Archive for the ‘Agents’ Category

Some believe extroverts* have it easy.  Especially in the writing world where 85% of writers are introverts.  (Where did I get that statistic?  Some chick said it over drinks at the writing conference I attended a couple weeks ago and I’m going with it.  Very scientific.)  Sometimes people link being an extrovert with having it easy in talking to strangers.  I’m here to prove them all wrong by showing how awkward an extrovert can actually be.

During one of our Willamette Writers Conference lunches, director/screenwriter Gordy Hoffman spoke about his adventure in working towards being a writer.  OMG, was he fantastic.  I’d even go so far as to use Hubs new breakout term “fucktastic.”  The ease he had in telling his funny stories with straight forward honesty made me think we could be best friends forever.   About two hours later, Mr. Hoffman was getting off the elevator as I was getting on.  It took a couple seconds for my brain to register “YES!  That’s the lunch speaker. Say something cool.”

I guess those seconds are precious for extroverts.  We don’t have the problem deciding whether to say something or not.  We also don’t drop eye contact and hope we disappear into the side wall.  We are extroverts.  We’re confident we can say something interesting.  I discovered we must also use those few precious seconds telling ourselves the normal intro is something easy like “hello”.   Since I’d already given up the time trying to confirm his identity, the only words to escape my mouth came out in shouted spurts like this:  “You were great…really great…” He turned to acknowledge he did hear something although he probably couldn’t make it out.  He continued his stride with the knowledge he can’t get away fast enough.  With my chance to be cool quickly slipping away, I end with a last loud shout of “…Entertaining!” right before the elevator doors close.

Maybe the extrovert would be more comfortable after cocktail hour?  Nerves relax with some liquid courage and the large group setting is our natural habitat.  Last year, I was fortunate to meet Awesome Agent in this setting.  Luckily she came back this year and we were able to chat late into Friday night.  Just about perfect.  Now fast forward to Saturday night and add alcohol.  The extrovert’s motto “the more the merrier” amplifies.  I see a solo writer dining alone and deem she must be welcomed into my writer-friendly group.  I decide I’m going out on my own to invite her to our table.  It just so happens Awesome Agent is in a small group a few feet away prepping to leave the area for a dinner date.  As I walk up, one of her clients, and an author who’s class I attended earlier in the day, says “hi” so I walk to their group.

That moment is an extrovert’s worst nightmare.  By crashing her party I’ve entered weirdo land.  I’m making what I think is good conversation, but the entire time I’m stressing about being the uninvited guest.  The whole thing comes to a head when the fourth to their party shows up and now I’m getting introduced like I should be there.  My brain explodes.  I say my good-byes and start to back away right before I do the worst thing possible.  I apologize for making the scene awkward.  What. The. Fuck?  Of course Awesome Agent and all her cool friends try to say I didn’t, which only makes it a thousand times more awkward.  Really, is there anything worse than people trying to convince a person she isn’t lame?

In true extrovert style I invited Solo Writer to my little group and drowned my awkwardness in more cocktails.  I recovered from the horror by chatting up all the other wannabe authors.  The comfort in not being intimidated grew and by the night’s end I’d stopped several speakers I’d seen that day to thank them with the natural ease extroverts have in large crowds.  Then I offered to buy them all drinks.  (A typical MO for an extrovert with the more the merrier motto.)

While there is truth extroverts may have it easier in public, it comes with the reality of being uncoordinated around those you admire.  Lacking confidence can turn any well intended interaction into a clumsy shouting trainwreck.  I hope my humiliation has put this myth to rest.  There is such a thing as an awkward extrovert.

This guy wasn't scared talking to me.  Maybe just a little.

This guy wasn’t scared talking to me. Maybe just a little.

More talented writers

These people have books.

This is what a writers conference looks like at night.  Lots of people in the bar.  And in towels.

This is what a writers conference looks like at night. Lots of people in the bar. And wearing towels.

*Disclaimer:  When I say extroverts in the “we” sense, I really mean me and anyone else who agrees it applies to them.


