Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Rules for Writers: Be Ready

I was at Malice Domestic over the weekend.
Malice is  a fan convention, a readers-meets-author convention.
It's not really where you look for craft workshops, or agent meetings.
It's not a place you'd go for a query critique.


As it happened I was chewing on a delicious client for lunch, tasty oh so tasty, when a writer paused, introduced herself and mentioned she read the blog.

Well, I'm always up for a round of Boost My Ego, of course I invited her to sit and tell me how fabulous I was.

(The poor defenseless client took that opportunity to skedaddle; I had to go back to the lobster tail from the menu.)

Writer said "oh, please don't think I'm trying to butter you up; you don't rep what I write."

Dinoporn?

Blushing furiously, she said no, she wrote suspense.

Well butter my butt and call me a biscuit, I rep suspense, yes I do.

Please tell me about your book I demanded, trying to look fierce in a lobster bib.

Now here Writer Fiends is where things could have gone south in a big damn hurry.
She could have started in on a twenty minute yarn about the book, and not touched on any plot points. She could have sputtered with mortification trying to get a couple words strung together.
She could have fainted dead away.

But no. Oh no.
She had her query with her.
Written.
On paper.

She pulled it from her reticule so I instantly said "give me that!' and seized it from her trembling paw.

And read it.
And of course pulled out a pen and made some notes.

And  mentioned something I thought was missing from the query.

We probably discussed it for ten minutes.

There was NO way she could have known I'd be at Malice, or that she'd see me in the Gnawing Room, or that I'd ask about her book.

But she was ready.

Are you?

24 comments:

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am hiding under my desk. Does that count? I doubt any preying agents will show up here at the school district central office, but hey, I have my book with me and all related materials at all times. Not to chum the waters for sharks, but in case I get a bright idea while writing code to keep hacking students from breaking into the district's software systems and changing everyone's grades.

Kitty said...

I'm not ready to query, but I'm absolutely ready for LOBSTER. And as it just so happens, I have a lobster tale for you.

When I was about twelve, I traveled with my grandmother through Canada. When we reached Montreal, Grandmother said I could have lobster for dinner, but, as always with Grandmother, I had to finish everything on my plate. Waste not, want not! The waiter served me what looked to be a giant lobster. I had never had lobster before, and it was as delicious as my mother had said it would be. I got halfway through and would have stopped eating if it wasn't for Grandmother's rule. So I slowly plowed through the entire thing, and the waiter removed my plate. PHEW! Then he brought the other half of the lobster.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Janet: I am so glad Rules for Writers is back. Is this due to the flood of appreciation from 2 days ago?

Kitty: Did your grandmother make you eat the second half of the lobster?

Amy Johnson said...

Which is better, the hilarious turns of phrase here or the advice? Both are great and much appreciated. And I'm not trying to butter anything.

What I am trying to do is catch up on the past week-plus of posts and comments. Congratulations to Morgan Hazelwood for winning the L-train-inspired flash fiction contest. I've been really, really busy (and this is really, really true, really) searching the globe for authentic recipes that start with the letter "L." For your winner's party. It will be lovely. And lavish. I must get back to grating potatoes. For the latkes.

Kitty said...

Jennifer, she didn't have to utter a syllable. She ruled with iron expectations. I was allowed to order it, and I did knowing I'd have to eat the whole thing. And somehow I did.

Jill Warner said...

When I was in high school, my family took a trip to the east coast. We stopped at this lovely dock-side restaurant and when the waitresses found out that this large family from the Midwest hadn't ever had lobster, they delightedly taught us how to crack them open and treated us to oysters on the house. My enjoyment was tainted when I found out the green paste was the content of the lobster's stomach.

french sojourn said...


Being a Mainiac, I remember hearing that there was a riot once in a Maine prison due to being served lobster on Wednesdays. Prior to that, lobsters were used as fertilizer, they were so lowly regarded. Times sure have changed. Ayuh!

Craig F said...

I got removed from the Boy Scouts for being prepared, or over prepared. Not a long story, but not in front of the children. I am still gonna wait until I'm an invited guest to do a writer's conference.

Amy, I sure hope you didn't hit on Lutefisk. That stuff is nasty, worse than fish flavored jello.

julie.weathers said...

I'm not a fan of seafood in general, blasphemy, I know. To be from Texas and not like catfish is unheard of. I do like the occasional popcorn shrimp or lobster tail. Mom, bless her heart, had to make a comment about popcorn shrimp and how they aren't really clean so I think about that every time I order them, but forge on anyway. She has this thing about, "Oh, you like this food? Let me tell you this disgusting detail about it you might find interesting." I swear I'm going to put a character like that in a book someday.

My MC is obsessed with fresh oysters and practically lives on them while she's in Charleston, I can't abide the sight or smell of them.

Anyway, to the matter at hand, no, I am not prepared and it's too danged early to be ruining my day like this. I haven't started thinking about the query yet, but I should because it takes me weeks to fiddle with it. And then the bloody synopsis. I may be querying next year about this time. If I'm diligent.

