Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Face-Lift 113


Guess the Plot

What's Wrong with Us?

1. When five generations of the dysfunctional Wallace family gather for Thanksgiving, it's always just a matter of time before someone asks the obvious question.

2. When Joe and Susan find themselves fiercely arguing about the right way to eat danishes, they realize their marriage is in serious need of counseling.

3. Evan and Ebony Walker have been through a lot together. But, when they awaken one morning and discover Polaroids scattered about of two werewolves doing the horizontal howl in their bedroom they ask themselves the obvious question.

4. In a series of highly opinionated essays, a twenty-eight-year-old woman complains bitterly about how twenty-five-year-olds nowadays are more lazy, impractical, and superficial than they were back in her day.

5. Rumors tell of a mysterious stranger who cures any complaint with a touch. When she finally shows up, she is crushed beneath the pleading mob, leaving them unchanged, and unrepentant.

6. Evil Editor’s minions tell all in this self-indulgent cooperative memoir; includes bonus CD: Minion Lessons - procrastination, obsession, and groveling.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

A few weeks ago, my grandfather called me up after watching something on CNN about iPods and asked me, "What's wrong with them?" [I replied, "They're too expensive, they damage your hearing, and they have lousy bass." He said, "Not ipods, idiot. CNN."] I am writing to you seeking representation for my nonfiction book of essays on why 18-25-year-olds today are a generation so different from any other. As a college newspaper adviser, daily I am faced with people from this generation who can tell you intimate details of Britney Spears' pregnancy but can't tell me where a comma goes, or who were the Axis powers in World War II. [Could you move that comma after "goes" so it's after "pregnancy?"] [Thanks. Now, what's the latest on Britney?]

This is a generation of adults coming of age in a very bizarre time. Young adults today have had MTV, the Internet, cable television and cellular phones their whole lives. [All of which pale in value when compared to the other item Evil Editor didn't have when growing up: the TV remote control.] Their parents constantly told them they'd be great at everything, but they never learned how to work for anything. Their self-esteem and purchasing power are high, [Unless you include the suicidal and impoverished ones.] but their analytical and practical skills are low. With so many buzzwords surrounding this generation ("helicopter parents," "soccer moms," "NASCAR dads," "boomerang generation," "iGeneration," "generation me," ["Pepsi Generation," "Star Trek, the Next Generation,"] etc.), it's time to get to the facts. [So the essays will contain the facts? Or the opinions?]

This book will be a collection of essays on different subjects concerning the generation. [Boring, vague sentence. Dump it.] Topics [of the essays] will include technology, the Internet, politics and interpersonal relationships. An essay titled "Fake Friends," about the temporary and superficial nature of friendships on sites like MySpace, Friendster and Facebook, is enclosed for your review. {not sent to E.E., but will be included with the actual query}

As a college newspaper adviser, I work with people from this generation daily. [Yes, you said that in paragraph 1.] Working in a college setting puts me face-to-face with the technology, pop culture and personal relationships of this generation. I'm also only a few years older than they are, and I can see first-hand the very tangible differences in their generation and mine. [This younger generation, they just don't know how tough we had it.]

A complete proposal package for the book "What's Wrong With Us?" is available upon request and I have included a SASE for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best,


Notes

This sounds like a tough sell without more impressive credentials. Is it all opinion, or are there studies and data to back up your opinions? Would this be different from (better in some ways than) Generation Me, by Jean Twenge?

Your test group seems to be limited to college students, possibly at your college only. A military commander in Iraq might have a different take on the 18 - 25 year-old generation. Books about generations have to generalize, true, but first you need to throw everyone from the generation into the mix. Then generalize about the average person, or the vast majority of people. Which you may have done by interviewing iGeneration people who aren't in one particular college, but if so, mention it.

