I’m sensing a theme here. I think I just alienated a literary agent, someone whom I’d hoped might help get my next book published. OK, from the top.

When I was looking for a publisher for my first book, I traded some e-mails with a very nice lady, a children’s writer named Ellen Jackson. She gave me some advice, and suggested that I contact her agent. I did so, but ended up signing on with Prometheus Books without representation.

Anyway, I told the agent at the time that I hoped we might be able to work together in the future. So now that I’ve finished my second book, I decided to send it to the agent to see if she might be interested. I put it in the mail, and also sent along an e-mail, hoping to remind the agent that we’d spoken on the phone, that she’d liked my first book at least a little, and that I hoped she’d enjoy this one. A few weeks later I got a very nice rejection letter back in the mail.

That’s nothing unusual for writers; I have quite a collection of rejection letters by now. I thought little of it and went on trying to find a home for my new book.

Today the agent responded to my original e-mail. I suppose it was in her queue and she just now got to it. Understandable; my e-mail at work is a horrid mess. I recently deleted over 13,000 e-mails (yes, that’s three zeroes!) from my inbox. Now I have that many e-mails in my trash, and I live in terror of emptying it for fear as soon as I do I’ll need something.

But I digress. In the e-mail the agent said she’d be happy to read my manuscript, and directed me to the website for the proper way to submit.

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to not respond, because this business is tough to get into; any connection at all is potentially a good connection. She’d taken the time to write to me personally. I had to say something.

But what to say? Clearly this was just a mix-up, and she’d either not realized or not remembered that her agency had already rejected my latest project.

I wrote back, trying to sound both humble and friendly. I told the agent I supposed that either someone else had screened my book before she got it, deciding it was not worth her time, or else she herself read it and it made no impression on her at all. Which was OK.

Later today, I got another e-mail which sounded a little angry. The agent assured me that she and at least one other person in her office had read the submission, thank you very much. I wrote back (perhaps my problem is that I don’t know when to shut up. Ya think?) saying I was glad she got a chance to read my submission and that I was sorry the book wasn’t for her.

So now I have an agent out there who thinks I’ve accused her of not doing her job, so I guess I can mark that name off my small number of contacts in the publishing world. Perhaps the fact that I seem unable to express the proper emotions in my writing should clue me in that this writing business isn’t really for me.

Back to square negative one.