Friday, January 01, 2016

So, my life is about to implode, should I mention that?

For reasons I won't get into, my personal life is going to be an unholy mess soon. I've been sending out queries and the responses are pretty good. How upfront should I be with a prospective agent about the soon-to-be shambles of my life?

Be upfront but NOT in the query. This is information I'll need to hear in our conversation after I've read your manuscript.

If you've got a problem, it's better to know ahead of time so we can plan effectively.  If you don't tell me, and my emails start to disappear into the ether, my first thought is that you're a flake not that your life is having its way with you.

Shambles can cover a lot of things: illness, divorce, impending arrival of a child (for both mother and father!) moving, taking a new job. Even expected events can arrive in unexpected ways (like my dear friend's first baby who arrived 90 days early and introduced us all to the miracle of neo-natal intensive care.)

What you're really wondering is whether, upon hearing this, an agent will run screaming for the exit. That's a realistic concern, and certainly some might.

And I hope that us sharkly types will realize that letting a mermaid hold our fin while her tail is being mended is a very good use for fins.

That's not photoshop, dear reader!

Query on, be up front, and plan for success.

May 2016 be a terrific year for you.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yup, that's me, looking good, swimming without breathing, petting death-fish...whoa I just woke up. Never start the year with dream sequence.

Opie, truth is good but only when the time is right.

LynnRodz said...

No, without 2Ns go back to bed, that's not you. We finally have a photo of Janet.

Happy New Year, Janet and Reiders! May 2016 be filled with wonderful writing, love, health, and happiness. Oh yeah, and peace, definitely peace.

LynnRodz said...

Opps! Still half asleep although it's already 1:30 in the afternoon. OP, Janet's advice is solid as always. Sorry you're going through hard times.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Happy New Years!

Opie: life often throws unexpected snowballs which may derail us for awhile. An agent's response, when you share your life's implosion (when they've initiated contact with you to express an interest in working with you), will speak volumes about the potential for your business relationship. And remember, if this is a short-ish, somewhat temporary implosion, the route to traditional publication has a glacial pace.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Happy New Year. Janet looks great in that photo. I am awaiting my first cup of coffee of the New Year. So peaceful this morning. Hoping this is the calm before the calm. Last few years have been tumultuous enough.

Opie, take Janet's advice. And remember

if you're going through Hell, keep on going. You might get out before the devil even knows you're there.

--Rodney Adkins paraphrasing Winston Churchill

Wishing great things this year for all the Reiders. Now I must bond with caffeine and write something. Anything.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Wow, just read the link for Janet's photo. What an utterly courageous and compassionate woman. (and yea, that can apply to both)

Unknown said...

Opie, anticipating the poop and fan meeting is one of the worst fates life can throw at you. Especially if it's a long time coming. Your waiting and waiting and expecting the worst, and then your building on the worst until it becomes unbearable and you end up in total melt down.

Don't do this.

Brace your feet, hold your head up, and stock up on chocolate. It, too, shall pass. Breathe, take up yoga, write it all out. Whatever works for you.

OT - or at least old topic - from the list of helpful books recently given to us, I downloaded quite a few free samples and chose to buy Chuck Wendig's "The Kick Ass Writer". I highly recommend it, but only if you're not sensitive to naughty words. And graphic writing that may leave disturbing images in your head. Example: "...the competition out there is as thick as an ungroomed 1970's pubic tangle."

It makes me laugh, and that' conducive to me learning. It's informative, humourous, and motivating.

Unknown said...

*you're waiting and waiting*

Man, it bugs me when other people get that wrong, and there I go.

CynthiaMc said...

Having experienced my share of hellish implosions (the worst being the year our son was born 3 months premature and my mom died while he was still in the hospital), the advice to keep going is sound. My mom used to tell me to remember the hour glass when things got crazy - one grain of sand at a time can go through. From that I developed the habit of asking "What's the best next thing to do right now?" Sometimes it's simple - make the bed, do the dishes. Sometimes it's a trip to the beach. It works in crisis or out and keeps the day from being overwhelming. It turns the tide from victim to victor.