Evil Editor was considering writing a book about this generation himself, basing my findings entirely on the query letters and comments I've received from18 - 25 year-old writers. Which pretty much narrowed it down to Dwight, the Troubled Teen. In the end, I decided that while he probably was a sufficiently representative sample of the entire generation, I didn't feel like writing the book after all. Apparently Evil Editor also hails from a lazy generation.

30 comments:

A Reader said...

Is this another book about the only people that matter--the rich?

It seems to me that most Americans can't afford to go to college any more.

If the essays are not based on data, I'd be more likely to read the book (as a joe-shmoe) if it were humorous.

Also, the author is older than the people (s)he's writing about. Wouldn't a better title be, "What's wrong with them?"

A Reader said...

Incidentally, what is wrong with CNN? Discuss.

kis said...

EE, I'm not sure, but I think good old Dwight just might be lying about his age. I've heard him make comments (here and elsewhere) that lead me to believe he's really a 53-year-old, unemployed guy living in his elderly mother's guest room at the retirement community.

I don't know for sure, but hey, if I can pretend to be a 35-year-old mother of three rotten kids when I'm really an Angelina Jolie look-alike-for-hire, Dwight's probably capable of fooling some people, too. I'm just saying.

daniel said...

As a twenty-nine year old, I cannot fully express how sick I am of twenty-eight year olds and their entire generation. Those ungrateful brats could buy their first ipods at the tender age of twenty-two, whereas I had to wait until I was twenty-three! Can you believe that? And don't even get me started on twenty-seven year olds, with their baggy jeans and their hippity-hop music. Grumble...

Writerious said...

"This is a generation of adults coming of age in a very bizarre time."

Moreso that the Great Depression or either World War?

"Young adults today have had MTV, the Internet, cable television and cellular phones their whole lives."

Yes. Point?

"Their parents constantly told them they'd be great at everything, but they never learned how to work for anything."

Many of my community college and university students, also of the generation the author is writing about, are the first in their families to go to college, haven't been told they're great at everything, and are working their way through school. Some of them are supporting families, some are veterans or in the Guard, some are learning disabled, some are survivors of domestic abuse, and one is in a wheelchair because she has no legs.

"Their self-esteem and purchasing power are high,"

Unless, like my students, they're struggling to put themselves through school. Then they're hanging out in the bookstore to read the textbooks they can't afford to buy.

"...but their analytical and practical skills are low."

An awfully broad generalization for the kind of diversity I work with daily.

Rather than rely entirely on his/her own experiences with some students at one college, the author may want to get a larger sample size before reporting his/her findings. Otherwise, one might wonder if that statement about analytical and practical skills applies to the author as well.

Spooks said...

Hmmm. Who's the target audience? 18 - 25 year olds? Based on this query, sounds like these essays might be a sort of rant or might have a certain preachy quality and my guess is that the 18 - 25 crowd won't be rushing out to buy rants directed at them.

NB

aspiring writer said...

Excuse me.

I am an 18-25-year old, and I find the premise of this essay collection down right insulting. I am English major at a respectable university, and I know where to place a comma. My "analytical and practical skills" are just fine, thank you very much. I don't own an iPod, and while I do have a cell phone, I'm hardly the techno-obsessed freak that your generalizing essays want to portray me as.

I could rant and rave some more, but I learned a long time ago that if people have decided to be pitted against a group of people (be that an age, a race, a gender, a sexuality, what have you), the greatest arguments available will not change their minds.

Mazement said...

When I was 18-to-25, my peers were generally clever and witty, and we were respectful to our elders (when they deserved it).

But 18-to-25-year-olds nowadays are vulgar idiots and they don't have any respect for anybody.

And things get worse every year. I'm doing a monograph on the subject. It's called "Get Off My Lawn, You Damned Kids". I've written the first 400,000 words so it's about half done.

Anonymous said...

Boorish and arrogant. I would not read this book.

Amra Pajalic said...

Pissed myself laughing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the book would find a wide audience. You can hear these kinds of opinions any day of the week from a whole generation of old fogeys. (And no, I'm not from the 18-25 generation. Geesh. I'm probably older than the querier.) What makes these essays worth reading?

