Um…What’s An Agent?

It turns out blogging isn’t easy as I initially thought it would be. I started with the grand idea of blogging twice a week, then twice a month, and then, well, life got in the way. I may have neglected my little blog here, but I haven’t forgotten it. I’ve been so caught up with revising my manuscript that every time I’ve thought about a blog post my brain has rebelled. “No!” the cells holler. “We can’t think of anything else! Our limited supply of witty and clever and interesting things has been used up. We’re a dry inkwell, leave us be!!”

Well, today I gave those brain cells a what-for and returned to my dear blog. Take that brain!

So, yeah, I’ve been immersed in revising my manuscript, which inevitably comes up any time someone (usually Hubby) mentions my writing. The conversation usually goes like this:

Hubby: “I can’t wait for Sarah to finish her revisions and get a big book deal so I can quit work and play golf all day.”

Me: “Yeah, that’s not how it works.”

Friend: “Revisions, what for?”

Hubby: “Her agent wanted her to rework some things.”

Friend: “Agent, what’s that?”

Since I’ve signed with a literary agent (still not old, squeeee!!), that last question is the one I encounter second-most. (The first being, “what’s your book about?”) Friends, family, people I don’t even know that Hubby mentions my writing to (I know, I should be glad he’s proud of me, but quiet, mousy Sarah usually just wants to stand against the wall and not be noticed, so Hubby bringing up my writing induces an “eek! hide!” response. I’m working on it.) none of them know exactly what an agent is or what one does. Now, I could talk at length about what a good agent does, especially my agent, who is fabulous beyond words, but with the average attention span growing shorter and shorter, I find myself with a one to two sentence window to break it down for them.

“It’s kind of like a real estate agent, except they choose you, and it’s really competitive. They’ve got all the industry contacts and shop your book around to the right publisher.”

This answer usually gets the “Oh, you’re getting published!” response. People hear publisher and run with it, despite my, admittedly quiet and soft-spoken, protests of “No, not yet, but hopefully” before letting it go. (I can’t help it, I just don’t have a loud voice and I’m easy to talk over. At work when I pass someone in the hall and they say “hey,” I always end up doing this embarrassing thing where I say “hey” back, but no sound comes out, so I’m really just making some weird mouth movement).

I’ve tried a different approach. “It’s like a sports agent.” Which brings blank stares from people who don’t know how a sports agent works, or nods and smiles from those who are pretending. Honestly, I’m not surprised the sports comparison doesn’t turn on cartoon light bulbs. The closest most people have come to a sports agent is Jerry Maguire which, let’s face it, doesn’t really compare to the literary world that much. (I’ve yet to hear my agent yell “Show me the money!” Although, I have to admit, it would be kind of cool).

I’ve even tried “It’s sort of like Greek mythology. Publishers would be the gods on Olympus, writers–mortals–can’t get to them, so they need agents–demi-gods–to act as intermediaries. The agents get lots of requests, though, and can only represent a small number of mortals.” That’s not so great either, though.

Frustrated with my lack of a good response, I asked some *writer peeps. “What is an agent?” Here are some of their responses (with their permission of course):

“A substance that can bring about a chemical reaction or a biological effect.”

Hmm, perhaps I should have been more specific.

“They pick you based on talent and represent you because they have connections and the publishing companies don’t have time to deal with loads of peons. A talent agent gets you gigs and a literary agent gets you publishing deals.”

Closer, but let’s go deeper.

“They’re sales people (to publishing houses), lawyers (contracts), editors (self-explanatory), psychics (predicting market trends), accountants (fees and royalties), marketing assistants (this will sell/this won’t sell/this will this more palatable), translators (the editor means this…the contract means this…) and babysitters. As well as gods/goddesses.”

Yes, yes, yes to all of this. Agents wear many, many hats and roll sevearl jobs into one. I think it’s hard to wrap your mind around how much they do if you’re not neck-deep in the publishing world. How to break this down more simply, though?

“An agent is definitely a middle man. But I kind of think of mine as a representative.”

I love the word “representative.” I think it combines a lot of those hats into one big, ten gallon Stetson. Someone else used the term “advocate.” Love it.

