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ART TIMES March 2009

With some pride I recently discovered that the writing community, in which I’ve claimed membership for nearly twenty years, is following the business world’s lead in expanding language beyond Webster’s staid confines. For years, writers stood handcuffed by tradition while business brains relabeled “problems” as “opportunities” and transformed “impact,” “mentor” and “partner” into verbs. Imagine my delight, therefore, when I recently learned through a writers’ website that I am not a “rejected” novelist as I had harshly misbranded myself, but “prepublished.”

Four prepublished novels jam the second drawer of my file cabinet. My first novel was a literary effort, of course. Like many new authors, I envisioned myself as my generation’s Faulkner. After dozens of tries, I found an agent who agreed to represent it. Advised at a writers’ conference that authors should leave their agents alone because most assuredly agents would contact us when they had good news, I left my agent alone for six months. When I finally called her, she responded drunkenly as I tried to refresh her memory about both me and my novel. However disappointed I felt back then, now that that my first novel has been upgraded from rejected to prepublished, I again look forward to the day when it anchors The Portable Reinka.

Not realizing that my debut novel was merely awaiting publication, I decided that literary novels from first-time authors were tough sells and followed a safer route for my second book, an old-fashioned two-kids-in-the-woods children’s adventure. Perhaps my mistake was not including wizards, noisy bodily functions or real-life historical figures that all seem so popular today. Instead, I modeled it after the endless stream of mysteries with titles like The Treasure of Cougar Cave or The Tunnel to the Tree House I read when I was kid. Don’t kids always latch on to books with caves, tunnels and tree houses? Apparently not. I found a sober agent for that book, one with considerable success for other children’s authors but not with me. Wisely, I did place a Lake Superior lighthouse near the kids’ cabin—lighthouses being another perennial hook—which may lure readers to future installments when my prepublished adventure grows a cover.

My third novel was a cozy adult mystery set in San Francisco that revolved around a writer’s disappearance. Talk about ear candy to a prepublished novelist, a New York agent told me she was “desperate to represent my novel.” I visualized bicycle messengers dodging Manhattan traffic to deliver trim white manuscript boxes to the pantheons of publishing. As luck would have it, all of those bicycle errands turned into round-trips. But now that that book has been upgraded to prepublished, I’m again looking forward to cyclists cutting downstream against Broadway’s spawning yellow taxis.

The fourth book was a post-apocalyptic time travel Young Adult epistolary novel. No surprise that few agents read past that description to the rest of my query letter because that book remains not only prepublished but “preagented.” The awful truth is that we might even say that it’s “pre-read” because no agent asked for the standard three sample chapters. My teenage daughter liked it better than the two-kids-in-the-woods book. But I didn’t mention her praise in my queries to agents because the same writing conference experts who advised about leaving agents alone also cautioned against ever telling prospective agents or publishers how friends and family love your book.

To be honest, I did write a fifth novel that is not prepublished. Actually second in my writing order, it was a thriller about a guy who gets away with killing his boss. I got as far as a first draft before I threw the manuscript into the fireplace. After that, I erased it from my computer. Then I threw the computer in the fire. It’s an incident we never speak of, sort of like when my teenage cousin Anita went away to spend the summer with a relative I’ve never heard of before or since.

Now that I’m no longer rejected, I’ve changed my job description from “freelance writer” to “novelist.” And don’t think I don’t deserve the title. Unlike all those (published) novelists who whine about writer’s block, I never lack for ideas. Give me five minutes and I’ll give you ten plots. I must have twenty novels fighting for space in my head. This isn’t the time to list them all but perhaps I’ll start to tag my reviews along the following lines:

“W.E. Reinka is the author of twenty-four novels.”

Now that problems are opportunities and partner is a verb there’s no need to elaborate that four are prepublished and twenty prewritten.

(W.E. Reinka of Eugene, OR is the author of twenty-four novels).