The Denver Rocky Mountain Gold conference is coming up. A few friends and me are thinking of going. They're debating going to a dude ranch afterwards for a writers retreat. I'm not sure I would do that, but the mountains would be nice. I should probably ponder getting ready.

I wonder why the person thought LeReid didn't rep suspense?

c.d. monson said...

Lesson learned. *Query printed and in purse (Because you never know when a shark is around.)

K. White said...

I've missed two opportunities by not being prepared.

I pitched an unfinished novel at a conference. The agent loved the concept and wanted to read the manuscript that day. Needless to say, by the time the book was ready many months later she'd lost interest. Now, I refuse to discuss my WIPs let alone pitch them.

A different agent taught a workshop at WorldCon but concealed her true identity with a nom de plume because she wasn't there to take pitches. Afterward, she pulled me aside, raved about my short story, and asked if I had a novel set in the same universe. I didn't, of course, and it's taken me six years to write it. I wonder if she would still be interested - lol.

Emma said...

I always try to be prepared for every eventuality. If I discuss this with friends or husband, they think I'm insane, but I firmly believe that visualizing every (positive) opportunity and deciding how to deal with it ahead of time is a good way to go through life.

I was listening to an interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson once, and he said that before his first NPR interview, he studied the host's timings and mannerisms, deduced that guests got about one minute to answer a question on average, guessed at the questions he'd be asked, and then rehearsed answering them in one minute bursts.

That's my kinda guy.

julie.weathers said...

I just read through the Pixie Princess thread on the great hunt for Gary Corby again. Thank you, Ms. Janet. Now I'm crying again. That should be a reminder of what a special community you've built here. That's hard to do. Exceeding difficult especially in this day and time and needed now more than ever.


Beth Carpenter said...

Kudos to the waiter/writer for being prepared. I suspect this interaction will be included in a heartwarming "how I got to be published" story someday.

Ever since I heard a woman at the airport gate mentioned, "I forgot to bring something to read," I've kept one of my books in my carry-on, in case it happens again. Maybe that bookless flier will turn out to be a twitter star and tell the world how awesome my books are. Or something.

Janet Reid said...

Beth Carpenter that idea is utterly brilliant, and I will always have an extra client book in my bag from now on.

Barbara Etlin said...

Years ago, before I had an agent, my husband and I (both Jewish) went to an Italian night dinner and dance in support of our friends' church. Everyone was very friendly and we soon felt at ease and enjoyed the delicious Italian food and music.

Sitting at our table was a woman whose son (not there) was a published children's author, with an agent. She mentioned the titles of some of his books and I looked him up when I got home. It inspired me to query Canadian agents--I had only tried American ones until then--and I soon signed with one.

But the point of my story is if I had carried BUSINESS CARDS with me, I could have given her one and networked with her son. I had them, but not in my purse, because why on earth would I need them at a social event? ;-)

Amy Johnson said...

Craig, When I Woke This Morning, I Had No Idea I Would [fill in the blank: Learn About Lutefisk] Today. But I just had to find out more after reading your comment. The Wikipedia entry is pretty funny. Did you know there's "jovial contention" among people with different traditions regarding which side dishes are appropriate? Also, "The Wisconsin Employees' Right to Know Law specifically exempts lutefisk in defining 'toxic substances.'"

Unknown said...

I just spent way too much time imagining what Dinoporn would look like.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

My takeaway:

1. That's an awesome story!
2. Preparation serves you well.
3. Her query was in takeaway form. If La Sharque didn't have the time (or desire) to read it then and there, she could have saved it for later.
4. I need to order new business cards before I head off to RWAus in August.

Craig F said...

Amy; Reading the wiki on Lutefisk is not learning about it. It is a Viking delicacy and needs to be experienced. I could give you the whole gory lowdown. I have eaten traditional Norwegian food.

The best explanation about the flavor of those delicacies is that I know why there are so many Norwegian sea captains that spend their lives on the open sea.

Kae Ridwyn said...

What a BRILLIANT story! Go 'Writer'!
And here's praying we all may be just as ready when similar opportunities arise... although as Reiders, the chances are higher, I'd say :)

Leslie said...

Lots of great advice and stories -- you guys are the best!

The only thing I can add is advice I heard at the WD Conference a few years ago: make sure to have enough white space on your business cards so that when you give them to people they'll have room to make some helpful notes

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Ha, here I am a day late BUT am I ready? Almost? Hell yes with crustacean, bib and butter waiting for copy edits to be completed.

AJ Blythe said...

Even though I'm not published I carry my writing business cards with me in my purse. And there have been many occasions when I've given them out. Hopefully I'm finding people who will be future readers, but in some cases I've managed to establish a better relationship. Just this week I was hired (= being paid) to mentor two green writers to teach them craft and help with their first chapters.

My cards have my tag lines on them, all my contact/social media info and my web page. As for my story, I can rattle off my pitch if a conversation gets that far.

I'm prepared.