There were a lot of excellent responses, but I think these capture an agent best.

A literary agent is someone who spots a talented writer with a great story, takes what the writer created and shows the writer what needs to be done to make their book the best they can write, what needs to be done to make it marketable, and pushes the writer in that direction. Then the agent takes that best book to the publishers and tries to show them the beauty they saw in the work. If things go well, the agent negotiates the resulting publishing contract, then sees the writer along through their career.

Of course, this varies slightly from agent to agent. Some are more hands on, they like to be involved in the writing and editing process. Some are only interested in one book, or one series, not the writer’s whole career. Some don’t do much at all (I recommend staying away from these–See Writer Beware and Preditors & Editors when you’re looking for agents). A writer has to decide what they want in an agent, what sort of relationship they’re looking for, and seek out the agents who fits them best.

If I have to boil it down to future people Hubby may blather about me to (he means well and I love him for it, even if I may want to sink into the furniture at the time) I think I’ll say this: agents are advocates, who believe in the writers the choose to take on as clients enough to devote their time and effort into helping those writers succeed. They have the publishing experience and contacts the writers lack and represent the writers to the publishers to sell their books.

It’s not some jazzy dressed up metaphor, but I think it conveys the gist of what an agent does. If the person I’m talking to is interested enough, I’ll keep going and explain all the hats the agent can wear, in particular my agent.

What do you think? How do you see an agent?

For some common misconceptions about agents, check out Literary Agent Carly Watters blog post on the subject.

*Special thanks to the writers at AW who contributed their thoughts, especially “SomethingOrOther,” “Maramoser,” “The Ink Goddess,” and “missesdash.”

What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been- My Agent Journey

As I’m sure you guessed from the title, I’ve got some pretty big news. Okay, that’s putting it mildly. I’m freakin’ ecstatic! I have an agent! After several manuscripts, lots of queries, tons of tears, and a boatload of perseverance. Here’s how it all went down:

Back in May, I had this crazy dream one night. I don’t remember the date, but I remember the day. It was the day my orthopedic surgeon removed Carl (my leg brace) for good and cleared me to drive again. My brother, and chauffeur for the day, went to lunch with me (lunch buffet at Pizza Hut–just in case you were curious), and I told him about my weird dream. Now crazy dreams are nothing new, but this one…it felt special.

Soon as I got free time, I transcribed my dream idea into words. First, a synopsis, then a first chapter. Then the words just kept coming. I kept writing and next thing I knew, I had 30k or so written and started sending it off to my amazing critique partner. I wrote and edited and finally got it done, then edited some more and got it ready to send to betas. They liked it okay but had some concerns. So I edited some more, went through another round of betas, drafted my query, compiled a list of agents to submit to, researched those agents (i.e. stalked), whittled it down, then, finally, I was ready.

Four months after my dream, on October 12, I decided to submit a round of queries, not really expecting anything to happen, but hoping I would at least see the kind of responses I got to my query. I submitted to twelve wonderful agents, any of which I would have felt extremely lucky to have in my corner–although I must say, I did have a couple favorites.

Because I’m my own special sort of weird, and OCD, I put the agents and their submission info in a color coded spreadsheet, alphabetized by name, grouped by submission requirements, then alphabetized within the groups. See? Kind of crazy. Okay, and maybe I was really nervous about submitting and the more I played with the pretty colors, the longer I put off actually hitting “send.” But send I did, finally. Then I did that thing where I tell myself not to get my hopes up, no that blinking light on my phone is not an email from an agent, agents don’t respond that quickly, they’re busy people and–

Holy crap it’s from an agent! Just two hours later, I got a response, from one of my top choice agents. Not just a request for a full, but a literal “YES, PLEASE!” written just like that, in all caps. I couldn’t believe it! I did a happy dance in my chair, completely forgetting my office door and window blinds were open, and that I’m in a high traffic area of the building. When I collected myself, I started to read over my manuscript again, stopped myself, and submitted the full. I marked it down on my spreadsheet, colored the cell green, then I tried to put it out of my head.