I suggest sending them in to various magazines that print essays. Try "MY TURN" at Newsweek magazine and other outlets. If some start getting printed, then you've got more credibility for pushing your essays as book material.

Self-examination may sell. Blame and criticism of others is boring. (And I'll say that to Ann Coulter, too, if I see her anytime soon!)

zptnkzp said...

I was recently treated to a presentation by MTV's director of public affairs, and he opened the eyes of this nearly-forty, white male. The 18-to-25 set these days are in fact growing up in a world of complications and issues never before seen (that could be said of many generations). Teenagers multitask with iPods, IM, cell phones, text messaging, homework, TV... all at once. An old fart like me can barely keep up with three of those at one time.

Anyway, I digress. I think the author has a point, but his approach appears to come, unfortunately, from the academic white-tower approach. Get in touch with MTV. Make friends on the inside. Those people know the 13-to-25 generation and help set the trends. Get them to provide you source material or at least some vetting of the opinions and "facts" you present.

Finally, to all you 18-to-25-year-olds out there who are offended by this slant: Wait til you grow up and start reading the letters to the editor of your local paper in an election year. People are divided. Not all opinions agree. This book's existence is entirely valid; if you disagree, write a rebuttal book. That's how it works these days. Better yet, write a rebuttal MySpace page and create a grassroots effort to discredit the book before it's even published. Just be sure to get the commas in the right places.

Brenda Bradshaw said...

Apparently Dwight the Troubled Teen is an old thing from David Letterman (I never watched Letterman so I didn't realize this.) So no, he's not a teenager, although I originally thought so too.

This book does nothing for me. Sorry.

Ashni said...

This book will sell like hot cakes. I base this prediction on the sales of "Generation X," which explained that my cohort (and the querier's, I suspect) consisted entirely of slackers without ambition or ideals. The Millennials--that's the current 18-25-year-olds--were going to save the world. How the mighty have fallen.

Arisa said...

I'm another one in the 18-25 category, and I wholeheartedly agree with "aspiring writer." Yes, there are a lot of people in this generation that are everything described in that query letter and more. There are also people who are exactly the opposite. I'd be more inclined to consider reading this if there was a bit more neutrality.

pacatrue said...

I have to agree with many that it isn't clear who the market for this book is, as it certainly isn't 18-25 year olds. If the author can decide that exactly, then they can pitch the query in such a way that an agent can see the market as well.

On the general topic, I am a measly 32 year old doctoral student, and I am amazed sometimes what my local undergrads don't know - and how little interest they have in learning it. At the same time, I was sitting in a French 101 class a few weeks ago, and the prof asked who in the class had a job outside of school. Every single student in the class also works while taking a full load of classes. One worked a full 40 hours in addition to school. Another woman stumbled in one day with a dazed look, but on asking it turned out she worked at the mall until 6:00 AM. There are certainly issues here, but the idea that they are all lazy seems not to be one of them.

Exeye said...

I am from the 2X 18-25 yo generation, the one that completely bolloxed up things with its goodtimesrockandroll free love, free drugs, free Willy attitude. My son is in the presently disputed 18-25 yo group, and he gives me great hope for the future with his common sense, work ethic, and eschewing of my generation's ridiculous concepts. Now if he'd just stop spending my money...

BTW, kis, I am in the market for an Angelina Jolie look-alike. Please send details.

Anonymous said...

EE made a very good point about the troops serving in Iraq. This book would definately not apply there.

"A reader", It is true that most of us can't afford to go to college. But, just about anyone can qualify for a student loan. And, now, with the "B on Time" loan, the students do not even have to pay it back if they graduate in four years with a B average. That's a good deal if you have no money. Don't even get me started on how my son has to take a student loan out and many others go to school based on grants and scholarships that are only available to "minority groups". As of 2005 caucasians are not the majority in Texas. Where's my son's grant or special scholarship?

