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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | When the Fish Don’t Bite

When the Fish Don’t Bite

It’s O’Dark Thirty in the Salerni house, and eight people are stumbling around, grabbing a bite to eat and mumbling at each other with as much civility as we can muster for this ungodly time of day. Then my niece, Olivia, puts on her fishing hat and gives me a big grin, and I laugh and grab my camera.  With a hat like this, I think, how can we not get lucky?

Sadly, however, this year’s family fishing trip was a bust.  Thirteen people on the boat in the Delaware Bay for 8 hours, and we didn’t go home with a single fish.  Not one.  Even the throw-backs were few. We may have caught 2 dozen over the course of the whole day.
Sometimes, no matter how great your fishing hat, you don’t catch any fish. We had great bait, too – lively minnows.  We know they were great bait because the darn bluefish kept chomping them in half.  Time after time, we’d feel that one tug on the line and then nothing … and with a sigh we’d reel up our line to find just the minnow’s head.
The most exciting part of the day was when my dad almost pulled in a shark that was as big as Olivia (I swear!), but it jumped off the line before he could get it in the boat. 
You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Our whole fishing trip could be a metaphor for querying and submitting.  The awesome hat that didn’t help one bit.  The bait chomped in half.  The big fish we didn’t land.
Of course, we still had fun.  My sister’s family was making their annual visit from Kansas, and it was a great opportunity to see some of our cousins, who joined us on the boat. It was Olivia’s first fishing trip.  The weather was gorgeous.  My sister laid dibs on our brother’s fishing rod should anything happen to him, and I graciously withdrew any claim to it. (He was the only one pulling in fish, even if they were too small.)  We had sandwiches and Tastykakes and beer.  We were disappointed not to have a fish dinner that night, but that won’t stop us from booking another trip next year.
I don’t know if the writing metaphor completely works here, because when you’re querying and submitting and pulling in no fish, nobody says they had fun anyway.  The company might be good, if you’re hanging out in the blogosphere with your writing pals, and there may or may not be Tastykakes and beer. (Probably not Tastykakes if you live outside Pennsylvania.)  But even if it’s no fun whatsoever, you can’t stop trying.  Not ever.  Keep casting your line, and don’t forget to book the next trip. Bring your best hat – and a fourteenth person, for heaven’s sake.  Thirteen fishermen was probably a bad idea …

16 Responses to When the Fish Don’t Bite

  1. Sarah says:

    I love this post, Dianne. That is all. (oh, except for this: Olivia is adorable and her hat is awesome).

  2. I think you might have something there. Thirteen fishermen are no good on a boat. Sorry about the fish, but glad you had fun.

  3. Linda G. says:

    Sorry you didn’t catch more (and bigger) fish, but it sounds like an awfully fun family outing anyway!

    Re the query analogy: I actually had a few rejections that made me laugh (from some very kind, and amusing, agents), so it’s possible to have at least a tiny bit of fun with it. Granted, it got a whole lot more fun once I got my agent, but still. *grin*

  4. That’s your daughter? She’s adorable! It’s also a good metaphor, but look at that hat!

  5. “I don’t know if the writing metaphor completely works here, because when you’re querying and submitting and pulling in no fish, nobody says they had fun anyway.”

    The metaphor completely works for me. Thank you. I needed someone to tell me it’s okay to feel sad when the queries/requests aren’t bringing in the desired results. Thank you!

    Btw, my daughter Olivia had her first fishing trip when she was seven. She caught only one fish and was saddened when she realized she caused it to bleed to death trying to “free” it. :<

  6. Julie Dao says:

    Agh, so exciting!! I have never gone fishing in my whole life, can you believe it? I’d love to try it one day and see what I can catch 🙂 Sounds like your family is having a great summer so far!

  7. Pk Hrezo says:

    Oh man, you aint kidding. Being on the boat and not catching anything is much more fun than tossing queries out into the open with no bites. BUT! I do appreciate the analogy. Like my dad always says, “Even if you don’t catch anything, it’s still a nice day out on the boat!”
    BTW your daughter looks just like you!

  8. That hat is adorable (and so is Oliva)!

    I think that’s a perfect metaphor and one I try to remind myself of all the time. Writing and fishing are sort of both the businesses of rejection…until you pull one in.

  9. DL Hammons says:

    You know its a bad day when you get excited just over a nibble! 🙂

  10. mshatch says:

    Just being on the water is enough for me, the smell of the salty air, the sun on your face, a nice cold beer…

    what’s tastykakes?

  11. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! sounds like you had lots of fun even if you didnt catch not one fish big enough to eat. ack! i love olivias hat. its the best fishing hat ever cause if you dont catch a fish you got money to go buy a fish sandwich. ha ha.
    …hugs from lenny

  12. Tonja says:

    Great post. If writing is fun, it is worth it. You should have brought a three-year-old with you – they always catch the fish, not sure why.

  13. Angela Brown says:

    I’ve had a conversation or two with coworkers that love to fish. They’d talk about getting out on the edge of the shore or the dock, casting their line and patiently waiting, and waiting, and waiting and – okay, you get the point. Your fishing metaphor for writing works PERFECTLY. Actually, I kind of needed this. I’m currently in a bit of a slump of my own making. I should have been patient for something that I jumped the gun on. Now, I’m feeling the after-effects of casting my line and getting nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. But I’ll get back to fishing again real soon. Rather, fishing in the writing respect. 🙂

  14. Dianne says:

    13-unlucky-should have tried the Tastykakes as baits….
    and on a side note-I actually know a lady who is a taster at Tastykake-what a hard job. : )

  15. Glad to hear everyone had fun, even if no fish were brought home.

  16. vbtremper says:

    LOL. I love that you tried to relate this to writing and querying. And maybe you’re right – maybe we should try to enjoy the query process. I’m certainly enjoying the copious amounts of wine and chocolate in my life at the moment. That counts for something.

    Better luck on the next fishing trip!

    -Vicki