I got another couple requests, but none made me quite as excited. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled with each request, but there was something special about that first email, about the level of excitement for my work. My work! Then I got some rejections. My attempts not to think about it failed. I still jumped every time that green light on my phone blinked, even though I kept telling myself it could take months for the agent to respond. Sometimes they have fulls for–

Nope. Four days after I submitted the full, the agent responded. I took a deep breath, opened my spreadsheet, and clicked the email, ready to mark “Rejection 10/16/12” down and color it in red (of course). But it wasn’t a rejection. It wasn’t an acceptance either. The agent said she found a lot to love, but had some concerns. She asked if I would be up for exclusive revisions. Uh…yeah, of course I would! I did another happy dance and tried to call Hubby, but he was in California for work and didn’t have his phone. The most exciting news of my writing career and the one person I wanted to tell was in Cali-freaking-fornia. I had to sit on the news for hours, then practically squealed in the phone when he finally called. It’s like all that excitement just built, and built, like Mentos in Coke, then came spewing out all at once.

The agent and I exchanged a couple emails, then the next night I received her notes. All six pages of them. Six! Yeah, it was a bit overwhelming, and I didn’t know quite what to think. Then I read a blog post she referred me to by Imogen Howson. Her experience was similar to mine: five or six pages of revision notes, and a lot of trepidation. It worked out well for Imogen, so I decided to give it a shot.

The agent wanted the first seventy-five pages revised. Full of excitement and nervous energy, I opened my manuscript, laid my fingers on the keyboard, and sat there. All of a sudden, I was completely petrified. “I can’t do this. How did I ever think I could do this?” I opened a new document, and found the blank page too intimidating. I went back to the original manuscript and tried writing a new first chapter. Then I deleted it and went back to the blank screen. Nothing.

So I closed everything and tried to breathe. The revisions weren’t just big, they were world-altering. Literally. I had to move the story to an entirely new planet. Problem was, I didn’t know the planet yet, and I was still too close to the original story. I needed space, in all sorts of ways. (The great folks at Absolute Write helped me realize this too).

I turned off the computer, and turned on the television. Finally, I had an excuse to make Hubby watch all the nerdy science shows! “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking,” “Morgan Freeman’s Through the Wormhole,” all the space shows I could find! Coincidentally, the Sunday before I received the revision request, Hubby and I had watched “How the Universe Works,” perfect timing, eh?

Instead of going back to the computer, I pulled out my trusty legal pad, and began drawing: a planet, continents, oceans. I named the planet, the continents, and the countries, wrote back stories for how the people found the planet and how they terraformed it. I figured out how far it was from the sun and how many hours there were in a day. I named other planets in the solar system.

Then, I finally turned my computer on again, and started to write. Those first couple chapters were the hardest. I tried jumping ahead in the story, but had to go back to the beginning. When I finally had something (that I thought was crap) I sent it off to my CP. Shockingly, she loved it! She suggested places I could expand the world-building, and I was off again. Writing like crazy.

I wrote and tweaked and edited and fretted for a month. Exactly a month, although I didn’t plan it that way. Then, November 16, when I thought I couldn’t possibly edit any more, I bit the bullet and submitted, jumping every time that stupid phone light flashed. After a couple other emails, twenty minutes later, she responded. She’d read a little and liked it so far and would get back to me when she’d read the rest.

If you follow this blog, you know I’m the self-deprecating sort, so I prepared myself for her to hate the rest. Readied myself for rejection. Two hours later, I was at lunch with Hubby and the green light blinked. I saw it was from the agent and held my breath.

She loved it. She’d read the whole thing and enjoyed it so much she offered rep right then! Yes, I jumped up and down in my seat in the restaurant. Yes, strangers gave me weird looks. No, I didn’t care. Nor did I care when I jumped more in the parking lot. I still can’t believe it. I have an agent. I don’t think those words will ever get old.

We talked on the phone Monday night and although I was nervous and I’m sure I sounded like some kind of country bumpkin (nerves tend to deepen my already thick Southern drawl), I soon felt totally at ease talking to her. She’s everything I wanted in an agent, but didn’t dare to hope for. She gave me the chance to go back to the other agents who had my manuscript and give them a chance to offer. Instead, I withdrew my submission from them. Let’s face it, I knew as soon as I got that first email I would accept if she offered rep. The excitement she showed from the outset, and continues to show, well, it sold me. I have someone as stoked about this story as I am, how could I say no to that?

