The Problem of the Goddamn Barbara

When I started querying agents about two years ago, I made a huge mistake. In my excitement, I thought I’d want to be notified immediately if I received an answer because of course, agents would be falling over themselves to acquire my novels and shove stacks of money at me, right?


(Dear Reader, I am still querying, fwiw)

But in my optimism and excitement, I did one thing terribly, terribly wrong—I changed the alert tone for my querying email address to one distinct from every other sound my phone makes. Something beautiful called “Salacia” to the rest of google’s “Default Notification Sound.”

Because I like giving myself heart attacks. I like jumping for my phone to see if I got another rejection, the truth of that ending still not enough to damp down the little itty bitty tiny hope that blossoms and dies with every zen-like chiming of Salacia.

You know what the real problem is, however? You don’t, so imma tell you. The real problem is one that has become known as The Goddamn Barbara.

Now a really smart person would have an email dedicated entirely to their writing endeavors. Me, though? Absolutely not. I also use that address for business emails, health insurance updates, and the true source of all my misery—my son’s school communications.

Yes, love, I hear that dreaded Salacia in my sleep now. Literally, if I leave the sound on my phone up. With every chime my heart races, my palms sweat, and I stop everything to grab my phone and see…

Was it one of the agents

Is it a rejection

A short story response


Never. It’s almost never that. So what is it?

Ninety percent of the time, it’s the school. It’s picture day reminders and weekly newsletters and monthly newsletters and spelling words and updates and just saying hi emails.

Every damn day.

And for a time, ninety percent of that ninety percent came from one culprit. Barbara. Salacia would chime and I’d dive for my phone to see query responses but no, it’s not from any agent, it’s the goddamn Barbara reminding me that they’re selling hot chocolate before school tomorrow and it’s pizza day and it’s crazy sock day and did I remember the forms?!

Barbara isn’t even with the school anymore I don’t think but her name lives on in my realm and has become one of those things that has taken on a life of its own.


Query Answer?

No! Health Insurance Payment Confirmation!

“It’s the goddamn Barbara!”



No! It’s the phone bill!

shakes fist at the punishing sky “I’ll get you, goddamn Barbara!”

And, dear friend, do you know the worst of it? Barbara is a grade-A human. She was wonderful and kind and a joy to see at the school every time.

But I swear, if I get one more email…

What about you? Who is your Goddamn Barbara?