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It’s no secret my goal is to find the right agent.  There is also no hiding the fact I’m an impatient person.  Working on the same goal for over four years can get tiring/frustrating/hopeless/desperate/overwhelming/discouraging.  There are often days I wonder if it’s ever going to happen.  Dori’s re-energizing slogan “just keep swimming” plays on repeat in my head.  The volume has to be cranked up pretty high to get over the “you’ll never do it” white noise on a constant stream through my subconscious.  Fortunately during my insecurity party, my 8-5 job reminded me why there have to be no’s to one day have a yes.

My day job is not usually something I talk about on the interwebs.  I make this exception because last week I experienced what it felt like to sit on the other side of the query letter.  Not literally, of course.  My assignment was to hire eight new employees for my company.  This put me in the position to decide on the right people with the right skills.  A similar situation to agents when a query shows up in their slush.

Finding the right eight people starts with hundreds of applications.  The first passed over are the ones with unrelated experience.  They may have work experience, but not in the field we’re looking for.  This reminds me of the writers who don’t query the right agent or follow the query guidelines.  They are the easy no.  Next applicants out of the running are the ones who can’t pass the testing.  They represent authors whose writing in the first pages isn’t there yet.  This group gets a form rejection from an agent or, in my situation, no interview.

The interview round brings the forty who show potential out of those couple hundred applicants.  These represent the few writers who get a full or partial request.  There’s so much hope on both sides.  I entered each interview hoping to find the right match for my department.  I didn’t have any predetermined ideas to say no.  I certainly wasn’t trying to flex my ego muscles with being a gatekeeper.  My company needs great employees to be successful and that’s what I wanted to find.

In that small crammed room, I realized how true it is when agents feel bad about “this isn’t for me” in a rejection.  Applicants and writers have hopeful and high expectations.  On some you can smell the desperation.  They want it so bad, but you know it’s not going to happen.  The love isn’t there.  Sure, I want good things for them.  I wished I could hire everyone.  The reality is the position I’m hiring for isn’t the one that’s going to bring them happiness.  And it’s soooo subjective.  Just like a novel.  When agents say they have to love it, I understand it now.  I love my company too much not bring in the best people.  I want the applicants to give me the right feels.  For me to have as much excitement in their potential as they have for what the position could bring.  Anything even slightly less isn’t doing anyone a favor.

While it can be heart-breaking to sit on the rejected side, as it is for those applicants who want to support their families, the person doing the rejection has pangs of sadness too.  It’s hard being the person who crushes someone else’s dream.  How can agents or interviewers do it?  We do it for them.  For the person who trusted us by sharing their book or their personal interview stories.  We’re saving them the struggle and heartache that will inevitably happen when things don’t work out, ie the book doesn’t sell or the employee is fired.  We say no because we care.

A terrific lesson for my impatient mind.  An even better lesson for my gnawing doubt.  Rejection may come because I’m not ready yet.  Refining skills and working towards my 10,000 hours keeps me swimming even when it’s up stream.  I also know there will be the day when I connect with the right agent at the right time and we both know it’s meant to be.

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For the last few years in my writing journey I’ve decided to take on New Year’s resolutions.  Most scoff at setting goals at the beginning of the year like it’s begging to be broken.  A fad some say.  Pointless, others huff.  I disagree.  My resolutions have kept my determination high.  They’ve challenged me to continue reaching for the seemingly impossible and hold me accountable to what I set out to do.  Here are my resolutions for 2013:

1.  Read 25 books.

Okay, I tried this one last year and I didn’t make it.  In the beginning of the year 25 sounds like such a small number.  Hell, I have 12 months to do it.  How hard can that be?  Especially if you’re friends with an overachiever who gets through 100 in a year.  Yeah, I’m looking you, you know who.  I’m getting back on the horse.  I have a new plan.  Usually I keep my writing time separate from reading.  This year I’m going to incorporate the two when possible.  Even though the resolution wasn’t written until now, I already have 3 books done in January.  I’m off to a strong start.

2.  Be more active on blogs.

I’m a lurker.  I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis.  There have been fantastic articles, experiences, and stories, but for some reason I chicken out before leaving a comment.  My paranoia about saying something stupid/cliché/misspelled/boring/unfunny/catty/unintentional/ridiculous/etc. keeps me from pinning anything.  This year, I’m leaving my worry and my arrogance at the door and will try to engage with the writing community more.

