Please join us to discuss everything literary (especially kid literary): good books, the writing life, the people and businesses who create books, controversies in book world, what's good to snack on while reading and writing, and anything else bookish. We welcome your thoughts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Supply and Demand of College Admissions and Publishing

by Cynthia Light Brown

Five people. One small hotel room. 4 colleges and 1,000 miles in 3.5 days. Joy, thy name is the college admission tour.

The three offspring (aka parasites) bickered over who had to sleep on the floor, drew straws, fussed some more, pulled covers and kicked and yanked and scrabbled and squabbled in furiously loud whispers and kept me awake until 1:00. The husband snored through it all. The 17 yo boy (aka Slob) left his smelly socks draped on chairs, beds, even the sink. The 11 yo girl got stomach aches, headaches, fainting spells—all about halfway through a college tour, which then miraculously disappeared when the tour was finished. The 15 yo girl (aka Snark) reminded me over and over of how they would soon all be off to college and out of my life never to return. By the end of the trip I replied, “Could we make “soon” be tonight?”

Colleges say they really want your child. If they really meant that, they would have information sessions on the weekend. They would hand you a cup of coffee to keep you awake during the information session where they tell you their college is unique because [insert any of 10 reasons that sound exactly like the last college]. They would hand you a bottle of water for the sweltering tour. They would have percent acceptance rates in the double digits.

But they don’t.

So the masses of unwashed hordes troupe from college to college trying to sort it all out with the dawning realization for the child that getting in will boil down to grades and luck and for the parent that if by some chance the offspring gets in you will have to pay about twice as much as you think you should be paying (this formula works whether or not you get financial aid) so maybe you’ll be just as happy if the offspring doesn’t get in after all.

Sound familiar? If publishers really wanted your manuscript, they would actually allow you to submit an unsolicited manuscript. And when you do, they would reply either way in less time than it takes a glacier to form (which in case you didn’t know, is a couple of decades in more temperate regions like Alaska and hundreds or thousands of years in Antarctica). They would thank you for the privilege of reading your amazing novel and pay you enough to live on.

But they don’t.

So the masses of writers submit and submit and submit with the dawning realization that getting published boils down to a lot of hard work and luck and even if you do get published you may end up on the midlist and never get published again.

None of which is anyone’s fault. Not the admissions officers, not the editors, not the high school seniors, not the writers. Too many people trying to get into too few slots.

We left New York City on a Saturday morning, drove to New Haven for our 4th and last college, slogged through a campus tour (being on a weekend, it didn’t include an information session and according to the website wasn’t even a tour aimed at prospective students though there were LOTS of people and I guarantee you they were all prospective students) and drove home to Pittsburgh all in one day/night.

We had not originally planned to pack all that in one day, but the squabbling finally ended as we agreed on one thing: no way, no how were we spending another night in a hotel.


I have only one real answer to all of the above. Gratitude that there are all kinds of great colleges with different admissions and costs, that there are so many great students, that I have a car to go traipsing about to different colleges, that I have a computer to write on, that there are so many wonderful books to read, that new options are opening up for publishing including electronic publishing, that so many editors find the time to take the care that they do on stories, that I have 3 beautiful children and a wonderful husband, an incredible writing group and bloggers, a great agent and editor, and that, mindful of the many people around the world who cannot say the same, my husband and I have a snug house with a room all to ourselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment