Friday, April 3, 2009

Freestyle Friday - Accentuate the Positive!

Wow, the negativity in the writing community has been a bit overwhelming lately. I suspect a lot of it has to do with our sucky economy and the frustration of watching the writer's dream get squashed time and time again. It can be terribly hard to constantly face rejection, yet you know you must be persistent or all your efforts are for nothing. Kind of a prescription for depression.

The writer is a determined soul, and that soul needs nourishment to survive. What better nourishment than happy stories of positive experiences? When all you hear is the negative, the journey toward representation and publication can be terribly daunting. Jessica Faust at Bookends is giving writers an opportunity to share their good experiences with agents, and Rachel Gardner is asking readers to post what makes them happy! I have too many, so rather than post them on their blogs, I'm going to blog about them myself.

I've been working on advancing my writing career for more years than I care to admit, and I've experienced myriad ups and downs on this crazy roller coaster. So I'd like to share some positive experiences I've had with literary agents. I've had many, but I'll only mention the ones that have affected me the most . There are some wonderful literary agents I've had the good fortune to come into contact with, and I hope you will, too.

I wrote a paranormal mystery some years ago that was a reunion of childhood friends story that encompassed a treasure hunt, a murder mystery, and ancient Hawaiian legends. Yeah, quite a stew, but that's how my storytelling mind works most of the time. It's always a struggle to keep it in line. Anyway, this fabulous agent at Bookends named Jacky Sach really liked the manuscript and wanted to help me whip it into shape. She tried, she really, really did, and we worked together on it for nine months, but in the end she decided it just wasn't suspenseful enough. And you know what? She was absolutely right. She didn't become my agent for that book (which is destined to be rewritten as YA), but she gave me my first experience with working with an editor and she taught me how to improve my skills as a writer. I'll be forever grateful for the hours Jacky spent trying to turn my sow's ear into a silk purse, LOL! She's a remarkable person, and a fantastic agent.

A few years ago I attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference and got an appointment with literary agent Rachel Vater. She was lovely and listened to me pitch my urban fantasy novel. When I was done, she asked if she could read the notes I had in front of me. Embarrassed, I said sure. She read them with great interest, then explained to me exactly what was missing in my plot. Oh, my God! How did she do that so fast? In less than five minutes, she deciphered the mess that was an unworkable plot and got me excited about taking a whole new direction with the story. I went home and gutted that book completely, keeping only the main character, and rewrote it from page one. That book became what is now Knight's Curse. And though Rachel passed when I queried the new and improved version, she remembered me and handwrote me a personal note. I'll cherish it always, just like I'll forever cherish her fabulous advice.

I have a wonderful agent now who's completely behind my book. Well, both books now that I've added a new manuscript for her to peddle, and I couldn't be happier. Elizabeth Winick of McIntosh & Otis is articulate, professional, responsive, and brilliant. What more could a writer ask for? I have a lot to be grateful for, and I feel certain Elizabeth will help me reach my career goals.

If you have positive agent stories to share, I hope you'll post them in the comments section here. I'd love to read them!


Anonymous said...

Ann Behar read my full manuscript. She rejected that book but took the time to give me feedback that let me edit and improve it and then make the next book ready for representation.

Matt Bialer wrote me the most encouraging personalized rejection letter I've ever gotten. He told me my book strong but fell between the genres he represented. I'm deeply grateful for the time he took.

Craig Tenney told me he wasn't the right agent for me, but he emailed me several times to encourage me and check on my progress.

And Sarah Yake signed me. She's endlessly patient, supportive, enthusiastic, communicative, and professional.

Dorothy Winsor

WendyCinNYC said...

I haven't had my agent for very long, but so far she's been great.

I didn't have any negative experiences when I was querying. Sure, many do the "no response after four weeks = no" thing, but that didn't bother me. I tracked my submissions on QueryTracker and just filtered the pending queries out so I wouldn't have to think about them. Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

Michelle Muto said...

Agents that have said wonderful things with the two books I've queried:

Jim McCarthy. Personal, encouraging letter on both books along with some nice compliments. Quick, professional. I bet he gets 'Gentleman Jim' a lot.

Caren Johnson, who took the time to ask if the other agents in her agency had a spot for my book, and sounded truly regretful when they didn't. Offered insight that prompted me to make a couple changes.

Courtney Callihan. Who said it was mostly the economy, and sounded as though she truly was sorry. She was friendly and most encouraging.

Beth Miller, who wrote a few paragraphs of wonderfulness and encouraged me to keep going with a story that showed potential. I can't thank her enough for the time it took to write such a great rejection letter that didn't make me feel like a reject.

Joanna Stampfel who offered great suggestions in detail and encouraged me to resend. She's pleasant and professional, and has genuine class.

And I'd like to thank all the agents out there who responded when they said.

Not only do they all get #agentwins, but they get #humanwins, too.

And thanks for the positivity post, Karen. #bloggerwin.

Jessa Slade said...

When I was a squeaky new writer, I queried Damaris Rowland on the worst trainwreck ever of a historical romance. I hadn't even picked a time period. She could have just laughed her ass off and even that would have been too good for this manuscript; instead, she sent a handwritten note encouraging me to keep writing. Someday I want to meet her and explain what that meant to me.

ChristaCarol said...

Thanks for the encouraging words, Karen!