it, so I did. :D

I know exactly what you're talking about. And, A-Vee, you're right, they are our babies, and those form R's that say "sorry, not for me," mannnn, they hurt. But you know what? Once the offers started coming in, I was finally able to put all those form R's in perspective. Once I heard how enthusiastic an agent can be about your project, I realized that when they say "sorry, I didn't fall in love with it," then hey, they're just not the right agent for you. You want and need an agent who falls head-over-heels for your baby, or else they're not going to be able to pour that contagious enthusiasm into an editor.

Phaeal
02-07-2011, 11:14 PM
Once I heard how enthusiastic an agent can be about your project, I realized that when they say "sorry, I didn't fall in love with it," then hey, they're just not the right agent for you. You want and need an agent who falls head-over-heels for your baby, or else they're not going to be able to pour that contagious enthusiasm into an editor.

Exactly. I didn't believe it could happen until it did, even though I'd come to the conclusion that it was what had to happen before I'd get an offer.

Chris P
02-07-2011, 11:26 PM
At one time I would have agreed whole-heartedly with the OP. "Go man! You tell 'em!" But learning what being an agent or a magazine editor involves gave me an entirely new perspective on rejection. I wouldn't last a month as an agent or editor if I had to do it the way I originally expected they should do it. I'm sure some agents/editors are truly assholic, but my expectations of them were as off base as I thought their form rejections and (seemingly) self-absorbed blogs were. Mutual respect is the key, and I don't think what the OP has identified is proof of violation of that.

artemis31386
02-08-2011, 08:03 AM
Um Welcome to AW...I hope you learn something here. If you're just starting out, I recommend developing a thick skin, because it seems that you are taking everything far too personally.

Jake.C
02-09-2011, 12:42 AM
I thought it was a nifty little satire. :Shrug:

BenPanced
02-09-2011, 05:21 AM
Problem is, there are enough posters who have the same attitude about agents we can't tell when somebody's satirical or serious. Odds are, they're dead serious.

Beabreen
02-09-2011, 05:23 AM
Wow! So few people took this as exactly what Jake posted above-- a little satire meant to poke some fun at a few of the foibles and absurdities of the querying process, from the writer-to-agent point of view. (See why Brits are so good at comedy?)

For those that I’ve upset and disturbed with this little ditty, yikes! It was never intended to be taken that seriously! So just for the record: I love agents! Some of my best friends have agents! And I’m willing to bet that those Agent A-lists who don’t take themselves too seriously can have a laugh at their own expense now and then without too much hand-wringing.
Best Regards,
Bitter Thin-skinned Unprofessional (ß---- joke!)

Beabreen
02-09-2011, 05:29 AM
Problem is, there are enough posters who have the same attitude about agents we can't tell when somebody's satirical or serious. Odds are, they're dead serious.


Hmmm... I thought the steampunk chick lit with a cozy mystery edge or Stieg Larsson on an island with Elvis would be a tip-off. I guess I'd better stick with historical cybot romance rather than comedy.

Jersey Chick
02-09-2011, 05:31 AM
Since it was your first post, and none of us know anything about you, exactly how is anyone supposed to tell what looks like a snarky rant is anything other than a snarky rant?

BenPanced
02-09-2011, 05:32 AM
:popcorn:

Beabreen
02-09-2011, 05:35 AM
If you look at this as a parody, you must admit it is hilarious:)

Well, now! That's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Beabreen
02-09-2011, 05:37 AM
Since it was your first post, and none of us know anything about you, exactly how is anyone supposed to tell what looks like a snarky rant is anything other than a snarky rant?

'Cause you're a discerning reader?

Jersey Chick
02-09-2011, 05:38 AM
Um... I'd say you didn't quite succeed there.

Beabreen
02-09-2011, 05:46 AM
Um... I'd say you didn't quite succeed there.

Fair enough! As I never intended to upset anyone so much with the original post, I surely don't want to do it with the responses, as well.
*creeps away on broken glass for more sarcasm-oriented shores*

Jersey Chick
02-09-2011, 06:03 AM
Not upset, just saying that it's really tough to judge tone/intent over the intarwebz. Especially when it's a first post and no one knows you/your sense of humor etc.

Monkey
02-09-2011, 06:25 AM
When you reply to a thread, click "Go advanced."

Then click on the smiley icon.

And here's your sign: :sarcasm


Or if you prefer, you can use my method.

Whatever you want to be taken in a sarcastic tone


At any rate, Welcome again to AW, and I wish you all the best with your next thread.
:D

MJNL
02-09-2011, 08:22 AM
I third mscelina's comment and opinion. Well said!

Phaeal
02-09-2011, 05:57 PM
Fair enough! As I never intended to upset anyone so much with the original post, I surely don't want to do it with the responses, as well.
*creeps away on broken glass for more sarcasm-oriented shores*

No one was upset. Don't compliment yourself. And I believe you knew exactly what you were doing, and what you continue to do. The provocative/huh, who, me? pose has become so wearisomely prevalent on the Webz.

quicklime
02-09-2011, 07:07 PM
bea,

sarcasm can be hard on the net; in your case compounded by the sheer number of fuckwits who post the same and worse, in utter seriousness, with no apparent awareness that tyhe act is somewhat akin to pissing their own drinking well.

Check out the rejection queen blog if you don't know what I mean yet.....