a little lower than the agents


    Now that I’m down to one job, I’m determined to get some more writing done. On both of my days off this past week I spent a fair amount of time chasing down a couple of ideas. I also spent a fair amount of time looking at writing sites on the Web. I’m toying with the idea of National Novel Writing Month, though I’m not sure I can keep up the pace to pound out fifty thousand words in thirty days. Yet, I know I respond to a deadline and even if it got me halfway into a story, it might be worth it. On one of the sites I found a link to an agent who was interested specifically in children’s literature. I’ve got a story I’ve been carrying around for a few years (and I posted it once here), so I sent a query and got back a very positive reply very quickly, which surprised me. I couldn’t help myself. I was elated.

    I sent back what they wanted and we did a little back and forth, until tonight when they sent me a contract along with the name of someone who will do a “literary critique,” which would cost me about $70. They almost had me and then I thought I ought to see what I can find out about them. I had simply followed a link on a site that had lots of links. Sure enough, Google pointed me to several folks who had less than complimentary things to say. One guy even posted the query he sent in, using the same form I used:

    Title of Work: the little poo that could

    Grade Focus: High School

    Synopsis: one time there was this little poo and he wanted to be liked by
    everybody else so he went to this park where they made dinosaurs and then
    the dinosaurs got out and all the dinosaurs started eating everybody and
    then the little poo's wife gets killed by a one armed man and he gets
    accused of the murder and then he becomes a fugitive and then he goes up and
    blows up the death star and saved the day and then he woked up and realized
    it was all a dream, and then he got flushed down the toilet

    NYP-Work Been Edited: yes by my mom

    NYP-Sample Illustrations: yes i drew some stuff

    NYP-Bio: i am elevn years old and my language teacher says i am good so i
    should write a book. please accept my work

    He got the same encouraging response I did (yup — the one about very few being chosen).

    I know better and yet they almost got me to get out my checkbook. I know I’m an easy mark. When it’s Girl Scout Cookie season, Ginger won’t let me answer the door because she knows I’ll buy whatever they’re selling. But that’s not the deal here. I wasn’t donating to an organization I trust; I was trying to sell a book. I think I get pulled by this stuff because I don’t understand why someone would intentionally deceive another, especially when it comes to what matters most to them. From what I read, these people have set up a deal intent on taking people for all they can. They aren’t trying to sell books, just prey on those who are. I hate having to come to terms with that kind of intentional deceipt.

    At work Saturday, one of the servers came to me and said, “I need some help with what to do.” The party she had served — who had just paid and left — had a bill for $38 and change. On the tip line the left her $6 something, but when they totaled the ticket, they wrote $55, which was a ten dollar mistake in favor of the server. She couldn’t find them and wasn’t sure how to fix things. I took a pen and changed the five to a four and she put the ticket through correctly. The customers will never know what happened; neither would they have known had she taken the extra ten. That’s what I expect of people.

    I’m not opting for rose colored glasses here. The consequences of holding the whole world suspect seem enourmous. Ginger and I were talking today about someone we know who is incredibly cynical. They were not always so. I said, “Exhausted idealists make for harsh cynics.” I’m stuggling with how to live life with trust as the default setting knowing the bastards who want to take me to the cleaners are out there hoping I will do just that. If Jesus is the model I turn to, what I see is he trusted Judas down to the Last Supper without flinching. His trust got him arrested and, ultimately, killed. What do I do with that?

    As I said on Thursday, Ginger preached from Psalm 8 and Hebrews today, focusing on the language of our being created “a little lower than the angels.” Several years ago, my friend Billy and I wrote a song because of a cartoon our friend David had given us. The picture showed a guy standing in a crowded subway car on his way to work. He was the only one in the scene with a smile on his face. The caption read, “At 7:01 Ernie remembered he was created a little lower than the angels.” Our words said this:

    lower than the angels

    monica drive like a mother of two
    she goes to the store she stops at the zoo
    candlelight dinners of pb & j
    she picks up the toys and puts them away

    a little lower than the angels

    she opens the letter as she closes the gate
    my love to the kids the check will be late
    she puts away dishes she pulls down the sheets
    she picks up her novel and falls into sleep

    tell her she’s higher than the monkeys and out on a limb
    tell her she’s right on the money but late on the rent
    tell her she’s fallen in the standings but still in the game
    a little lower than the angels

    now ernie gets the train about seven o one
    gotta reputation that he gets things done
    it isn’t really living but he can’t say no
    pours another coffee as the streetlights glow

    tell him he’ higher than the monkeys and under the gun
    tell him he’s better than average but he ain’t the only one
    tell him to raise his expectations and keep his head low
    a little lower than the angels

    and down around seventeen floors
    some banner on an old church door says
    keep watching out keep watching out for the lord

    now monica drives through for something to go
    she’s got errands to run she’s got noses to blow
    and ernie’s in his office where he works downtown
    he turns on the lights the sun’s going down

    tell them their higher than the monkeys and still under fire
    tell them they’re fighting for survival and it’s down to the wire
    tell them that things will get better and that’s how it goes
    a little lower than the angels

    I sang it in church this morning between the scripture reading and Ginger’s sermon. The song came flooding back in my head as I read the warnings about the agency that had inflated my hope for my story. I need to know tonight that things will get better and be reminded that that’s how it goes here where we are, a little lower than the angels.

    I wonder if they’ve had better luck selling their manuscripts.



    1. I battle the sly invitation to cynicism as reality sets in and people continue to disappoint. I disappoint myself daily, and fight hard not to give in. We can live expecting the best, openly trusting, and count on discernment, wisdom and intelligence to protect us. My grandma always reminded me that God gave me a brain for a reason.

      Living with hope means accepting the fact that you will be hurt, you will be disappointed, you will be betrayed. Life is like that. Choose hope and wade through the muck. Seems to me that’s what Jesus did; he entered into our lives knowing the pain and frustration that awaited Him. I’ll do well to follow that example.

      Great song lyric; I don’t remember that one. Can’t wait to read the book.

    2. MBC, The title of my sermon was “Little Lower Than the Angels”…I used the Job passage…talked about the Amish, the movie City of Angels where Cages’ characrter sacrifices to be with Meg Ryan…lower, means there is always something higher, I am glad I can reach with you…peace

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