What's wrong with CNN? Check the ratings.

Finally, with the sparks flying because of the hot topic of the query, I would like to point out that some pretty hilarious fake plots were offered and have, unfortunately, been ignored. -JTC

A Reader said...

JTC, after reading your post, I'm seriously considering moving to Texas.

And I hadn't even considered that this query insults many of the men and women fighting the war in Iraq.

Tread lightly, kind query author.

Nut said...

One thing never changes throughout the ages. It's the age old dilemma, that troubles the elderly, generation after generation: the young people. Guess what, oh wise and ancient author? When the generation you are dissing ages, they will say the same thing about young people. "When I was young, I only had a cellphone, but these people have (fill in the blank, whatever suits your imagination). What's wrong with these punks?"

Of course, you could always rename your book to "Young People These Days", or subtler "When I was young, there was no phones, and people had to go potty outside". Instant classic!

Anonymous said...

Your children will have the honor of pledging allegiance to Texas and singing Texas Our Texas every morning in school. -JTC

Nut said...

Alternative tittle: "Cell phone envy".

Sorry, EE, I just couldn't resist.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Hey, I'm not much older than the 18-25 demographic myself. Only I never really care to reflect on what's wrong with my generation.

Word verification: mumvow, the promise each generation makes never to grow up like their parents.

Luna said...

can't tell me where a comma goes, or who were the Axis powers in World War II

Germany, Japan, Italy. No, I did not google that. Oh, and I'm 21.

Sorry, that comment about WWII just really bugged me. Ahem. This sounds more than anyting like a venting of frustration by a middle-aged professional trapped in academia, who is insanely jealous of the vast world presented to people of my generation from their birth.

Of course, I could just be a whippersnapper who doesn't know anything about the real world and when I was your age we didn't have cell phones or iPods or MySpace and what's with MySpace anyway, in my day we went to the sock hop and shared a Nehi and walked 55 miles home afterwards because the Model T had broken down and they just don't make 'em like the used to...

Anonymous said...

Everybody, including this author, reaches an age where everybody younger than them doesn't seem to measure up. He or she is doing exactly the same thing his elders were doing when he was a kid -- telling them how dumb and lazy they were. And those elders endured it when they were young too.

It's true that many young people can't find Iran on a map or don't know who the vice president is. But it was equally true twenty years ago, or fifty years ago, or one hundred years ago (well, it was Persia on the map back then). A kid on the street in 1952 probably didn't know the kinds of things you're ranting about, either.

Ironically, less of a big deal was made back then, for the very reasons you cited -- helicopter parents, etc.

And I'm an old guy, I swear...

Author, didn't you hate it when older people ragged on you when you were a kid? Guess what you turned into...

kis said...

Yeah, change the name to "What's Wrong With These Little Bastards?" or "Christ on a Crutch, These Kids Today!"

Of course to really appeal to that market, you'll have to wear a wool cardigan, pearls, and those glasses with the little chain thingie that goes behind your neck in your publicity photos. Or you could just hire a Wilford Brimley look-alike to do the pic, and write under the name of Wilbur P. Hodges.

word ver. oooyuk. heh heh.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be better if the author wrote essays about specific situations he/she has encountered instead of making rash generalizations.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of generational issues -- I had the fun this morning of accusing someone younger than I am of being an old fogey. :-) Perhaps this author is also.

More on the subject, there are how many million 18 to 25 year old people in this country & they are all flakes? This strikes me as so unlikely as to be worth totally ignoring, though in fact, it's gotten more comments than most queries.

I sure wouldn't buy it or read it!

Meg said...

I am a teenager, and while some of these things apply to some of these people, the vast majority of 18 - 25 year olds are not like this. It seems like this person has only been exposed to people who are extremly spoiled, or something. I maybe know one or two people like this, not a generation.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, it sounds like the writer doesn't like college age kids. Sad.

Ann