No Cigar by Charles Holdefer

Dear Ms. Esperanza:

I greet you at the beginning of a great submissions process. The readers’ reports for CROSS MY HEART were wildly enthusiastic, and though it took me some time to get to it, I’m still reeling from the experience. Last night, I started reading your manuscript on the train and when I looked out the window I was in Connecticut, which was awkward, believe me, since we were expecting guests for dinner and it was hard to explain to my wife when I arrived home so late and then kept slipping away to the bathroom in order to read a few more pages. I fear they heard me laughing behind the door.

And the ending of CROSS MY HEART—what a stunner! I was blubbering like a baby. I’m still somewhat shaken, but positively so. Truly remarkable! Talk about closure, wow. Soul-searching and catharsis, hello!

I’ve circulated the manuscript among other editors and they feel the same way, though some have preferred to single out the pleasure of your prose style, your ingenious time shifts and your lyrical riffs, which are handled so skillfully that it is hard to believe that you are a first-time author.

Are you really? This is a wonder. There is some disagreement in the office about identifying your most important achievement. Is it innovation? (“Aesthetically speaking, we find here a shift of tectonic plates,” according to one colleague.) Or have you accomplished a long overdue revival of the novel form? (“This book rescues the genre and saves it for future generations,” says another.) Now, I’m not going to take sides or hurt anybody’s feelings, okay? Let’s just say that I can live with either.

Not to mention the sex scenes. Well! How to put it? That section from pp. 174-186 contains some finely observed moments—you know the ones I’m talking about! Let me applaud your frankness and aplomb. These pages created quite a stir…and not just among the interns. What I’m saying is your descriptions helped me patch up things with my wife after our dinner party. Thanks! I even have a new nickname.

The war sequences are rather disturbing, likewise the chapters depicting environmental devastation, but this material is handled with great sensitivity and does justice to the gravity of the subject matter. Gripping, every last word of it. I have no doubt that CROSS MY HEART offers insights for leaders and policy makers.

The recipes are a delight, too! Partly it’s the anti-binary perspective, I suppose, and the particle physics, but there’s also a flavor of memoir and a hint of nostalgia, which is irresistible while totally avoiding sentimentality. It’s quite a trick, bringing together these strands along with thriller elements and fitness, too. I look forward to the day when my children will read this.

Wisdom literature is in short supply, and I’m convinced that there is potential for growth in your niche. Probably that’s my most lingering impression, what I would like to convey to you for your future career. Among the morals that I draw from this submission is that your novel is the reason God created trees. And somehow you make it all so entertaining!

So, yes, I very much loved CROSS MY HEART. As did everyone else who has read it. Still, I’m afraid we’re going to have to pass on this one. The market is so tough these days, especially for fiction, and our list is rather full. We’ve just signed new books by Joyce Carol Oates and T. Coraghessan Boyle. I’m sure someone else will feel differently. Keep trying!

Best regards,

Peter Gates
Senior Editor

2 thoughts on “No Cigar by Charles Holdefer

  1. This piece is so spot on re submissions to agents and publishers. It is exaggerated, of course, but not so much as to veer from the harsh truth. Lately, the most common lame excuse for agents and publishers not accepting work (after having stated all over their websites that they work with a wide range of authors and are open to a great diversity of subjects and styles) is that your book doesn’t fit their list. Bravo to Charles Holdefer for lampooning these half-wits!

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