Who is that someone? Well, I’m thrilled to say I’m now represented by Mandy Hubbard at D4EO Literary Agency!!

So, dear reader, I want to thank you for going on this journey with me so far. I still have a long way to go to my dream of publication, and a lot of revising left. But dreams can come true. Just ask my main character in this story. One night she was a wacky dream, the next, a character coming to life on the page. I can’t wait to finish telling her story, and I can’t wait to see how it weaves in with mine. Thank you, Mandy, for having faith in the story and in me, and thank you readers for being interested in what a quiet girl from Alabama has to say.

Why Scientists Should Be Looking To Writers

When you think of a happy family, what image comes to mind? A mother and father, two or three kids, maybe sitting around the dinner table, laughing, one of them slipping a veggie to the family dog?

What about romantic relationships? A couple walking through a park, holding hands? Perhaps a midnight swim in a cool lake, or leaning across a table in a low lit restaurant?

When you think of war, what do you see? Tanks? Explosions? Men in camouflage running across sandy terrain with bulky packs? Those same men around a fire at night, this time in their undershirts, joking with each other and thinking about their loved ones at home?

Think of anything: spaceships, a company office, a baseball team, a band, an animal shelter, a Hollywood movie set, an African safari.

How much of the images that come to mind is based on what you’ve seen on television, or in movies, or read in a book? I would hesitate a guess and say most of it. That’s my experience anyway. I’ve never experienced war, or been on a spaceship, or gone to Africa. Every image I have of these things, every preconceived notion has been told or depicted to me by someone else.

I was thinking about this the other day and realized that writers play a pretty big part in shaping our world. Not just our world, but our idea of the world. This realization was little intimidating at first. I mean, the ideas and pictures in my head could possibly influence the ideas and pictures of someone else.

How many of you, when thinking about the distant future, immediately picture flying cars and metallic clothes? Sky high cities and robots? Even if that image is displaced by something else, was it the first thing that came to mind? Did you imagine something like the Jetsons? I do. Because that’s what I’ve been told the future will look like. Popular culture has ingrained it in us for decades.

But this idea, this notion that writers set the molds, it’s not just intimidating, it’s freeing. I’m currently revising a manuscript and setting it, literally, on another world. When I first sat down and looked at the blank page, I was scared to death. Then, slowly, I began to grasp that this new world could be anything I wanted it to be.

No longer am I constrained within the realm of plausibility. I can shape continents, create technologies, craft skylines, and build cities. A couple days ago, I was describing this weapon I thought of to my husband. Hubby, always the engineer, looked at me and said “That wouldn’t work like that. It’s not realistic.” I turned back and said “So? Just because it wouldn’t work now, with the technology we currently have, doesn’t mean it would never work.”

Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick are a great example. Look at “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Computers that were small screens and operated by touch, flat screen monitors, voice activated systems, video teleconferencing. All these inventions that were, in 1972, a mere dream, implausible, not realistic. Yet, we have them today.

You may have heard about Apple suing Samsung for patent infringement of their iPad design. Here’s what I find most interesting about the suit. Samsung argued they couldn’t infringe because the ideas all came from Kubrick’s film, and from another called “The Tomorrow People,” not from Apple. Did these films influence Steve Jobs? Well, I don’t know, but I think the argument is there that it could have. Did “Friends” influence the way any of you saw life in New York City? Did “Sleepless in Seattle” influence your thoughts on love? Did “Platoon” influence how you saw war? Or “Apollo 13” how you viewed space travel?

What I do know is this: scientists, researchers, engineers, and a slew of others have the job of thinking outside the box within the constraints of plausibility. But writers…writers get to push further. We get to expand our minds and create whatever we want, and dare the scientists to catch up. Clarke, and then Kubrick, created these technologies, and forty years later the world made his ideas a reality.

Arthur O’Shaughnessy famously wrote, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” I say, that’s exactly what writers are. The ones who dare to dream. Who knows, that scene you’re describing now may be the first image someone else thinks of when they hear of that place, that couple you just wrote may shape another person’s view of a happy marriage, and those “implausible” inventions you’re creating in your mind today, might one day become a reality.

