Thursday, August 7, 2008

Articles, Workshops, and More Book News

On July 31st, I heard back from two literary agents who were reading over my book proposal. Now, I didn't actually mention one of them on here because I didn't want to jump the gun, and it's a good thing that I didn't. At the beginning of July, I received an e-mail from Christopher Schelling, who is the literary agent of John Elder Robison, author of Look Me In The Eye, and of his brother, Augusten Burroughs. I was stunned to hear back from Mr. Schelling--I thought for sure that I was going to get a rejection flat-out. But instead, he asked to read my book proposal. Flabbergasted, I emailed him a copy immediately, and he finally wrote back to me last Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, it wasn't with good news. He said that from the title of my book and the description, he was expecting more of a humor book instead of a memoir, and he didn't have enough material dealing directly with the subject of Asperger's and sexuality to understand what I am trying to do with the book. He also said that he wasn't sure if he could find an editor who could market it correctly, and so he's stepping aside to let another agent have a try with it. Naturally, I was depressed after I read his message. I thought, "Oh my God, I'm marketing my book completely wrong. How incompetent and idiotic am I? Nobody's ever going to want to take me on." I mean, the book is supposed to have humor in it--it deals with serious issues in a humorous light, so as not to make everything all doom-and-gloom. My writing has been described as Ernest Hemingway crossed with Erma Bombeck--that's where the serious-stuff-made-seriously-funny thing comes into play. But, it seems that Mr. Schelling didn't quite pick up on that, which is okay, and I'm still very grateful that he did get back to me and offered some great advice and suggestions. So I'll be writing back to him soon with a few words of thanks.

What pulled me out of the funk induced by his e-mail, however, was another e-mail that I received just half an hour later, this one from Liza Dawson, the literary agent with whom I met in the city on July 1st. First of all, I could not believe that both of them got back to me on the same night, within
forty minutes of each other, no less. I swear, it's as if these people have some kind of mind-melding, telepathy thing going on or something. Anyway, Liza said that she liked my first chapter, but wasn't 100% sure that the structure I'd laid out for the book was right for it. She asked if I had some additional material that I could send to her, and said that she looked forward to hearing from me soon. So, I consider that a pretty good sign, if I may say so myself. She didn't say, "Oh my God, I loved it, I want to take you on right now!" but she didn't flat-out reject me, either. That's the only frustrating part, is that I'm not sure if she definitely does want to take me on, or isn't planning on having a final decision until she has more of my material in hand. It's nerve-wracking, to say the least. But, luckily, my summer class has ended, and Liza's going to be away until tomorrow, so I'm working on something that I hope to get to her by the time she returns. In the meantime, I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed that this might mean that we've moved on to the next step of the process.

In other news, I recently submitted an article to the newsletter for ASCEND, the Asperger Syndrome Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. I met Deirdre Wright, the founder of ASCEND, at COSAC's annual conference in May in Atlantic City, and she expressed an immediate interest in me speaking at their spring conference next year. We exchanged contact information, and a short time after the conference ended, she e-mailed me to ask if I would be interested in being paid to write an article for their Fall newsletter. I readily agreed, and also wrote a sidebar to accompany the article. The article itself deals with relationships and dating from the perspective of a woman with Asperger's syndrome, and the newsletter will be out in approximately a month, at which time I will post a link to it here and the full text of my article.

I also received a phone call from Charlene Schermer, who was referred to me by the Gersh Academy, where I gave my keynote address in June. Ms. Schermer is the Executive Director of the Custom Education Foundation, and is coordinating an event in October called "Special Day for Special Kids," which is being held at the West Hills Day Camp in Huntington, NY. It's an event where children with autism, Asperger's, Tourette's syndrome, and other neurobiological disorders can engage in fun, safe activities while their parents sign up for and attend informative workshops. Ms. Schermer asked me if I would be interested in running one of the workshops, and I accepted. I'll be running a 45-minute workshop on Asperger's and transition: Life in college. My presentation will run for half an hour, and I plan to allot 15 minutes for questions. It's unpaid, but the level of exposure is sure to be high, and I'm just plain excited to be running my first-ever workshop. If I can truly help even one person who attends, then I feel that I will have done my job. I'm really looking forward to it.

In addition, I've just completed a summer course in Developmental Disabilities, which adds three more credits to my Masters degree that I am working to obtain at Caldwell College. I received an 'A' in the class, but even better than that, earned 19.5 out of 20 points on a group presentation that I did in class on Asperger's Syndrome and Social Skills. My group partner, a lovely young woman who is a special education teacher, was speaking to a speech therapist friend of hers about our presentation, and the woman asked her right out if we would be interested in presenting our presentation at her school as part of a professional development workshop for the faculty. My groupmate called me to tell me the good news, and asked if I would be interested, and I responded with an enthusiastic affirmation. So, we will see what happens with that over the coming months.

Finally, I received two other public speaking offers. One came from a woman in my summer class, who told me that she spoke to her supervisor about me and showed her my business card, and her supervisor is now interested in having me come to speak at their school as part of a professional development workshop. The other offer came from a woman that I know from high school, who works in a program affiliated with Catholic Health Services, and she, too, asked if I would be interested in speaking to some of the staff at one or two of their locations on Long Island as part of a professional development workshop.

So many things are in the works right now, and I must say that I almost feel a bit overwhelmed. I'm beyond excited that things are picking up, though, and as I mentioned in my previous entry, please don't hesitate to contact me about a potential public speaking engagement or workshop. My services are slowly starting to become more in-demand, so book me for your event while I still have some free space on my calendar! :)