Every now and then when INTERN gets off the train in the morning, there is a little card table set up on the street with people in orange robes chanting and tinging little bells and handing out flyers for free meditation classes. On the card table, there is always a plate of orange slices, sitting right next to a bottle of disinfectant spray. The orange/disinfectant combo never fails to give INTERN pause. Do these guys need to spray down their oranges periodically to satisfy health codes? Do passers-by routinely pick up an orange slice, turn it over in their fingers, and put it back down, covered in germs? What's the deal here?
INTERN feels the same way—fascinated, suspicious, wary—when those submissions come into the s. pile with a bio listing "high school short story contest 1982" as a writing credit, and "Ms. Tinkleby, the Head Ed at Otherbigfancy Publisher [in 1971!], said this was the most heart-wrenching asian fusion cookbook she'd seen in her entire career" as an endorsement. Who all has handled this sheaf of papers, maybe taken an experimental tug at the rind, and decided to pass? Even creepier, who sprayed it with disinfectant and put that sucker back on the plate without making a single change?
If nobody in the past twenty years has been impressed by the fact that you once read your short story out loud in a coffee shop, or that some agent at a conference complimented your sweater (and, by extension, the manuscript you were keeping warm underneath your sweater like a live animal), it's time to take it out of your query letter. In fact, it's probably time to write a new query letter. Actually, a new book. Maybe even a book with different characters in it, and a different plot. There's nothing wrong with being patient and holding out for the big break, but patience isn't a good replacement for the essential writerly hunger to always be writing (or re-writing) new and better and deeper and more brilliant things. (Are you listening, Hare Krishna? How about some melon, next time?)
Since her day 'o' turmoil on Monday (thanks for the multitudinous comments on career options, which have been a great encouragement), INTERN has been filling her head with various mystical Sufi texts, most of which involve enough mind-blowing parables about donkeys to make your eyes cross. INTERN is not sure where all this donkey-mysticism is leading her (possibly a barn?) but is feeling better about things, and has not ruled anything out.