What the What? Another Award!

Holy crap! This week I have received not just one, which was extraordinary in and of itself, but two blog awards.  I am just on cloud nine this week. Thank you to BW Taylor at Descent into Slushland for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Like I said in my last post, I started this blog as a place to write about writing, but it evolved into something else, somewhere to share more of myself as well as my writing. I am thrilled to receive this award and to be considered a versatile blogger.

The rules say I have to give seven random facts about myself, so:

1.  I’m a big kid at heart. I have a saying that you’re never too old to roll down a hill and I live by that. I love to play, in fact, it’s one of the great things about my marriage, Hubby and I play–a lot, like sword fighting with wrapping paper tubes and playing hide and seek in the house. One of my goals in life is to never truly grow up.

2. I’ve been to 22 states (Alabama, Georgia, S. Carolina, N. Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado), and 6 countries (Switzerland, Italy, the Vatican, Monaco, France, Ireland, and Mexico).

3. In my entire life, I have only eaten on flavor ice cream at Baskin Robbins. A double scoop of chocolate chip on a sugar cone. After almost thirty years of the same thing, I now refuse to break my streak.

4. In college, I once ran around the dorm with a cardboard box on my head dancing to the song “Living in a Box.” In my defense, I was 18, and it made perfect sense. But in all honesty, I’d probably do it again now. (See #1).

5. I have a tendency to laugh like the cartoon dog Muttley (you know, from the Great Space Race) when I do something sneaky or devious.

6. Apparently, I eat like a lizard, flicking my tongue out and drawing food into my mouth. Hubby caught this and pointed it out as I’d never realized. With french fries, I curl my tongue around them and pull them in one at a time.

7. Similarly, I can touch my nose with my tongue.

Now, I have to nominate seven other bloggers:

1. My Writing Journey

2. A.M. Schilling: Thoughts of an Unknown Author

3. Aggghhhhh: Michelle Writes a Bunch and Yells at Herself

4. Jennifer M. Eaton (who I know has already received this award but totally deserves it again)

5. Emily Anne Shaffer

6. Ruth Lauren Steven

7. Valerie R. Lawson

I highly enjoy each of the blogs and the information and stories they share. Go check them out! And thanks again for this award.


I’m Appreciated! Reader Appreciation Award

I am just shocked and honored to have received a Reader Appreciation award from fellow blogger Jordanna East. To hear that my words are actually helpful to others amazes me and inspires me to keep posting. I started this blog as a place to pool the information on writing that I’ve garnered to help other writers through connections, inspiration, and shared experiences, as well as to discuss my own journey, and I love that I’m accomplishing that purpose. Thank you so much Jordanna, and all my readers, for this award. Head over to Jordanna’s blog to see what she’s been up to and share in her writing journey as well!

The rules of the award are that I have to tell you what I’ve been up to. Right now, I’m working on a speculative thriller, at least, that’s what I’m calling it right now. It’s a cross country race for my main character to save her kidnapped dad. It’s still in the beginning stages, and even I don’t know all the twists and turns.  All I know is government agents are on her tail and my last chapter ended with her and an annoying but cute boy in a sticky situation. Maybe once I finish, and revise, I’ll post a teaser.

Now it’s my turn to pass this along to six other bloggers. Jordanna awarded bloggers whose posts helped her own writing, and I want to do the same, as well as award blogs I just love to read. The information and inspiration I get from these writers is amazing and I appreciate each of them. I don’t know if they’ve received this award before, although I’m sure some of them have, but it never hurts to know you’re appreciated. Thanks guys, and thanks again, Jordanna!

1. Limey Lit Girl

2. Rachel Writes Things

3. Sincerely Sarah

4. Word Thief

5. Mother. Write. (Repeat).

6. Michelle Krys


My “Cheers”

While I’ve been writing for a while, I only recently (like in the last year) joined the writing community.  I guess I always knew there was a one hanging out there somewhere, there’s a group or community for everything these days, but it never occurred to me that I, as a writer, was, or could be, part of it (don’t you love all the commas in that sentence!).  I dove in when a co-worker who has a great book published with a local publisher invited me to his critique group.  Through the group, I’ve met some wonderfully talented local authors and gotten excellent feedback on my own work.  That same co-worker/friend also told me about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which opened a world of conferences, contests, and other opportunities of which I was previously unaware.  I discovered the Absolute Write forums through a website that provided query letter guidance.  Eventually I stumbled across blogs and other writing websites.

