Monthly Archives: September 2017

A raccoon with a jar on its head

One Sunday afternoon, I came home to find a neighbor in our backyard.

“There’s a raccoon with a plastic jar on its head,” he said. “I called the police. Animal control doesn’t work on the weekend.”

Indeed, there was a small raccoon in our garden with its head stuck inside the kind of jar that might once have held peanut butter. It was young, with long skinny legs, like a gangling teenager. We watched each other intently until the policeman showed up.

baby raccoon

Not our visitor, I was too busy fretting to take pictures. This is another raccoon in the same predicament that I found on the web. 

“I don’t really want to touch him,” the policeman said. “They carry so many diseases.” Nonetheless, he pulled a pair of thin, black gloves out of his pocket and put them on. “Okay, let’s see if we can get this thing off him.”

He stepped forward and the raccoon backed away, its ears flattening against the top of the jar. Aren’t raccoons supposed to be good with their hands? Would an older animal have known what to do? And where was its mother? I was distressed, although probably not as much as the raccoon.

We spent the next few minutes trying to corral the poor thing while it skittered up and down the length of our back fence. The neighbor had a flash of inspiration and ran home to get a hockey stick. That almost worked. For a heartbeat, he had the raccoon pinned down with the short end of the stick, but before the policeman could grab the jar, it wriggled out from under—and went up a tree. The plastic jar went tump, tump, tump. I thought my heart would break.

The policeman sighed. “There’s nothing else we can do for now. Try to ignore it and I’ll let Animal Control know in the morning.”

Ignore a raccoon with its head stuck in a plastic jar, in a tree in my back yard? Not likely.

It sat, with its plastic-covered head resting in a convenient fork, for a long time. Every few minutes, distracted and worried, I’d check to see if it was still there. Just as the sun started to set, I heard, tump, tump, tump, as the youngster climbed down the tree. It wobbled off across the lawn and I followed. When it disappeared behind a house down the street, I had to finally admit that there was nothing I could do and went home.

As it happens, on the town website, there is a page of other resources we could have contacted. One is for North East Wildlife Animal Rehabilitation Coalition, an organization of volunteers who work out of their homes (including one in our town, Arlington, MA) to help with situations like the one our little visitor had experienced the night before. While I hope not to need them again, I’m determined not to forget that they’re there should the need arise.

In case you, too, are feeling anxious now, there’s no need. I called Animal Control the next day and was told that someone else had also reported the raccoon and another police officer had been able to free it from its plastic prison.

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Writer’s pity party

There is nothing attractive about a person who spends all their time bemoaning how hard it is to do whatever it is that they’re having a hard time doing. And it’s doubly annoying when the person in question hasn’t actually been doing anything for months. Sometimes, however, it can’t be helped. I perused my blog backlist to make sure I hadn’t subjected you to this before (which would make the behavior even more egregious) and determined that I was overdue for a pity party.

In 2010, I wrote a post called The end is just the beginning. I had finished my first manuscript and was excited about my prospects. You might want to revisit that post if you need a refresher course on how publishing works, but in short, you send a cover letter and the first ten pages to agents to try to convince them how marketable your book is, and then it’s out of your hands. It doesn’t matter if your manuscript took three months or ten years to write, it all comes down to the thirty seconds the agent (or their assistant) spends with it. (It should come as no surprise that writers spend an inordinate amount of time rewriting the first chapter.)

keyboard and ms

My current manuscript is a middle grade, contemporary fantasy. I’ve submitted it to quite a few agents. While many are never heard from, some have been kind enough to provide the rationale for their rejection. Comments I’ve gotten include:

  • “This is a fun and fresh story but to my ear, the voice isn’t hitting the right notes.”
  • “I love your opening descriptions and felt Megan’s impatience viscerally, but some of the submission read as a bit dramatic and choppy.”
  • “You’ve nailed the family dynamics in this story, that’s for sure… Even with this potential, I’m afraid I found the story a bit too simple and wished it were more developed…”
  • “Right now, the story gives us a little too much play-by-play… This will make the pacing seem slow…”

This manuscript has been critiqued by fabulous readers, published writers, and a few honest-to-goodness industry professionals. I’ve listened, learned, and revised. I’ve taken classes, attended conferences, and yes, paid for professional help. I’ve tried to address the agents’ concerns, some I didn’t agree with, and some have been too overwhelming to think about. In any case, unless an agent invites you to revise and resubmit it doesn’t really matter, because, as they all tell you, another agent may feel differently. But then again, they may not.

You can see how crazy-making it can be.

I have a few options at this point. Give up my dream, start a new project, or pull up my big girl pants and go back to work on my current manuscript.

I know what I should do. The question is, can I motivate myself to do it?