Is there a genre for fictional tulips and daffodils?

Tulips don’t grow in my garden. Deer eat them before the buds even develop. I’ve planted dozens upon dozens of daffodils and narcissus because I’m told deer don’t like them. They bloom beautifully the first year, but only a few make it through to the next, and by the third year there are none. I suspect the squirrels are to blame, but I have no proof.

I love the cheery colour of spring bulbs but have to make do with the store-bought variety. There’s no point trying to grow them where they aren’t going to thrive.

Tulips 2

I’m discovering a novel is a little like a garden. If the conditions aren’t right, it can’t develop its full potential. Unfortunately, I’m the one responsible for providing a nurturing environment, and that involves more than fencing out marauders.

I can do extensive research and come up with lots to nourish a budding idea. I can refuse to let the I.E. thwart my attempts, invest time and energy to revise and rewrite, get professional editing and helpful critiques. But transplant that ready-to-blossom story into a less than receptive location and it’s probably going to wither and die.  Or be buried indefinitely in an agent’s slush pile.

Compiling a list of agents and going from A to Z in a dedicated submission process is like throwing a handful of flower bulbs into the air and hoping they’ll land in a fertile growing medium and survive. There are websites like Chuck Sambuchino‘s that provide listings of what agents are currently looking for, others that demystify the many different genres, and still others that explain how to classify our novels and/or understand why it’s important to know where they fit so we send them only to those agents who read our genre.

One thing I’ve learned over the past fifteen years of writing novels and studying the publishing industry is that we can do everything right and still not meet with success. Perhaps it’s time to change tactics.

I’m thinking of planting crocuses for next spring. Oh, wait…there was a flash of fur in the garden. I wonder if squirrels like crocus bulbs.

Squirrel

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Tulips

By A. E. Stallings

The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,
Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,
Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.
The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,
The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

Source: Poetry (June 2009)

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