I write this to say, the writing community amazes me.  It’s a relatively small world.  In relation to the rest of the population there really aren’t that many people who are serious about writing.  The actual publishing community is even smaller.  You’d think such a competitive field would be just that, competitive.  You’d think people would be reluctant to help one another because the query you just critiqued might be one an agent picks over yours.

But it’s not.  It’s one of the most encouraging, helpful, supportive groups I’ve ever encountered outside of church, and certainly from strangers.  There are people I’ve never met, and probably never will meet, who are willing to take time out of their busy lives to help me become a better writer, or draft the perfect query letter, or synopsis.  When one person gets a rejection, everyone is sad.  When one gets an offer or contract, everyone celebrates.  I know there are a few sour grapes here and there, but I’ve yet to encounter them.  On the whole, the writing community is warm and friendly and I’ve been thoroughly impressed.  It’s like walking into “Cheers”.  Everyone is glad to see you.  (Norm!)

For example, I recently entered a writing contest.  Another entrant sent me a message letting me know she also entered and asking if we wanted to help each other.  We exchanged excerpts and critiqued each others’ work, tightening the language, etc.  When we swapped back, we wished each other good luck and each promised to keep the other updated as the contest progresses, and genuinely meant it.  I believe in my work, but hers was really good too.  I wouldn’t be upset if her work beat mine out (disappointed I didn’t make it, yes, but in no way bitter or anything).  In fact, I’d be pretty proud to say “I ‘know’ her!”

In this time of sucky economy and high competition for jobs and with the seemingly grim future for paper and ink books, it’s refreshing that people still work together like this.  I find myself pondering why.  The chances of getting published are like a bazillion to one and it seems every book that gets a contract means there’s another book, or several, that won’t.  Yet, the majority of writers work together.

When I really sit down and think about it, I think every time a colleague makes it, it gives the rest of us hope.  If they can, someone we “know”, then we can too!  I also think it comes down to loving what you do.  I love to write, but I also love to read.  I’ve read some fantastic works on the AW forums.  Works I want to read more of.  Members generally only post a chapter or two, or maybe even a paragraph they’re struggling with, but sometimes that’s enough to hook me.  Enough for me to care about the character and want to know their story.  (As a side note, you’d be surprised the number of published authors who hung out at AW before they got their deals or who currently hang out there.  It’s really an excellent place for assistance from people who know what they’re doing).

I’m lucky to be part of such a great community and I hope my “friends” get published so I can read more of their stories, and so they can get the recognition they deserve.  What other professions can truly say that?  (Not many).

In My Own Little Corner

In high school I did a bit of theater (I know, shocking for an introvert!  But when on stage, I’m someone different.  Kind of like when I’m in court.) and one of the plays I was in was “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”.  At one point, Cinderella sings about all of the things she can do in her own little corner.  That song is currently cycling through my head.  Like Cinderella, I can do great things when it’s just me, in my own little world.  The line that’s always stuck with me is “I’m a huntress on an African safari, it’s a dangerous type of sport, and yet it’s fun.  In the night I sally forth to seek my quarry, and find I forgot to bring my gun.”

That’s me.  At least, that’s what I’m afraid I am.  Afraid I’ll go off to do something great and dangerous, then find I’m woefully under-prepared or inadequate.  A few posts ago I mentioned that I was considering going to a writer’s conference.  When I come up with ideas like this, I like to mull over them for a while.  Let the idea age and…and okay, I’m really a big chicken who comes up with grand ideas and then puts them off for later because I’m scared to face them.

