Thursday, April 11, 2019

Help me figure this out

Last night on Twitter I came across a tweet from a writer




My first panicked response was to check my email to see if the agent she was talking about was me.

I've posted here and on Twitter about formatting; about bone-headed mistakes; about things writers can do to shoot themselves in the foot. Heck there's a whole category on this blog for posts about what can "ANNOY ME"

So I wasn't off base for wondering.
But fortunately I wasn't (later confirmed by the writer) the culprit THIS TIME.

So, where's the line between talking about real-time mistakes in an effort to educate writers about effective strategy, and public shaming?

I don't think this is something I get to decide on my own.
I think this requires a lot of opinions.

How about we start with yours.
Weigh in via  the comment column.

Remember you are free to call me on stuff you don't like as long as you do it without invective, comments about character or lack thereof, or talk about my mum's penchant for military footwear.

38 comments:

CynthiaMc said...

I decided a long time ago not to deal with mean people. It's saved me a lot of time and a lot of heartache.

It's become almost a badge of honor these days to be nasty and hurtful. Viciousness toward people who are deemed "stupid" is everywhere, especially on Twitter.

I used to have a sharp tongue and biting wit. It made me popular. It also hurt people. I decided long ago if I couldn't be popular without being mean, the price was too high.

The Bible has a lot to say about the power of a sharp tongue (or pen).

We all need grace from time to time.

Will N Rogers said...

I think your last paragraph pretty much sums up my thoughts on the topic. Call people on stuff you don't like as long as you do it without invective or comments about character (and in the case of the tweet mentioned, without naming names). Most writers I know would welcome query/manuscript formatting advice, but there's a big difference between that and venting on social media.

"Quick reminder: Please double space your work. It's easier to read when staring at a screen for hours on end."
vs
"I hate it when writers don't follow the rules. DOUBLE. SPACE. YOUR. WORK."

Adib Khorram said...

I think Katie was pointing to was an unfortunate trend from a lot of agents to take a rather gleeful approach to rejections, publicly and without offering any actual critique.

A tweet like: "I've been seeing a lot of submissions do X; a better way would be Y!" is super helpful to writers. It educates on industry standards and gently corrects without making it sound like it's one submission that's getting called out.

Timing can also help with this. Waiting a few days before posting can make it feel less personal for the writer being corrected, too.

That said, there are always going to be nervous writers; sometimes it's just a matter of finding the balance between humor and pathos and doing the best you can.

Sherin Nicole said...

I agree with Will N, it's all about tone and intent. A person's intentions typical come out in the way they phrase things (although misunderstandings do happen). I've seen a lot of people mock others and call it "honesty" but they actually want to rack up likes. You can tell the difference between that and someone wittily pointing out the mistakes they see a lot. The first one shames, the second one creates community.

DeadSpiderEye said...

How long does it take to edit a paragraph style, fifteen or twenty seconds, maybe a whole minute if you have to change the font too? Yeah okay, it would be great if this Standard manuscript format was actually standard because the only real problem is sending the standard format each individual recipient identifies as standard. Oh yeah one particular bug: the eye smarting ugliness of Microsoft's TNR is a curse of the modern era and probably explains why so many in the publishing trade are so touchy about things as trivial as formats. Bembo people, 600 years of type foundry orthodoxy shouldn't be ignored.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A few thoughts:
As my dear departed Uncle Dutch used to say, as he stood in front of thousands (around the world) while lecturing on our space program and the cosmos, “the only stupid question is the one not asked.”
AND
Being nice, polite and respectful of other people’s perceptions regarding criticism is not a weakness. Putting down another person does not elevate you, it demeans you in the eyes of those you seek to impress.
Take it from someone who now realizes how tenuous our place here on earth is. Bitter bites back. A pleasant aftertaste brings repeated joy.
Ah...can you tell that this morning my coffee was sweet and my donut warm out of oven and filled with fresh jelly?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am torn, I must admit. I find it super helpful to hear what annoys agents, and what mistakes will cause them to cringe. Even if it is a mistake I make - although I don't want to be personally dragged out into the public square.

So if the agent frames her tweet as a general "This is this kind of query or submission makes my skin crawl" over a targeted "I just got this one specific thing from this one specific author that made me pass" and I was that one specific author, I would be ok with the former. I would live and learn and be super careful with future queries/submissions. The latter would make me want to crawl under a rock and die.