3.  Have good hair in a photo with Mikel Jollett.

I went a couple rounds with all sorts of Mikel ideas.  Have a beer with Mikel, interview Mikel for the blog, or get Mikel to be my BFF were all considered.  In the end I went with the most important and didn’t result in a restraining order.  It’s a known fact I have not taken one decent hair picture with Mikel.  Our shots came after the shows where I couldn’t control my need for dance.  Each time, the show ends in a disgusting pool of sweat and terrible hair.  Frizzed out locks and warped bangs for each of my pictures with Mikel.  This year I hope to show some restraint and maintain a nice do for the picture.  Then when I have the photos on my desk people won’t feel the need to ask who rolled me before I met the band.

4.  Get an agent. 

As I discussed in last year’s roll up, this is a simple sentence for a complex resolution.  Every day I learn something more about the writing world.  I go back and work on the craft with the determination I’m not giving up.  Every year I believe this is the year.  I gotta be right some time, right?  Well, let’s hope so.

5.  Do something daring.

Age brings many lessons.  Lessons are the stepping stones of maturity.  Maturity brings a sort of wisdom.  All good things.  Important things.  It also brought a byproduct I didn’t expect.  Fear.  Crippling fear.  Things like embarrassment, self-doubt, failure, edge their way into new ideas.  “What if?” stamped out by “Probably not.”  My fancy free feeling of “who gives a fuck?” from when I was 18 replaced with “I guess I should because I’m a responsible adult.”  This year I’m channelling that fearlessness from my youth.  I commit to do something out of my comfort zone each month.  The intention is not to get arrested, but to free myself from limitations I create in my own mind.  “Creativity takes courage.” —  Henri Matisse

Wish me luck!

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In the writing process, most specifically the querying process, writers’ self-doubt is at an all time high.  After you’ve given all you can into a project that has consumed your life for the last 6 months to 6 years, you now put it out there for the world to judge.  So what ends up happening when rejected?  Some people get angry.  Some people take to the internet.  And some people go after the people who rejected them — agents.

Most do not do this literally.  Although in 2012 there was some crazy asshole who did do this literally and trended on Twitter.  Some rejected writers take to their blogs, twitter statuses, and random comment sections to rail against the agents who rejected them.  I never understand this.  Even as a person who has received rejection, I really don’t get hating the messenger.  Yeah, it sucks.  Sure.  Get a grip and go back to work.  Shit, if it were that easy, wouldn’t everyone write a book?  And then how special would you feel when you did it?  It’s like the Looper movie all over again.  (Okay, I know that’s a stretch.  I just saw it and it’s on my mind.  Oh, that terrible scene with the limbs haunts me.)

To combat this unjustified hate, I spread rational love with royal icing.  New Leaf Literary is an agency of very generous people.  They dispense advice through their Tumblr, chat it up on Twitter, and provide encouragement through their WriteOnCon keynote speech.  Do they have to do this?  No.  Does it take time to do this?  Tons, I’m sure.  Then why would they do this?  To help those writers out there still receiving rejections.  Hey that’s you fucko who’s about to write some scathing comment about how they’re ruining publishing with gatekeeping.

Here’s to you New Leaf Literary for being awesome.  Thank you for taking the time to help us all.  Even the fuckos.  It’s appreciated by many.

new leaf_finale

Author’s note:  No, the cookies aren’t a bribe.  No, I did not send them with my query.  No, they aren’t a gimmick to go with my current WIP.  They are only a genuine thank you.

Author’s note #2:  I fought every urge in my body to title this post with a cliché.  Out of respect for the pretty cool people the blog post is about, I silenced all my witty one liners.  Seriously though, if they were witty, they would’ve made the title.

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There’s been a hiatus on my gushing over how awesome Meredith Barnes is.  If you’ve missed any steps in how my love bloomed, you can relive it here and here.  In 2012, Ms. Barnes followed her publicist dreams and left the agenting world.  Some of you may have heard my heart crack when she announced her new position and I realized we wouldn’t be sipping cocktails while we bonded our client/agent relationship.  This however didn’t mean I had to stop fangirling after her all over the place.

