Well gosh, I’m getting into the rhythm of this business of seducing literary agents. My synopsis is getting tighter. My bio hints at genius with a disarming whiff of humor. I’ve even found “comparable novels” to throw in because they like that sort of thing. “Jeeves and Wooster meet The Goldfinch on The Road,” I begin. Irresistible.

But I make mistakes. One of my favorite mistakes is sending out a query letter from my regular email address rather than the address I use just for writing-related things. I like to keep those accounts separate. Also, my regular account is “Pootie.” Some of your more easily affronted recipient mailboxes will send that sucker straight to the spam folder. If I accidentally send a query letter from Pootie and don’t hear back, I don’t know if it’s a normal non-response or if the agent never got my letter.
My perfect letter.
This wasn’t a problem on my desktop computer, Old Sludgy. If I wanted to send something from my writing account, I had to ask my computer to flip all the way over to that account. It can’t even hear Pootie from there. But on my laptop, my two email accounts are right there together, side by each. And when I send a letter, I have to check which account I’m sending it from. So I do. Usually.

But then there’s that time I’ve got a letter in draft form and I hold onto it for four days, rereading every morning and making tweaks and improvements, and making sure I’ve spelled the agent’s name right, and then I get to thinking “Is ‘tight synopsis’ a medical condition?” and accidentally hit SEND and whoosh there it goes and instantly–I mean instantly–I realize I’ve sent it from Pootie.

So I slow down. A bit. I write my letters, and I keep them in the Drafts folder, and have days to make sure they’re going to be sent from the right account, and then I open one up, change one word, and click off to send it back to Drafts, and whoosh–off it goes, because I hit the little airplane instead of the little red dot. Was it okay? Did I copy and paste from another letter and forget to replace the other agent’s name? Whatever happened to having your own secretary?
Clearly, this has gotten into the same territory as walking down a flight of stairs. I never used to think about that but things have changed. And now I square up at the top of the stairs and grab the bannister. How is it I can take such care with a letter and then screw it up at the very end? The problem, when you’re old, is that your muscles went to crap and your memory is even crappier and your muscle memory is all you’ve got left. You’re going to hit that button and it’s just a dang miracle you’re not also waiting to hear the “ding” and carriage return.
I need some kind of reminder. Some kind of hold-your-horses step. A virtual bannister to square up at. A big warning note on the wall, a post-it on the computer, a device. Something like Groucho Marx’s duck that comes down from the rafters with the secret word. If I could only hook up my email program to a lowerable duck that says HOLD ON, SPARKY, I’ll be all set.