But I am super sensitive as a writer and I want to succeed. I understand where the author is coming from. I also want the agent to keep educating writers on what works and what does not. So yeah, I suppose this comment is not helpful :/

robinssis said...

I think Will N Rogers and Adib Khorram are exactly right. Done without malice and with a day or two in between.

JMacBride said...

I agree with other commenters -- said in a friendly manner with the intent to set queriers straight, these kinds of Tweets are incredibly handy. Being friendly (and not singling someone out) doesn't take much.

Though if their preference is something they're likely to complain about if not adhered to, this info would be useful on the agency submissions page, or in the request email.

I hate to see the snarky agent Tweets that are clearly aimed at specific writers, but I've got to admit, they make it easy for me to see which agents I wouldn't want to work with. I've whittled down my query list more than once through agents' posts on Twitter.

PAH said...

Maybe I don't know the details enough here, but in my mind it really is only public shaming if 1) the person being shamed is outright named, or 2) the person being shamed is so obviously implied that everyone can figure it out ("For the sake of privacy, let's call her Lisa S... No. That's too obvious, let's say L. Simpson." - Principal Skinner)...

The irony here, of course, is that this person is 1) publicly shaming the agent, and 2) making her own shame actually public.

Seems like a bunch of drama to me.

For me, as long as it's not about anything I can't really control all that much, shame away! But maybe being the youngest of 5 boys has thickened my skin a bit?

julie.weathers said...

I was in on this conversation and my response was to the effect not to automatically assume it was her query the agent was referring to. The agent may have said something publicly because they thought it was an issue people needed to know about or they had been seeing a lot of it frequently and decided to speak up about it. It wasn't necessarily a public flogging.

We had a discussion here a long time ago about margins. I used to belong to a writer's book club where you got two books on writing every month. Mostly, it was a waste of money, but I thought I needed all the help I could get because I was clueless. One of the books from eons ago suggested margins should be ____. I mentioned that here and Janet said no, 1" margins all around. I think she thought I was trying to play fast and loose with squeezing words in. I would have if I'd been smart enough to think about it. Trust me.

I'm glad Janet brought this to my attention before I started querying again. A few others were unaware also, so I wasn't the only one stumbling around in the dark. Saying something publicly helps more than one person.

Back to the original conversation. The lady in question. Thought I was sticking up for the agent and got a little huffy about it. I wasn't sticking up for anyone. I don't know the situation. I was just saying don't automatically assume someone is talking about you when they make a remark. She had just sent in a query and the agent remarked about formatting. How many agents read a query as soon as it's sent in? I know it happens, but not very often. That's why agents say, "Give me six weeks to respond."

I told her and I'll tell everyone else. I just don't want people to get their feelings hurt needlessly. Sometimes, probably most of the time, a comment isn't referring to you. This situation happened five years ago, so I'm not sure what prompted the flurry of comments last night, but I will say this. Most agents are not in the business to hurt people.

Are there some you might get along with better than others? Yes, they're people and so are you. If someone does something you don't like, don't hang around them. It's a free country. No one's going to put you in the New Leaf Literary Press Gang.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling. Try not to be offended today.

“I've lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” --Mark Twain



Aphra Pell said...

Will N's example pretty much sums it up for me. Thought-out blog posts that act as lessons in "don't do this because..." are helpful in a way just venting on social media about an individual's mistakes isn't.

The best rule is probably the good old biblical "do as you would be done by". Give the type of feedback we want to receive. Treat people on social media in a way we'd want to be treated if the boot was on the other foot.







Irene Troy said...

Acceptable: generic "don't do this" remarks that do not highlight an individual writer. Clarifying mistakes many new writers make in order to teach others not to make similar mistakes. Suggestions as to how to execute queries and other communication in a professional and clear manner. Sharing stories of truly terrible things some writers do that can derail a career before it even gets started. Calling out those who think they are somehow immune to the rules the rest of us respect -- but never by name or other identifying marks.

Unacceptable: calling anyone out by name or identifying characteristics. Making fun of new writers who make silly mistakes (we all make these!). Disrespecting writers who are trying their hardest to follow rules and do the right things. Belittling language in any format. Nasty remarks that discount anyone for any reason at any time. (Pet peeve!) Suggesting a writer should find another hobby or career.