Blessings and happiness to all for 2016. May this be our best year yet!

Donnaeve said...

Happy New Year, all!

So many thoughts swimming and floating around given the post and the picture. While I was watching her, all I could think was, will they think she's seal? Black hair floating about, and her bikini/rest of the costume has tones of black. Either way - beautiful, and brave.

I am bothered by OP's situation.

If I were in OP's shoes, while not knowing just what "life in shambles" means, personally, I wouldn't say a thing unless absolutely necessary. I'd consider all possibilities of what could happen, or not happen during your "life in shambles" time frame. If an agent offers representation, is it possible to maneuver through the "shambles" and still respond accordingly? Does "life in shambles" mean a life or death situation - i.e. (and heaven help us, I hope it isn't this) cancer or some other major health issue of which you will literally be fighting against something that might mean you can't respond for a long time? Does "life in shambles" mean divorce or other life event which is very tough, but one where, if ready to face it, you could still get whatever work done with the agent who wants to sign you?

This is the way I manage difficult times - I think about what might happen during an event that changes the day to day routine and what happens if this, or that, and how am I best able to adapt. I've had a lot of things happen in the almost four years I've been with my agent. I've only shared a couple things with him - when I had to put my two Yorkies down only weeks apart, and when my father passed. The work is what kept me going, and still does. That and the hope of brighter days given the possibilities of what might happen.

Here's to you finding those brighter days, despite what you may be feeling right now.

John Frain said...


No idea how to translate your "unholy mess" that's potentially coming. That said, since none of us can predict the future, you can't be sure how messy it will become. Keep moving forward, whether day by day or minute by minute.

And because of the life you've chosen, you'll have fertile material to draw on when you write day by day. Best to you in 2016 to find your way through the mess and come out better for it.

Happy New Year, Reiders. Make it great, even if you didn't resolve to.

Lucie Witt said...

OP, I do hope things will be okay for you, whatever is going on. One thing I know about life is inevitably it will be in shambles at one point or another. I imagine most writers who have a career have to tell their agent about one kind of shamble or another during their time together.

I hope everyone has a healthy and happy 2016.

Craig F said...

Definitely look at the bright side. If you end up in jail you will have plenty of time to write.

Your New Year will be happier if you get moving.

Best of it all to you.

Megan V said...

I see the QOTKU's point.

If you're on the way to grandma's and you know that there's a wolf on the way, why not give granny the heads up?

And yet, I am with Donnaeve in that "personally, I wouldn't say a thing unless absolutely necessary." If I know about the wolf, and am aware that it's only interested in attacking me, then I prefer to keep it private even if it's to my detriment. In 2015, I think it may have been...there are probably several people who believe I'm a flake of epic proportions and thing is, apologies don't repair reputations.

Perhaps the best way to reconcile the two is to be willing to share generally, and hope that privacy will be respected when it comes to the specifics. I don't know.

Theresa said...

OP, both Janet and Donna have offered up very good advice. I hope your personal situation doesn't turn out so dire. I wish everyone here a happy and contract-laden 2016.

nightsmusic said...

"To the last, I grapple with thee; From Hell's heart, I stab at thee; For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee." - Herman Melville

That is directed to my whale of a cold. Four days in bed, three on the couch, I managed to venture out yesterday and today, I am alive! Happy New Year to everyone!

OP, Janet is the voice of knowledge. There's no reason to air anything that might stand in the way of acceptance by an agent until after the interest is there and the phone call is made. Maybe some agents might be put off, but if they're worth their weight, they'll work with you. Life happens. We can't plan it in advance.

Anonymous said...

The unholy mess isn't relevant unless the agent wants to work with you. So why tell them what they don't need to know?

If/when an agent asks for a full, they may not even need to know then. Send the full, handle your life, and wait to see what happens. If they offer representation, THEN it's time to mention the mess. Unless it's already been taken care of while you waited for them to read.

