Caryn Rose is the author of JOEY RAMONE IS DEAD, a novel currently on submission to publishers. She hopes that it will be published in 2006/2007. Below is her greatly inspiring story.
To learn more about Cary, please visit www.jukeboxgraduate.com.
A year and a half ago I was a Program Manager at Microsoft, I had been in Seattle for 9 years, I had a great apartment and had bought real furniture for the first time, great benefits, tons of money, a grown-up life. I also had a finished novel that I had started writing in 2001, finished in 2002, and was trying to get representation for.
And then in June of 2004, I quit. Not overnight; there was significant planning involved. But I got tired of waiting for it to happen. I cashed it all in, packed up the car and the cat, sold the couch and the furniture, and came back home to NYC. I got a tiny tenement apartment on the Lower East Side, and determined I was going to write every day and restore my sanity and get an agent.
And I did. I found my agent the way everyone does: sending out query letters. Before I left Seattle, I actually had an agent who said, "I love this but it's too long." So I took the summer and fall and sent out a revised draft – only for her to come back and say, "This still isn't what I want but I don't know what I do want." That draft went back out on the query-go-round, and in the end I ended up juggling five offers of representation!
I just opened up my old agent query tracking spreadsheet and by the end I'd
sent out over 100 queries, over about a year and a half. (It's a big number, but it's a number other writers going through this should see.)
And now we are just beginning the agonizingly slow process of making the rounds of the editors. Now it's not a question of "if," only when.
It was (is!) terrifying and gratifying and there were nights I could not sleep thinking about money owed and bills and how would I pay them, did I make the biggest mistake of my life, what on earth was I thinking? But I would never, ever, EVER go back.
Here’s a non-fiction piece by Caryn:
4th of October, Asbury Park:
Paramount Theatre, Asbury Park, NJ
4 October 2005
chasing the myth
Faded romanticized Asbury. Playing the KISS pinball machine in the arcade off of the Casino. Riding the carousel, princesses in Converse high-tops. Walking down the ancient grey splintered boardwalk in fog and sun. The Palace rising ahead of you at that turn - it really DOES exist! - of Kingsley and Ocean and other street names you murmured like a mantra, of the Ferris wheel rising behind it all.
Except that I am not sure if that last memory really exists or it is burned into my brain from a million imaginings that occurred long before I ever saw Asbury Park for the first time.
I was 10 in 1974 so there was no way Asbury could exist as more than fairy tale. It was the hometown we were all trying to escape so by rights we should have shunned it, not embraced it as some kind of magic kingdom. At a time when it seemed like we had nothing else to belong to, when we had no memorable past of our own, the New Jersey in Springsteen's songs was a legend we could cling to and try to make ours. So silly, because at that time we were busy making our own history every second of every day.
And now, and now, when you come down Asbury Avenue to Ocean and Tillie is gone and the Palace is gone and with each successive visit you watch the Casino slowly disintegrating, like a sand castle at high tide, I don't know where to place my memories. Asbury in the 80's was dirty and dilapidated and dangerous when I first came down here at age 15, chasing maps and legends, and not some hidden jewel of a ruin in the jungle. We cared because he made us care. His gift of elevating the mundane to sacred gave us hope on so many levels.
The years of surprise Shore club appearances aside, most of us are not carrying authentic memories of him in Asbury. We carry the memories he gave us. They were so vivid and heartfelt they became ours. The place and its spirit (and spirits) spoke to him and infused his music and sensibility.
All of this is what I was thinking about when Springsteen played "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" at the pre-tour rehearsal/benefit show on October 4 at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park. "Sandy" is not my favorite song. It doesn't even make my top 50. I don't even think it's all that good and believe that its status in the pantheon is slightly overblown because it has the words "Asbury Park" in the title. Hearing it played in its namesake should have been, I imagine, deeply meaningful. Maybe I can be cynical because I have those memories; I know plenty of folks who would kill or die to remember what the Boardwalk between Convention Hall and the Casino looked like before it was all torn up, closed down and shuttered. But even then it was past its prime.
Do I take it for granted? His sense of place of is one of Springsteen's most powerful gifts. And as I get older, I feel like I didn't pay enough attention to what did happen. I wish you could know that in 20 years you would long for every detail, every dumb and mundane thing that happened: drinking Jack Daniels for breakfast on the train, giggling madly at
everything as the stations sped by; of sitting up all night at the donut shop on Sunset and Main after a show at the Pony or the Fast Lane, when our ride back to the city didn't materialize and the first train home was 5 a.m., dragging ourselves to the NJ Transit station in greying gently silvering light, too tired to talk. Of the Clash at Convention Hall, our own
Woodstock; of driving the circuit in someone's mom's car and flirting with the bikers parked in front of Mrs. Jay's; swimming in the ocean at Long Branch (NEVER at Asbury); and the trains, always the trains, we were silly New York girls so cars were a luxury and a rarity.
All I can think is: do I remember it right? Do I remember it well? Is it worth remembering? Is it important to remember?
The greatest most overpowering memory that flashed in my mind while "Sandy" was being played: all of us, fast asleep on the train after another minor adventure, with your leather jacket as pillow or comforter, sprawling across two seats, set face to face, attracting leers and stares equally made of disapproval and envy. It's not a memory that has anything to do with Springsteen specifically, but I wouldn't have had it without him, because we wouldn't have been drawn to this place without his words.
And now, tonight, another one, a vision to access from the memory banks in 10 years, feeling grateful that the Shore is an hour away and not six hours on a plane, of walking up to the ocean pre-show through a vague salty mist, my boots ringing solid footsteps on the boardwalk as I approach the theater, where I get to sit and listen to him play the songs that a such a large part of who and where I am today.