For instance, not long after I decided that maybe, perhaps, I might ought to go to a conference, maybe, I received the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators if you are unfamiliar) magazine advertising my local spring conference in February.  What a great opportunity!  But, alas, it’s the weekend of my birthday and I already have plans.  Darn!  Maybe next fall…

More recently, however, I’ve come across a conference that I’m struggling to say no to.  I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about it, and it sounds like an amazing opportunity to actually have my work read and critiqued.  The only problem is the cost.  The conference tuition alone is pretty expensive, but when I add flight, and hotel, and meals…whew!  I, of course, tried to claim it cost too much, and we just don’t need to spend that kind of money, but my husband (in an attempt to valiantly save the day I’m sure…or push me out of my comfort zone, which he is notorious for doing) said “But you’re worth it!  If this will help you pursue your dream, we’ll make it work.”  Despite my protests, he remains firm.  So we came up with a compromise:

The deadline for early registration is February 1.  If I don’t hear from the agents with my material by then, I’ll register and go to the conference (eek!). Now I’m doubly nervous and hoping I hear back from an agent more desperately than ever.  If not, then I shall brace myself and venture out on my own into the wilds of a conference.  I’m petrified that once I get to there, in the midst of the lions that are agents and the elephants of other writers, I’ll realize I forgot my gun and get mauled and trampled and come home utterly defeated and out a substantial amount of cash.  Deep down, my real fear is I’ll realize I’m just not good enough and return with dreams dashed.

My husband and I spent this past weekend in a blissful state of dorkdom, i.e. having a Harry Potter marathon and discussing how much better the books are than the movies.  More to the point, it brought to mind a quote from J.K. Rowling.  “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”  I realized I can’t refrain from doing something based on the grounds that I may fail.  And honestly, that’s what I’m doing by putting off conferences.  So, I’ll wait (not so) patiently for the end of January, and if I haven’t heard anything, I’ll register for my first writer’s conference.  Until then, I will make myself more knowledgeable about these sorts of things.  What is the attire?  Is it really worth it?  What should I take?  I would love to hear feedback from anyone who has attended one (or several) before.

Minnow in the Shark Pool

I absolutely, positively, completely suck at networking.  Even the word makes me shudder.  I’m just not that good with people.  Never have been.  When I’m thrust in a networking situation, I freeze.  I don’t know what to talk about, what the appropriate responses are, or how to gracefully exit a conversation.

Law (if you haven’t read my “About Me”, I’m a lawyer) is all about networking.  It’s one of the attributes of the profession I despise.  I don’t have a “lawyer” personality.  If you’ve ever been around a group of lawyers you know what I mean.  It’s all about  connecting with people, working a room, talking and interacting with a lot of different people…i.e. all of the things I’m terrible at.  Sure I’m great in a courtroom and can rock an appellate brief, but stick me in a room full of other attorneys and tell me to schmooze and I’ll be cowered in the corner with an eye on my watch waiting for an appropriate time to leave.  I used to take my husband with me to any events like that because he’s my complete opposite in this regard.  He’s a talker.  He’ll talk to anyone about anything and can keep a conversation going well past the point I’m comfortable with.  Plus, he’s a good launching pad for conversation.  “How are you doing?  Oh, have you met my husband yet?”

Fortunately, my current job requires very little networking.  In fact, the job itself doesn’t require any.  It’s wonderful.  I sit in my office all day working.  If I want to talk to someone, I venture down the hall and interact.  If I don’t, I stay in my office and keep busy.  Every year I have to accumulate twelve hours of Continuing Legal Education credit, which requires me to jump into the shark pool (pun intended) try not to get eaten for a few days, but a book, laptop, and internet connect get me through those long hours swimmingly (also intended).

Unfortunately, I want to be a published author, and I’m discovering more and more that networking plays a large part.  I can’t tell you how many “how I got published” stories I’ve read that cite networking as the ultimate turning point.  It’s a lot of “I had a friend/student/co-worker who knew XYZ agent/editor/publisher so and so and handed them my manuscript.  It didn’t work for them but they passed it along to such and such and we clicked.”  Sure, there are authors who just queried the right agent with the right project and it worked out, but I’m finding that more often than not it comes down to who you know.