Share what needs to be shared, when it needs to be shared. No reason to run around telling complete strangers the details of your life.

CynthiaMc said...

That made me laugh. Thank you.

Mister Furkles said...

If you love underwater photography, check out David Doubilet's website. Lots of shark photos. My favorites are the Nudibranchs. They hide in sea fans and soft coral. They hide from literary agents.

Colin Smith said...

A lot of good words have already been offered, but I have to start 2016 right with a comment on the Shark blog. Yes, I must. Really. :)

First, Opie, I feel bad for you that life's about to get messy. At least you know in advance and can prepare. Life doesn't always give us the luxury of forewarning. How much to tell a potential agent? As much as that agent needs to know insofar as it affects your relationship with that agent. Think of this like work. If the kids were acting up this morning giving you a headache, but you can still do your job, do you tell your boss about it? No. Unless you happen to be close friends with your boss, and you have those kinds of conversations regularly, if you can still show up to work and do your job, boss doesn't need to know.

However, if some major poop hits--loss of a loved one, severe illness, or anything that affects your ability to do your job, then yes you tell your boss. Boss needs to know so boss can account for and, hopefully, accommodate this rough patch in your life.

Same applies here, I think. If you can still respond to agent requests and conduct your writing business in the midst of your chaotic life, then agents don't need to know what kind of mess your life is in. But the moment your work-life balance is turned in the favor of life, you should let requesting agents know things are going to be haywire for a while.

Happy 2016 everyone!! Is this the year LynnRodz and I make our way out of Slush Pile exile? Or will we find an even deeper level of doo-doo...? :)

BJ Muntain said...

It's always good to have all the cards on the table when planning. And I assume there's some of that going on during what is affectionately known as 'the Call'. Planning like agent will get edits to client. Client will work on making the manuscript even better. Then agent will submit to publishers.

It's only fair that the agent have a general timeline as to when this might happen. So the client says, "If all goes right, I can have the edits done in a couple months. If the doodoo hits the whirly thing, it might take 6 months." And that's fair.

After all, I'm sure most agents have had times like that in their lives, or they will at some point. People understand these things. If they don't, they'll learn well enough when it's their crapola hitting their cooling implement.

Good luck, OP! I hope your implosion is good for you, and that life quickly resolves into something better.

Happy new year, all!

Panda in Chief said...

I would agree with the general consensus: don't tell all at the query stage. Why distract the potential agent from your writing? I would tell all that might affect time lines of getting stuff done once they have offered representation. To do it during query stage is just one of those unnecessary housekeeping details we are advised not to include in queries.

Happy New Year to Janet and all the Reiders. Thanks for inviting this panda in to play.

I resolve to banish kale from my life. I think I can keep that one.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Some of my favorite underwater photography

This one is kind of...timely for me. In that holding patter of "what's next?" with a health thing. Isn't uncertainty great? But, though it's not going into queries, if a further talk happens, then yes, I would definitely notify regarding possible delay.

Unknown said...


Good luck on kicking off your author career.

I am a very private person when it comes to my personal problems, but I found people understand life happens. After my wife and I had our first son, my work started to slip and I forgot to do something my boss had asked for. I remember the shame I felt having to tell him that I forgot all about the task. He told me that he understood what I was going through and helped me develop tools that would allow me to manage my life work balance.

I agree with Janet 100%. Life happens and people will help you manage it.

To everyone else. Happy New Year. I wish you all a great 2016.

Janice L. Grinyer said...

First of all hugs to you, (((OP))) !

Second of all, keep writing. No excuses. Tough writers love coming up here from me. But with experience backing it.

