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The MLS and the slush pile

We arrived in northern Virginia last night, and spent most of today trudging through depressingly horrible houses, hoping to find a gem.

I'm sad to say we didn't. Maybe this is what agents and editors feel like when reading submissions. The query letters (MLS listings) showed the houses to their best advantage with glowing praise for updated kitchens and great schools, and photos that cut out the ugly abandoned house next door.

Sometimes the first few rooms showed really well. Just like many of us clean up our first three chapters and leave the rest of the MS for later, many homeowners spent money/time on the entry, living room, and kitchen, but ignored the nasty basement, cracked asphalt, and dog smell.

We even saw a few that had been listed incorrectly as having a finished basement or garage. It's like sending the query to an agent who doesn't represent your genre. Unprofessional.

Today we rejected every house in the area we were hoping to live (of those that met our price range and minimum requirements). Tomorrow, we're expanding our search farther from DC, to another area we like that should provide nicer homes for the price.

An agent looking for an author to represent wants more than just a good writer. She's looking for someone great, who really speaks to her. In the same vein, I'm looking for a great house that can meet all of our needs, where I can see my family living for the next four to six years. A house that calls to me.

A home.

Tomorrow, I'll be plowing through more of the slush pile in search of a prize. Wish me luck!

The original version of this post was published for the Romance Magicians blog today.

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  1. Reply

    “…seek and ye shall find.” Sounds like you have the first part down. The second part is on the way. You are way past luck.. the find is next.

  2. Reply

    Until you’d written it, I didn’t even think about the similarities, but you are so right. I hope you make better progress today! I know there are a lot of places on the market in the area.

    Of course, looking at more than 4 a day exhausts me, so I hope you keep your energy up!

    • Reply

      Sybir: I didn’t think about the similarities until I started writing the blog post, either. We looked at five houses today and put an offer on one. Keeping my fingers crossed for good news.

  3. Mirella mccracken


    Am so sorry Gwen to hear what you are going through with your husband:( our area is unbelievably expensive, and doesn’t seem to be affected by the crisis, however I heard that we do have the best schools on the countries if you are in the DC metro area.
    On the good side I read that you might be staying 4 to 6 years? This is great because I will get to see you after we come back from Sudan:)
    good luck Gwen!!

    • Reply

      Today was definitely better, Mirella. And yes, northern Virginia has some of the best schools in the country. Houses are much cheaper than they were four years ago when we looked/bought, but are still expensive, especially as you get closer to 495.

      We put an offer on a house in Centreville, so we’ll see. We expect to be here at least four years, so I should be here when you get back. Are you definitely coming back to DC when you’re done?


      • Reply

        usually we do come back to DC after 2 years, but you know it is difficult to know for sure in the Foreign service.
        I really hope that you will be here when I come back.

        I know that Centerville is beautiful and I am glad that the prices are going down.
        Northern Virginia is a very nice place to be.
        I cannot wait to hear you blogging all about it 🙂 and about the markets….you know I love markets lol lol lol

  4. Reply

    Good luck, Gwen. I’ve lived in the same place for the last 22 years and can’t even conceive of what it must be like to move like you do. I hope you find a dream house to be home.

    • Reply

      Oops – should have read all the comments before I posted. Here’s hoping everything works out for the house you bid on.

      • Reply

        Thanks, Mary. I’ve been a mover all my life (dad was military too), so I can’t imagine staying in one place for a long time. I guess it’s just whatever you’re used to.

  5. Tony

    The Northern Virginia chapter of the Virginia Writers Club, a non-profit organization, provides a means of exchanging ideas and stimulating the art and craft of professional writing.

    Any adult living in Arlington, Fairfax, Faquier, Loudon or Prince William counties who is interested in the art and craft of professional writing and in enhancing their skills and opportunities in professional writing may become a member of this organization.

    The organization meets monthly and alternates program meetings with critique sessions.

    Membership in the Virginia Writers Club ( is a requirement for chapter membership. The VWC was founded in 1918. The Northern Virginia chapter was chartered in 2007.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Tony! I’ll have to check it out. I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and they have a Washington chapter, so that may keep me busy, but I always appreciate other options.

      • Tony


        Charlottesville Va holds the “Virginia Festival of the Book” every year and other events. Nice place to visit and lots of history. Downtown is a pedestrian mall, about 10 or so blocks walking only and bricked with trees and benches and lined with restaurants and stores. If Alexandria Va had brains, they would do the same for the last few of King Street near to the Potomac.

        Charlottetown Visitor’s guide.:

        • Reply

          I love Charlottesville. We’ve been to Monticello several times, walked the UVA campus, and eaten downtown. I agree that they’ve done a nice job with it. Thanks for sharing the links.

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