I haven't seen any of these negatives on this blog or in anything else you have posted.

mythical one-eyed peace officer said...

People are too friggin' sensitive about this whole "shaming" thing. There are unthinking, unkind, and nasty people out there. That's just the way it is.

The problem with nasty folks is theirs, not yours or mine.

Of course, I'll add that I am not on Twitter and won't be.

Jennifer Delozier said...

I'm with PAH here. I had a similar occurrence years ago. I knew this agent she often posted query reviews on Twitter. I knew there was a risk mine would appear there. And, sure enough, I saw a comment which I clearly identified as referring to my query. But here's the thing: no one else knew that. And know one ever would unless I waved my arms in the virtual air and howled like a wounded puppy, "Hey, everybody - this query she just knocked. It was MIIIIINE!" Instead, I licked my wounds and vowed to do better next time. What doesn't kill us makes us better writers.
While there's no place for cyber-bullying, belittling language, or posting personally identifiable information, I do believe the query-review benefit outweighs the risk. Most agents who post reviews do it repeatedly and often as part of a specific format. If you don't want to potentially see yourself there, don't submit to them.

B said...

I might be on the minority, but I never liked it when agents tweet these things. Thoughtful blog post with more than 280 characters to work with, yes. A fast and flurry tweet that more often than not comes across as snarky? Bordering the line.

What's worse is when they tweet 'tips' that are nothing but subjective. I still remember the two agents back in my querying days who proceeded to tweet about my work. One said third-person omniscient POV doesn't work for middle-grade (LOL), and another asked snarkily why anyone put their stories in the 1990s for no reason (there was a reason, and Miss Snark would've known if she had more than the 5 query pages to work with).

Echoing some others here... to be sure, I don't have concrete proof the tweets were about my work, but there was enough circumstantial evidence to make the conclusion. And yes, I was sensitive at the time and might've read too much into it. But it left a bad taste in my mouth that I still remember exactly who those agents were, and would not recommend them.

(Don't worry, it was not the Shark Queen. Or anyone else in New Leaf, for that matter. I've found them to always be professional. Is it a coincidence that the majority of the most professional agents aren't active on Twitter?)

Timothy Lowe said...

A Simpsons quote and a Twain quote in the same comment feed? Today is turning out to be a joy. I'll toss in one from Twain:

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very;' your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be."

For the record, I have used 'damn' 88 times in my current WIP.

Nothing to add on the Twitter mess, other than to echo those who felt it was a little bit snarky on the author's part. (It always amazed me how many people fume over an extremely brief form reject -- 'not for me, thanks.' How many words do they want for the agent to say 'I pass'?) This is all with the obvious caveat that I don't know what the original tweet said, so it's damn possible for the agent in question to have been being a damn big jerk.

That's it for me. Sorry for the damn long comment.

julie.weathers said...

mythical one-eyed peace officer

Yes, but did anyone read Janet's post. I mean really read it?

"My first panicked response was to check my email to see if the agent she was talking about was me."

The first response anyone has is to think someone is talking about them.

I confess I like the #tenqueries. Mostly they are generic enough a person would have to be a psychic with phenomenal powers to know whose query it was, but you still have people either saying:

1. "Oh my God! That's my query. I just got rejected!" Half the time they'll stop and think after they quit wailing. They didn't get a rejection email and quite often, oops, they didn't even query that agent.

2. I'm offended this agent is shaming people.

Dear heavens.

Here's a few.

YA sci-fi. Almost no setup of the world or stakes. Too vague. Pass.

Writing is stilted. Pass.

Jennifer

Bingo! There was a comment about WHY you got rejected and it probably helped not only you, but lots of people who were reading.

nightsmusic said...

There are two problems with this. No prior context to what the agent tweeted, and an honest, human reaction to being criticized. We don't know what the agent tweeted about the author's query. It could have been extremely specific in which case, the author would have known it was hers. Whether anyone else does or not, she does and that would taint any working relationship. OTOH, I was bullied as a child and it took me years to get over thinking that things not aimed at me actually were. Since we don't know the author's background, who's to know if this might be misplaced offense.

Another thing outside this immediate problem though that hasn't been mentioned is, we're all going to get bad reviews. Awful reviews. Doesn't matter your genre, it's a guarantee you'll get one. And it will be personal. They rarely aren't. While I wouldn't want to work with a snarky agent, getting offended at every little thing makes for a short career.

