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2006-12-21 - 7:30 p.m.

Leaving for Cumberland tomorrow. My girlfriend and I exchanged gifts on Monday night. We went to Friends and got sixty-percent drunk and when we got to her place, we both thought it would be a good idea to open some presents. I drove up to my place and got the acoustic guitar I'd gotten her. I hid it in the alley outside her door. Her first present was a book signed by Alice McDermott (I talked with her after her reading at Hopkins a few weeks ago and she is small and smart and nice). I got her a green T-shirt with "The Onion" on the front. I wanted to get her a funny one, but they were sold out. Last, I'd taped a guitar pick to a folded index card and wrote a note on the card. Sixty-percent drunk, I got up and knocked on her door and said, "There's somebody who wants to see you." She opened the door and saw her guitar. She liked it. She got me a backpack with two thousand pockets, an iPod charger and a sticky-like mat for my truck's dashboard designed to hold the iPod in place, season two of the American "The Office," and Wallace Stegner's book about the writing of fiction. We like each other.

I've gotten some good response from my query letter. I've sent out more than 150 email queries. Forty have responded and about half have asked for something: the first ten pages, the first chapter, the first 100 pages, the whole manuscript, etc. Of those 20, I've gotten eight or nine "no thanks." Some of them just say no, but the real heartbreakers are the ones that give specific reasons for the no. They're helpful comments, of course, after a few days go by, but they're telling me exactly what I've known all along and feared the most: they think the structure of the not-really-related essays don't add up to a coherent book. But David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs' later stuff, I say, and they say, you're not either of them. And so I crawl into a corner and throw darts at baby monkeys. Not really. We'll see. I've got two choices. Three, of course. The first is that I keep trying and heft my belief in it up on the kitchen counter and say, Get on it, people. The second is that I take the advice and try, somehow, to make it into a continuous story (I have absolutely no idea how I'll do that, if I can because I suspect doing that would either rip the guts out of each individual chapter or come off as forced). I'm going to just ignore the third.

Looking forward to seeing my breath and to seeing the two-year-old nephew, who, based on the videos my brother sends, is finding new words every day, trying them out like firecrackers. Looking forward to the look on my mom's face when we tell her she's going to get new cabinets.

Feeling especially warm toward the world right now. Had a tense day at work, getting out a proposal to a health plan I don't care about, for a radiology benefits program I don't care about, trying not to let my coworkers drive me to anger, but have taken a deep breath now and am ready to let the good back in, and out.

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