Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Advice for New Writers . . .

Don't worry. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the craft of writing. But I do feel I have something important to convey to those who have never been to a conference.

I have read many a new writer profess extreme anxiety at the thought of meeting with an editor or agent at a writer's conference. I totally understand this fear, but it is completely unnecessary.

I have now sat in six official meetings and a few unofficial ones with E's and A's and I can tell you that they have all - (with one exception) - been polite, easy to talk to, and very respectful. Want names? Okay, here they are in no particular order except for the first:

Becky Nesbitt - (Okay I was a little nervous for this one. How would you feel if your first encounter with a professional in the industry is the Co-Director of Fiction for Tyndale House Publishers.) But she quickly cured my nervousness with her warm personality and infectious smile. She showed genuine interest in my manuscript. We had a great conversation and she (big sigh of relief) asked for a partial.

Steve Barclift - Managing Editor - Kregel
Rod Morris - Senior Fiction Editor - NavPress
David Webb - Executive Editor - B & H
Terry Burns - Agent - Hartline
Katie Sulkowski - Agent Creative Trust
Kelly Mortimer - Agent - Mortimer Literary
Luke Hinrichs - Editor - Bethany House

If you have a meeting with any of the above - do not fear. Remember, they share your passion and they're waiting for you to talk about it.

There was one exception to the above. I sat at this one particular editor's table at a conference. He was snobbish, arrogant, and passively rude. Not to mention that he came across as an elitist. The others seated at the table all agreed on this issue. That's right, we spoke about it afterword because the experience was unusual. Want me to name him? Sorry, I can't do that. The point is: he was the exception, not the rule.


Janet Rubin said...

My meetings weren't scary either. And these people know you are nervous. They are looking for a good story, not a brilliant speaker. I think they try to see past your nervousness to discern whether or not you've got a good story. Yes, editors and agents are human..

Dayle James Arceneaux said...

That's probably the real reason behind their anxiety, Janet. It's judgement day.

The thinking probably goes like this:

I've worked hard for years to be a writer, learning the craft, building myself up while struggling through those moments of doubt, and expended alot of my heart and soul. And I'm just terrified that after 2 minutes, this editor is going to declare "You just don't have it kid. You're better of being a reader than a writer."

To many - some things are better left unknown.

The energy used up by this anxiety is better off being directed at things they have control over.

I would advise conference freshman to think of the outcome of these meetings as a report card, not a final judgement. And if they can get rid of the anxiety - it is an oppurtunity.