All that said, agents who teach using generic examples are a wonderful thing. Every little bit helps in our path to publication. Agents who take delight in pointing out things that need fixing, based on a specific thing in a specific query, are not.

Ashes said...

It's not publicly shaming if: 1. You don't name the person you're referring to and 2. The public cannot easily infer who you are referring to

If there is no way to connect the author to the tweet, IMO, the author needs to chill out. Even if you are certain a tweet is about you (as in the example today), the worst that has happened is one person feels bad or anxious. That is widely different than everyone knowing a tweet was about you and publicly judging you.


On the wider topic of agents tweeting about specific queries and requests... it's hard. You are asking authors to take specific advice and try to apply it generally. They're essentially working blindfolded.

There is a query contest happening right now, where freelance editors are reading pages and queries and choosing projects to award free manuscript critiques. Some of them are tweeting "10 queries". My CP has sent me a bunch of different tweets that maybe *could* be her project. This one says the MC seemed bored, did her MC seem bored? This one says it is starting in exactly the right place but the stakes aren't clear, was that hers? This one says the comps are strong but the voice sounds old, was that hers? WHO KNOWS.

I mean they're all only opinions. But it is frustrating to speculate *which* opinion even applies.

The really frustrating thing? A shark once taught me a good query is about getting specifics on the page. But query-tweets are by their very nature vague. So now we're tasked with making specifics strong in a query by following general advice gleaned from necessarily vague tweets about specific materials which may or may not be ours.

Erin Price said...

I saw Katherine's tweets yesterday and wondered at the time if they would give agents pause. Unfortunately, it seems to me that in causing you to question yourself, dear Sharky, she's giving the WRONG agent pause. As others have said, I think it's largely about the agent's intent.

But also, the method of transmission is important, too. The Query Shark blog is its own separate entity, with a clear purpose. Folks submit, willingly, and you kindly tear them to pieces. BUT, and the but is vital, you are never malicious and ill-tempered. (I mean, you can be sharky, and I'm sure there are people who winced and clutched their wounds after you chomped on them, but your intent is never mean-spirited.) And you're doing it on your own blog. I don't think I've ever really seen you comment on twitter in such a way that a querier would see it and gasp, 'oh, no. she's talking about me!' You've offered general comments, but nothing pointed and personalized.

But there are agents who do so on Twitter, which is a public forum, with enough detail that it's clear they're talking about a specific query or submission. And I can see how someone who had queried that agent would be hurt or feel embarrassed. When I queried agents privately, seeing a public statement about something I had reason to think was a private communication, would probably have made me feel the same. But you don't do that. The Query Shark blog is something else entirely.

All that is to say, I think you can swim easy, Your Sharkly-ness.

All joking aside, I recently acquired an agent, and I attribute it in large part to you, Janet. (I mean, I had something to do with it, too. But I really do give you a lot of credit for helping me learn how to query.) I poured over the Query Shark archives. And then when I finished I swam back around and did it again. I tore my query apart over and over and over. Then I tore my manuscript apart. I learned so much from the archives. And I would not have learned half so much if you were hedging, trying not to hurt the feelings of the queriers. So there is real merit in what you do. And the fact that even when you're being sharky about it, your kind-hearted intent (There! I said it! You're a shark with a heart of gold. Now I will swim frantically away so as not to get chomped) always shines through. Thank you, Janet.

Unknown said...

Personally, I wouldn't consider it "public shaming" per se if no identifying details are given. But more generally, I can see how some agents might lose their sense of perspective in an attempt to be entertaining. Yes, some queries are hilariously bad. But a prospective author/agent relationship is a two-way street. Agents can't expect to treat authors without respect or consideration and not have it reflect poorly on them. I'd say that if an author seems to be querying in good faith, it's a jerk move to write snarky comments about them, if they could be reasonably expected to recognize themselves.

Lennon Faris said...

This is when I'd turn off Twitter. Brain is always trying to tell us we're center of the universe. It's a trick. Rude people, mean comments, snarky tweets - they're rarely about you.

When you're feeling less vulnerable, come back and see if there was anything to learn from it.

If not, then un-follow that commentator and thumb your nose at them (but preferably, not in another tweet).