I can’t tell you what a tremendous let down this was to find out.  I thought I’d moved away from networking.  I left it standing on the pier as my ship sailed off to bluer waters, waving goodbye like a crazy person with a giant relieved smile on my face…only to find out the earth is round and my ship just circled the globe to find networking still waiting for me, wearing an even bigger “you can’t escape me” grin.  It reminds me of that song “The Cat Came Back”.   “The cat came back, the very next day.  The cat came back.  They thought he was a goner but the cat came back.  He just couldn’t stay awaaayyy.”  (Watch the video if you’ve never heard the song, it’s a classic). Networking came back.

Not only do I suck at it, but I’m not exactly in a great geographical position to network.  I don’t live in a big city, or near a big city with publishing connections.  I don’t know anyone who knows anyone. I stumbled onto a networking opportunity this past weekend at a bookstore.  I went in to look around, because that’s what I do in my free time, and literally walked smack into a crowd of people surrounding a table covered in books, with two authors seated behind it talking and signing.  When we realized what it was, my husband told me I should go talk to them.  Cue spasms of fear and a waterfall of excuses why I couldn’t possibly do that.  (Which coincidentally led to the coffee shop where I figured I might as well get a peppermint mocha, convenient, no?)  One of these excuses, to be honest, was that I didn’t know the authors and hadn’t heard of their book.  Always the man with the comebacks, my husband suggested I google it (stupid smart phones!).  So I looked up the book, read about the authors, swigged my mocha, and full of pepperminty courage, stepped up to the table, grabbed a book, and hopped in line.  Of course then I realized I just drank coffee, not some sort of magic courage-inducing elixir and tried to wimp out again.  Hubby took the coffee and disappeared into the crowd, leaving me standing there alone and, gulp, next in line.

Taking a deep breath, I crept forward and handed the author my book.  He asked who to sign it to, I said with some measure of embarrassment:  “well, um, me I guess.”  Then I almost chickened out again and just walked away, but instead, I steeled myself and began talking to him about writing.  I was one of the last people in line, so we chatted for a few minutes and ultimately ended with him giving me his email address and an offer to come speak to my writing group.  His book sounds interesting and I enjoyed talking with him, so it would be cool to sit down with him again and go more in depth.  The only thing I’m not certain of is if it would work because he writes adult literature and my group is for children’s authors.  Nevertheless, I did it and I’m proud of myself for that (and grateful to my hubby for pushing me out of my box, but don’t tell him that).

Afterwards, I was discussing this networking dilemma with my husband and he had the novel idea (yep, that pun’s intended too) that I start going to writer’s conferences to meet other people in the publishing world, which sounded like a great idea, but induced images of me cowering in the corner again.  Then I remembered…I’m not alone in this regard.  Other writers are…kind of like me!  The majority of writers are introverted (me too!), shy (yay!), book nerds (whoop!).  They might be scared of talking to people too!  This might just work.  Of course, I’ve never been to a conference, so what do I know?  It could just be a different variety of shark pool, but I have hope.

So, dear readers, I’m curious: have you ever gone to a writer’s conference?  What have been your experiences?  I’d love to hear about them!

Why Blog?

The question that may be rolling around in your heads is: why start a blog?  I’m not exactly the blogging type.  I tried once before, I started a blog about Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest,” my thoughts as I worked through the daily devotional.  Let’s just say, that didn’t last as long as I’d hoped.  I think I put too much pressure on myself to post daily when really, I didn’t have something to say every day about every devotional.

I don’t feel as much pressure with this blog.  I’m not going to attempt to post daily, and might, in fact, post a couple of times a day and then not put up anything new for a few.  I debated starting one for a while, but here is what convinced me to jump in the pool: Jenny Bent- Social Media. This is a great blog post by literary agent Jenny Bent on the values of social media such as facebook, twitter, and, you guessed it, blogs. Now, I can’t quite bring myself to start a twitter. Maybe one day if I get published and people actually care what I’m doing at any given point in the day. Right now though, this will suffice.

I blog with several hopes in mind: 1. that people will follow me; 2. that other aspiring authors might be able to share in my journey and post comments, etc about their own; 3. that other writers might find the sites and blogs I’ve linked useful and inform me of other useful places; 4. that I can get and grow a fanbase. This last reason is, admittedly, selfish, but, according to Jenny Bent, it’s something agents and publishers look for. They want to know if you have people who already like your work.

So that’s why I started this thing. If you blog, why did you start?