Who’s Your Agent?

My dear friend signed a contract with an agent today. We met during a writing prompt session in the intimate library of the Margarite House in Evanston, four years ago. A handful of us writing strangers with no established trust hunkered down in red leather chairs to write our response to the prompt, “Write about your father’s eyes.” Outside, the robins serenaded us while magnolia petals dripped onto the windowsill. Our pens ripped across the pages of our red and black Redbud notebooks. When ten minutes flew by, we stared at each other. Who would be brave? Who would share first?

As the responses trickled out, we heard about how we all lived under the hand of dysfunctional fathers. By the time Sheli read, tears poured on pages. We coaxed her along because we shared our souls and she could too. I’ve been in many of these sessions where the author can’t read on and another writer finishes reading her work, but Sheli hung in there. She took breaks, we passed her Kleenex. Her father stalked her in their house while she hid under the bed as a child.  When she finished we all kept silence. The open leaded glass window allowed sunlight to gentle our circle. We prayed for Sheli. We prayed that someday she would share her story with the world, that she would keep being brave. Today I raise my chamomile tea to her terrified determination. Someone else in a small literary agency on the other side of the country believed in her voice.

I spent this morning being brave speaking to a book group at a local country club. When you speak to a large group there will be people there who don’t care about what you have to say. For some reason they came expecting something else. Those women were at the farthest table in the back. While I read from my novel they chattered away and giggled. My junior high students wouldn’t do this in class. I kept going and did what we all must do, ignore them. One woman on her way out said to me, “You were marvelous. You must have a hundred people lined up to be your agent.” I stood silent, too afraid to tell her that I’m agentless because I live in a world where every successful author has an agent. Her question gnawed at me. When things chip at my being I take them to my writing desk and pray. It occurred to me, ask God to be your agent. I did. He said, “yes,” an enthusiastic yes!

So today Sheli and I both have our agents and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Please take in some of Sheli’s raw, unadulterated story at: http://shelimassie.com/

Who’s your agent?


The Fear of Submitting

I hit “submit” last night. This time it wasn’t to an agent or a publisher. This time it was personal, to a poetry publication. During the long winter months of looking for a publisher for my novel, A Minor, I grew quite used to hitting the submit button and then waiting for weeks only to receive a polite, three sentence no thank you. The email goes something like this, just to prepare you if you ever decide to venture down this path of pain:

“Thank you so much for considering us for representation/publication of your work. While there is much about the manuscript that we admired, it is not what we are looking for at this time. Writing is a subjective art so do not be discouraged. What we are not interested in may be just the thing for someone else.”

After awhile you become immune to it. Everyone tells you, “The Help was rejected 69 times before being accepted. Harry Potter more than 20 rejections.” I wonder how those know- it-all publishers and agents feel today reflecting on the millions of readers and dollars they said no to. But submitting a poem is different. I’m not a part of the main character in A Minor so there’s distance. In the poem, I am the main character. If the publication says no to my heartfelt word painting, they are saying no to me. I become nothing more than a pesky weed in their garden of literature, one to be pulled out and thrown onto the slush pile. Of course, you can’t take it personally or we would never submit anything to anyone.

This is where being a Christian writer makes the process a bit easier. “He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) My rejection is nothing compared to His reality. While walking our dog at night, my husband kept reminding me that “no” can be a refining, character building experience, all part of God’s plan for my work.  In the end he was right because the way I found my publisher, Koehler Books, was so illogical and other worldly, only God could have put us together. So when you have that fear factor creeping up on you, preventing you from throwing your work out into the abyss, remember that God does know what he is doing. Don’t forget to submit it to Him first. After you’ve done too many revisions to count, take a deep breath, say another prayer, then hit the dreaded key on your computer screen and let it fly!