That being said, my favorite people are those who who inspire me, do not cut me down, but still manage to dose me the truth.

Miles O'Neal said...

I have no idea what the agent actually said, but since it's documented here (in the comments) that the agent did NOT name the author, this is the author's problem. And the author has now "shamed" herself. (You can't shame me without my complicity. I'm sorry this author felt hurt, but she should talk to someone to help her cope with whatever makes her so sensitive. Not trying to be harsh, just brief.)

Berke Breathed of Bloom County fame coined a word for this trend: offensensitivity. He did this at least three decades ago. It's possibly even more useful today.

I can't stand bullying. But sometimes we think we're being bullied (harrassed, shamed, whatever) when we aren't. What I feel in response does matter, but does not automatically make it your problem just because you said something that offended me.

Beth Carpenter said...

I agree with most there that tweets and posts sharing mistakes on queries can be helpful, as long as the subject is anomymous and it's not mean for the sake of mean.

I've found that life goes more smoothly if I assume the best. For example, when someone says, "You look wonderful. That dress takes off twenty pounds," it's best to focus on the wonderful part, not the implication that you need to lose twenty pounds. When an agent tweets about your formatting, assume that they're trying to help you improve, and ignore the less-than-gracious way they did it.

Here's my quote for the day, from Downtown Abbey:
Violet: "I'll take that as a compliment."
Isobel: “You take everything as a compliment.”
Violet: “I advise you to do the same. It saves many an awkward moment!”

Brenda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nadre said...

That military footwear though...

*WinterOne said...

Honestly, this is very similar to any feedback workplace situation. If someone does something require feedback, you should talk to that person directly, not behind their backs. Then, in the case of wanting to educate others, it totally makes sense to tweet or blog about it. Again, like any workplace situation - it's all in the language. There's a huge difference between "what an idiot/omg I hate this so much" (obvious or subtle) and "I gave this feedback to an aspiring author recently, and thought it would benefit everyone else too!"

Steve Stubbs said...

I have vision issues and was not able to read the photograph of the twitter. But I can't imagine anyone saying anything negative about Our Gracious Queen. I ignore the twits on twitter because my time is limited and valuable, but I read this blog every day (for the same reason. It makes sense to spend valuable time on valuable pursuits.) I've learned so much on this blog I feel I should get an honorary MFArt degree for life experience. The deans at Harvard said, sorr, but they were afraid I would MFArt in public and embarrass everybody.

The queen cab do no wrong is the way I see it.

Jen said...

I kinda side with the agent on this one. While I'm certainly not an agent, I just joined a critique group that's being hosted by a well-known and highly-respected professional writing organization. I am one of five writers in my genre, and I was super excited to get some specific feedback from writers as I just switched genres and am struggling with tone/ voice.

Out of the five writers, only two of us followed the guidelines. Thankfully, I was one of them. But I spent *4 hours* wanting to beat my head against a wall as time after time I edited simple grammar mistakes, and POV issues, etc. If I have to write, "What are your stakes??" one more time, I'm going to trademark the phrase.

My point is that I *hate* having my time wasted. And while I'm not going to tweet about it, I'm going to be honest in that critique group. Ignoring problems doesn't help anyone, and as long as someone isn't intentionally being cruel, it's up to each of us as to whether or not we choose to be offended.

Megan V said...

I like what Adib had to say on the matter.

While I personally like a lot of the critique-based tweets, I have seen a few here or there that made me bristle up.

Sometimes there's a fine line between what's helpful and what's plain ole tactless.

And where rejections are involved, well, when it's made public by the rejector rather than the rejectee, even a helpful rejection can come across as a tactless one.

I think the safest course is receiving permission from the queriers, which would allow agents to be more specific in a more helpful way (kind of like QueryShark)--why not put a warning on the submission section, and inform queries that if they don't want their query addressed publicly, to note that in their query



KDJames said...

As someone who is admittedly tactless, I probably shouldn't even weigh in on this . . .

I don't follow a bunch of agents on twitter, but I do occasionally see their tweets come through my timeline. Some agents are obviously trying to help writers by pointing out mistakes. Others, not so much. There's a sort of petty derisive streak running through some comments and it's glaringly apparent. That's unprofessional.

And, of course, there's that power imbalance between writers and agents which leads to feelings of "punching down" when criticism is perceived as personal, even if it wasn't intended as such.

