Sunday, May 5, 2013

More than one way to write a query or castrate a dog

This has been a roller coaster week - two half marathons in a row have kept me physically stressed and I've been busy at work refreshing my memory on cattle reproductive hormones (prostaglandins in particular, like good ol' prostaglandin E2, which means a review of the cyclooxygenase 2 pathway and all that good stuff).  However, I've tried to remain diligent with my writing and soon I'll have a few more queries to send out to magazines.

If you look up "how to write a query letter" you'll find an almost overwhelming amount of advice online which is simultaneously great and aggravating.  Yes, there is the standard set-up of a query letter: the "hook", the synopsis, and your biography, but just how you craft your hook can be done about a million ways.

I don't know about you, but although options are sometimes nice (like ice cream), for other things such as query writing and learning to drive a manual transmission, I want to be told ONE WAY to do it for starters.


Some aspects of veterinary medicine are like this too.  Take castrations.  Junior year of vet school is when you begin to learn the art of surgery.  You start with the basics, which is the feline neuter.  Then you up the ante a little and progress to the canine neuter (interesting to note how different all the species are when it comes to testicles).  We would practice and refresh our anatomy on cadavers with the surgeons hovering around in the background trying to offer helpful tips.  I remember one particularly easy-going small animal surgeon (I know, I know: What? An easy-going small animal surgeon!? That's crazy talk!) offering tips when castrating a dog: you can do the "closed" technique or "open."  You can use two clamps or three.  You can use this suture and these knots, or this one over here.  You can close the skin with this suture pattern or that.  "Which one would you prefer?" he asked us in the anatomy lab, referring to which combination of methods to use during this surgery, almost like employing artistic license.

It was too much for me.  "How are we supposed to know?" I asked.  Asking which way I prefer when I've never actually done it was so weird and annoying to me, I was getting aggravated, not to mention confused.  What is the tunica albuginia again? Which is the Kelly hemostat?  Perhaps the formalin fumes were getting to me.  "Just show me ONE WAY to do it for now," I said.  "Once I get comfortable with that, then I can try other methods."

The day of the actual neuter on the actual (living) dog went fine.  Things were clamped, things were removed, and the dog woke up afterwards.  Now of course I forgot the way I chose to do it.  Also, I'll admit I don't neuter every dog the same way - different situations call for different methods.  I suppose it's sort of the same thing with a query letter. 

Now that I have lots of dog neuters and query letters under my belt, I'm not as stressed or annoyed when someone suggests something new.  I can nod my head and think: yes, I've thought about placing that ligature there.  Or: yes, I've wondered about including that piece of information here.  Having more than one option helps keep you flexible and even helps you be more creative (that creativity part only applies to queries - probably not a good idea to get too creative when castrating something....)

Now to explore my options in the ice cream department...

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