Today we honor her new adventure with the launch of SOHO TEEN.  In celebration, there are cookies (of course).


Exciting news for Ms. Barnes and exciting news for book lovers.  Check out all their new releases at SOHO TEEN.

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Getting Ready for 2013

Pinky and the Brain

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UnravelingCover Me:  The cover didn’t really do much for me.  It’s cool and all, but it didn’t grab my shoulders, shake me until my nose almost bled, and demand I read the pages immediately.  What did get me to pick it up were the great reviews on Twitter and Goodreads.  Things like “couldn’t put it down” and “great suspense” captured my $9.99.  (So if you are an author and don’t use those outlets, you should consider the benefit of getting on the bandwagon).

Concept:  Janelle is hit by a car and brought back from the dead by a boy from school she doesn’t pay attention to named Ben.  She doesn’t understand it, but spends the first half of the book trying to figure how it’s possible.  What she really discovers is Ben is from a parallel universe and accidently fell into hers.  There is a bigger problem now with both worlds being drawn together.  If they collide, everyone’s dead.

The Peeps:  The people make this story.  Ms. Norris does an excellent job of creating some cool characters.  Janelle is a strong main character who you believe can take on all these steps as they come. I like Ben who has been secretly in love with Janelle for years.  (Sometimes even a bit stalker-like.)  But he’s protected her when she needed it and he trusted her with his big secret.  He’s also mysterious. What’s not to love?

What I was most impressed with were the surrounding peeps.  They were engaging, fun, and had a purpose, which is very impressive.  This is an area where books usually skim over in the personality department unless it’s a set up.  Not the case in Unraveling.  Friends and family were three dimensional and sucked you in more to the worry of the world ending.   

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  Mid-way through, the stakes are raised when Janelle’s father is killed as part of his investigation.  I have to admit, I was crushed.  Ms. Norris had done such a great job of setting up his personality I was sad not only for Janelle but for myself when he showed up dead.  (Huge kudos here.)  This does drive Janelle deeper into the story and answers the question of why she can’t ignore the whole thing all together.

By the end, there’s been major damage done to Janelle’s Earth, but it’s still turning.  I really liked the destruction from natural disasters as the two worlds get closer.  This is one of those little things about keeping it real and messy.  Part of the mess includes Janelle’s best friend taking a bullet and Ben going back to his Earth.  I’m still not sure how I feel about all this.  Don’t get me wrong, I love that Ben leaves.  That was perfect and painful, but did I mention perfect.

The part I was sad for was when her BFF Alex takes a bullet to the throat and doesn’t live.  I was like “Wha?!?!”  Not to mention it happened really quick and was kinda lost in a bunch of action.  Geez, throw the girl a bone and leave her one person to love.  Some may say she has her brother still, but he’s a love and a responsibility.  That’s different.  My conflict with burying Alex is a direct result to the above section about how well the peeps were done.  I liked Alex and was sad to see him go.  (This after recovering from the dad’s death.)  Could I be more clear about how much I enjoyed the character development in this book?

While the beginning of the book took me a little while to get going, once I was about 100 pages in I couldn’t stop.  Short chapters and great writing keeps you moving quickly and wondering about what happens, who’s behind it, and how it will end.  Is there a better description of a successful thriller?

What I Cooked Up:  Trying to come up with a baked good inspired by a book about melting bodies was a challenge.  Once I really thought about it, chocolate seemed the natural choice.  Since Ms. Norris’ agent (the awesomest Janet Reid whom I love, not as much as Meredith Barnes, but gush about just the same) is a fan of the cupcake, I thought cake would be a good thing to incorporate.  The last idea of wanting some sort of black hole to represent the portal to other worlds left me with only one baked good that made sense.  To represent Unraveling, I baked a Molten Chocolate Cake.

(My kids were very disappointed it did not have real lava in the inside.)

FYI– The recipe I chose is more of a souffle than a cake.  It was light, airy, and very rich.  I will also say it was very easy to create.  I highly recommend the dessert and the book.

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