Janet, I don't think you're guilty of shaming. You seem to go out of your way *not* to do that. You have a history of being a tireless educator, and of explicitly asserting the importance of writers within the industry. So when you vent a bit about grievances, we see it through that lens of overall support.

BUT, I think we're missing the main point Katherine Locke makes, which is valid and important: Don't work with people who make you feel stupid or unappreciated. Or who you think can't be trusted to behave professionally. We each have different "lines" of what we consider offensive or a step too far. We each have our hot buttons, ones we sometimes don't even know exist until someone pushes them. I think intent does matter, even when execution is sometimes a bit faulty, but no agent can hope to get it right with every single writer. We each, writer and agent, get to define our own limits of acceptability. Don't "settle" for working with someone who makes you feel awful.

Since we're sharing quotes, I like this one:

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." -Maya Angelou


Craig F said...

My first read of this was that I, regretfully, know people like Katherine. I think she overreacted and the agent was just trying to pass on something useful.

I don't have much Twitter time, but I have never seen an agent shame someone by name for a simple mistake.

Keeping away from those kinds of mistakes is why we are here. That might open another can of worms though. Some people just can not deal with advice and will do the opposite of what they are told and blame someone else. That is also a possibility.

KDJames said...

If I could edit my comment, I would, as that quote is mis-attributed to Angelou. *sigh*

From Wikipedia:
This is a very close paraphrase of a quotation attributed to Carl Buehner in a book published many years earlier - “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.” quoted in Richard Evans' Quote Book, 1971, Publisher's Press

AJ Blythe said...

Not much to add because I think it has all been said. Yes I want to learn and don't want agents to stop posting helpful tips - so long as they are anonymous and not mean-spirited.

I always assume the worst comment is directed at me, human nature I guess, but I wouldn't then admit it was about me (anonymous is anonymous).

As writers the best thing to do about feedback is to keep they honey and throw away (or better yet, laugh) at the sting. If the sting is useful, remember it and face it when you are ready.

Claytor Family said...

Many writers often, and notoriously, have vast insecurities. Newly querying writers all the more so. That insecurity skews perception, and the person reading a comment will narcissistic-ly insert themselves into a perceived slight, because the drama that ensues for being offended is easier than accepting the advice in the first place. It’s not so much a matter of shooting the messenger as it is dismembering them.

Speaking in generalizations as others have said (in a benign soothing voice as though beguiling a duck) is surely the only way to survive the current culture with a shred of sanity and all your limbs.

Unknown said...

Well this one is a doozy. On one hand the author let her anxiety (yes I know what it is) project that the Agent was speaking of her. On the other hand, agents always wonder why people think they are non-human and post like that are the reason why.
What I find ironic is, mistakes even the most simplest ones do happen yet when an agent is late/doesn't return the call on time/ busy doing agent things (as they call it) well, that's OK for some reason.

theblondepi said...

I finally figured out how to comment! While I technically have a license to stalk people, I prefer to join in on the conversation rather than just look in the window...

Janet, you sent me the KINDEST REJECTION LETTER I have ever received (my agent didn't send me a rejection, she took me, so I can say that without worrying I'll hurt her feelings). And your kind rejection was a form letter. You know what that tells me? You care about writers. You are worried about discouraging a writer. There are agents who, by their actions, make it clear they really don't care if they discourage a writer. They are the Simon Cowells of the literary world (and even he has softened slightly in his old age). These mean agents act like they are there to entertain their twitter followers, to get a laugh out of a new writer's confusion, rather than to educate.

These mean agents would never run to their emails to see if they were the cause of a writer's torment--they wouldn't care. They are not burdened with introspection.

You manage to educate while also being entertaining, which is why I run through the twitter hashtag #askagent sometimes and answer questions and then link the new writers to this blog. You've "liked" several of my tweets (@theblondepi), so you've seen them. I wouldn't send fresh flesh your way if you were mean to writers.

We all have bad days. I've snapped at people I shouldn't have snapped at; I've been impatient. It's always good to take stock and reflect on how we might be a bit kinder. But on the whole, you have done more for new writers than any other agent currently working (and frankly, I'll go out on a limb and say you've done more for new writers than all current agents combined).

To summarize: you are good and kind. Don't change anything.