Friday night at RMFW was another good night. I, in all my splendor, didn’t even bother to put on make up that day and my curls were woefully lacking.
I’m telling y’all, cupcakes are the secret to a successful conference. Now, granted we had a large group of Gnomies. Julie B was busy putting bling on everyone who stood still long enough. Most of us who had critique shops that day compared notes and discussed things the critiquers brought up.
I learned a few very important things. A lot happens to Gentyl, but that’s the problem, it happens to her. She’s only fifteen, but she has to be more in charge of her destiny. She can’t help being kidnapped and tortured, but she doesn’t have to give up. Well, she does for a while, but that’s part of the journey back through hell.
Jenny and I discussed my query. I thought I had that fairly nailed, but it still needs work. I tried to wrap my brain around her suggestions, but it’s going to take some simmering.
The amazing thing about this conference was we talked a lot about writing, but we also just visited and I hope we made others feel welcome.
Jenny Rappaport spent some time with us just shooting the bull. It was interesting to listen to professionals discussing publishing. She’s a sweetheart if you ever get a chance to attend a conference with her. There were a few funny stories passed around. There were a lot of general discussions about writing. The general discussions drifted off into specifics; like Jenny and I talking about the query. In some ways, it evolved into mini workshops.
Jim Born, Joe Finder, Jenny, Janet, Margie Lawson and several others stopped by. I think, and dearly hope, they felt welcomed as friends and not fresh meat for the beast.
I think both at Surrey and RMFW, the opportunity to unwind at the end of the day was important. We still talked writing, but it could just as easily swing off into another rabbit trail about research or history or what have you. It was never boring.
Carrie, another Gnomie, didn’t come to RMFW because she went to a historical conference instead. She didn’t feel like she came away with much of a desire to write. I’m not sure what the difference is. I think part of it is just being with friends so you can unwind at the end of the day. Of course, with cupcakes, it was easy to make new friends.
In addition to the cupcakes, Kari brought sugar cookies with homemade huckleberry jam filling. Yum. To die for. The best part, we kept them in our room so we could wake up to cookies for breakfast appetizers. I brought Texas Trash, the white chocolate kind. Jen, I think brought mini cheesecakes. Someone else brought some yummy coconut bars. Our tables were overflowing with goodies.
Now for the surprise. Beth, the consummate professional, had reminded everyone to be sure and pay Kari for their part of the cupcake bill. I had already paid her, but a certain Janet Reid insisted on buying the cupcakes because they were her idea. They really weren’t, though cupcakes are never far from her mind, but it was a very sweet gesture. So many people enjoyed her treat and her hospitality. I was surprised at how easily she combined relaxing with meeting with clients and prospective clients. From her demeanor, you couldn’t tell the difference between old friends chatting over old times and her ripping the guts out of a manuscript. I guess that’s the true art of a good agent.
Case in point. Janet had read Kari’s latest manuscript and wanted to talk to her about it in Denver. Janet had some valuable advice, but she couched it in an either or manner. What they discussed is between them, but I was terribly impressed with the way it was presented. I’ve heard horror stories of agents who have an author re-write and re-write and re-write until the story bears no resemblance to the original one and then the agent isn’t interested and the author has just spent three years demolishing their concept.
I think Janet is a top notch agent. She knows her business. She knows what sells. She knows what she wants and if she believes in you, she’s in it for the long haul. That’s pretty tough to beat in a dog-eat-dog world like publishing.
Why, yes, I am a Janet Reid fan. Not because she might represent me, but because I respect her integrity. She’ll tell you flat out if something isn’t going to work.
I used to interview some trainers who were like that. They’d try a colt for an owner. If the baby just didn’t have what it was going to take, they’d tell the owner they can keep trying him or her and see if something clicks or maybe just let the horse go home and grow up. Some babies need to mature mentally before they can handle racing. Sometimes they told the owner to keep it for a saddle horse or sell it, but don’t waste any more money trying to run it. Of course, sometimes they guess completely wrong and the dud went on to be a champion. The point is, they didn’t lie to the owner and guarantee them they had a winner. They honestly assessed the potential for success.
Honesty is a valuable commodity to me.
Kari and I did some brainstorming in the dark. Mainly I just listened while Kari thought out loud and by the time we went to sleep, the germs for the new direction were already sprouting.
That is one of the greatest secrets of horse training. Instill in the horse a love of doing something and it never becomes a chore. So it goes with the writer, strike that spark and fan the flame so the joy of writing shows through on the page. Janet didn’t browbeat her in a certain direction. She said you need to do this or do that to make it stronger. Kari was the writer and it was her choice.
Having chances to sit down and visit with the agents in a non-threatening environment gives the writers a chance to get a feel for the agent’s personality. They can see if the match “feels” right. Even if you don’t get a chance to sit down and chat with the agent, you can tell a lot about them just the way they move.
Kristin Nelson? A ball of energy. I can’t even imagine her slowing down enough to sleep. I think she’s one of the sharpest, most professional agents going. She knows her business and I get the impression if she believed in a project, she’d be a mama bulldog to see it through. I have no idea why I think she would be so tough, because she always had a smile on her face and a ready laugh.
Therein lies another advantage to the conferences. People watching. You love the way Agent X sounds on paper, but after listening to them on the panel and seeing them whizzing around the conference, is this someone you want to be a partner with a long time? Maybe you’ve decided Agent Y moves up on the list after visiting with him or her.
I don’t think anything replaces personal contact when making important business decisions like this. If you can afford to go to a conference, especially if some of your favorite agents are there, find a way to do it.
They might share their cupcakes with you.