During an 8 month span in 2012, this is what happened in my life:

1) Diagnosed and had a surprise major abdominal surgery for a rare disease (Castleman's)
2) Last parent, my elderly Father, died in another state, but I couldn't go to his funeral because of a major DVT brought on by surgery. 6 months of blood thinners.
3) Daughter decides to get married on our homestead (" before mom dies" *eye roll*) We have a catered wedding for 110 people in a remote area. Kept my mind off things, though!
4) Two weeks later, a wildfire burns over us and our house. A major disaster not only for us but for the area.
5) Worked out daily to get in shape to start another Forest Service contract as we are self-employed. This actually was the hardest task of all :D. But I did it!

I kept writing on a public blog, but a personal journal of sorts. I documented everything. And at one point I had over 10,000 hits in one month (Natural disasters like Fire will do that). We are now at a respectable 5000+ monthly for "just a personal blog". I made more friends, readers, contacts who are absolutely wonderful people. And I survived (I am going on year 5, last year for MRI's! Yesss!). I am stronger for going through the fire. You can be too.

What got me through was organization. Writing lists nightly for the next day. Delegating when I could, accepting the fact that I had to rely on myself other times. So no pity parties because they waste time (well, have only one, but make it a good one to get it all out- no witnesses, it can get ugly.) Focusing on communication with others, even those long distance, to build a future, no matter how uncertain. Developing a timing for when to let people in, and when to hold back information. However, when you let people in, you'd be surprised on how understanding they can be - no one wants to be left in the dark, on the sidelines, especially those who you work with. But don't pull the pity card just to get a good parking space- a strong personal moral code will make you a better, healthier human being. Also, recognizing that when I took care of my sleep, eating, exercising needs, I became stronger in spirit too.

And writing. Don't stop writing. The best writing comes from the ashes. "The evening's coals are the morning's ashes"

Hugs to (((OP)))

Sherry Howard said...

Happy New Year to all. My sympathies to the OP. It's hard to balance personal difficulties with life's onward movement. Speaking from the experience of *management* for many years, sharing personal issues seldom becomes necessary, and often complicates a clean working relationship. Use discernment about what is legitimately going to impact your working relationship, and leave the rest out of a business relationship. Life is full of ugly, sad complications for everybody at some time, and it's important to know what is best discussed with friends and family only. I wish only the best for OP.

Lilac Shoshani said...

Happy 2016 everyone!

OP: I'm so sorry to hear about your situation. May you get all the help that you need. Sending hugs and many blessings your way. ((( <3 )))

OT: Finally, I have launched my blog! It's scary and exciting simultaneously.

Most of you have been blogging forever. I admire you.

Without you and your lovely community, Janet, I wouldn't be doing this! You said to be bold. It inspired me. Thank you! And your picture is stunning… :D

Unknown said...

". . .letting a mermaid hold our fin while her tail is being mended is a very good use for fins."

That touched me in an entirely unexpected way. Thank you.

John Frain said...


Reading your note... Wow.

That's an inspiration. It also tells me, in explicit terms, I have no excuse to take a day off. If I try to, I just need to think of your 2012 and kick myself in the pants.

Stay strong.

Lance said...

OP, good luck, and may the implosion be minor.

What a moving photograph. So many levels. And, I suspect we should be warned about not trying this -- except metaphorically -- in the waters of our home planets.

What if daily kale intake were the key to unleashing your inner best seller?

Happy 2016 with a special shout out to the exiled and the double-exiled.

Anonymous said...


Janet and others have already told you what to do and given you good advice, but I can never refrain.

First off, do assess your situation and be aware of what might happen, but don't let it swallow you. I have a two-minutes to cry rule when crap hits the fan.When Brandon, oldest son, got stepped on several times by a bull, I stood there holding his hand while they tried to get him stabilized enough to operate. It's a horrific feeling watching the light go out of your child's eyes and know they are dying before you. Having him say, "It's OK, Mom. I'm good with God."

When the nurse came out at the 2 1/2 hour mark on a surgery that was supposed to last 2 hours and tells you it will be quite a while yet, you invoke the two minute rule and go in the bathroom and break down. Cry and beat your fists on the wall. Then, for me, it was time to wash my face, get back to praying, and writing letters to prisoners to ask them to pray with you for your son.

I had to invoke the rule again when Daddy was dying and I was living with him in the nursing home. I made sure I only presented a happy face to him aside from one time when he wanted to show me where he was going to be buried and I couldn't force myself to go.

Try to stay as strong as you can and take care of yourself through whatever might be coming.

You can't share this with agents during the query process. If things do go south and you either have R&Rs or get offered rep, then discuss it.

I have a friend who dropped out of contact with an agent who requested an R&R for two years. After she got her life back in order, she contacted him back and asked if he was still interested. He wasn't.

Sometimes an agent will contact you to see if you're all right, but don't count on it.

Find a support group that will help you get through whatever you might go through. A good support group does not just wallow with you in pity. They lift you up and help you get through the battle.

I wish nothing but the best for you and a good 2016 regardless of what might be coming. You'll get through this.

Anonymous said...


Good grief. Not a good year.



Colin Smith said...

BTW, since she's too polite to do it herself, here's a link to Lilac's blog. Read her fun inaugural article, and don't forget to leave a comment:

Lilac: Would you like me to add your blog to the List of blog readers and their blogs?

Anonymous said...

Ha, Lilac. That post was great. Keep blogging and welcome.

Also, thank you Colin. You are always so great to help.

xnye said...

'"Your struggles define your achievements." -- Do I smell a Pulitzer?

Anonymous said...

I ordered the Snoopy Guide to Writing because I've decided to make it a Snoopy kind of year.

He always has good advice.

Lilac Shoshani said...

Colin, the answer is yes! Please add my blog to the list of blog readers and their blogs, and (if it's not too much to ask) delete the link to my FB timeline.

Thank you so much. You are such a great friend! :D

Lilac Shoshani said...

Julie, your words mean the world to me. Thanks dear. :-)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

OT, Lilac, I love your first post. We have all, so-been-there, not actually there, where you are, but there in our minds. Great first post.

Colin Smith said...

Lilac: I have made the changes on the blog readers list, just as you asked.

And while I'm on the topic, if anyone else needs me to do some housekeeping on their blog readers list entry, or if you want to be added to the list, please drop me an email. You'll find my address on my Blogger profile. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Lilac, great first post. You inspired me to update my blog for first time in ages. Thanks for that.

Lilac Shoshani said...

Carolynn: I'm so glad. You make me so happy. Thank you so much, my dear! :D

Lilac Shoshani said...

Colin: Fantastic. Thank you. You are an angel! :D

Lilac Shoshani said...

E.M. Goldsmith: thank you. I feel honored to inspire you to update your blog. :-)

Unknown said...

Happy New Year!!!

S.D.King said...

Opie, so sorry that the near future is looking bleak. Hang in there.

Lisa B -so right about the response of agent now may hint to support (or cutting bait) later.

Lilac, welcome to the fold-have you dropped a location pin on our pinmap of Reiders? Link is at top right of page- we circle the globe and hold one another up and hold one another accountable. But we don't hold hands and sing "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."

Karen McCoy said...

Happy New Year, all! The above picture makes me wish I'd thought to take one in Maui of the scuba diver in the shark tank giving us the "hang loose" gesture. I figured if this guy could hang loose, I could afford to mellow out a bit too.

Best of luck to OP! Excellent advice, as always. An inspiration, like John Frain said.

BJ Muntain said...

Grabs SD's hand. Starts singing,

"I'd like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony...."

Don't complain, SD. You put that song in my head, now WE have to sing it.

"Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtledoves..."

S.D.King said...

Ok BJ, I actually do want to teach the world to sing ... And I still think that "what the world needs now is love sweet love".

Megan V said...

An old coworker of mine lost her two-year-old daughter to a murder-suicide yesterday. Instead of celebrating the little girl's third birthday tomorrow, she's trying to raise money for a funeral. I can't imagine what she's going through. Some days I wish we could write away heartache.

It's just...
There are no words.
Life implodes when we least expect it, including at the start of a new year.