As you suggested, I've started querying widely, and I got a bite from an apparently-respected agent at a long-established boutique agency. While there has been no offer of representation yet, we've talked on the phone a couple of times and it's clear that she "gets" my nonfiction book, loves my platform, and has plenty of experience, expertise, and connections. She's asked for sample chapters and our next conversation will likely be The Call.
I may be getting ahead of myself, but I'm panicking because as great as this agent looks on paper, and as much as she seems to respond to my work, I found her really annoying on the phone--she talks nonstop in a whiny voice and won't stop bragging about her other clients and the great deals she's landed them.
I know she's trying to impress me as much as I'm trying to impress her, but I cringe when I imagine her pitching MY book to editors in the same way. Clearly, though, she's the real deal and has managed to represent plenty of writers effectively. I still have queries out there, but I've also had some rejections; would I be crazy to pass this up?
Most agents pitch by email, and no one cares what she sounds like anyway. Editors care about the books she's bringing them.
The other thing to realize here is you've talked to her only a few times. If she's making deals, she's on the phone to editors a lot, and they've gotten used to her voice if they ever noticed it at all.
And you're right to realize she was trying to impress you as much as you were trying to impress her.
We've all got flaws. If this agent gets your work, and you think she can sell your work, that's what matters.
The Original Poster is, like me, a Voicist. A Voicist has a negative initial reaction to people whose voices are shrill, excessively nasal, whiny, grating, too loud, or otherwise fingernails-on-blackboardish.
But Voicism can be overcome with time and familiarity and lovely book contracts.
As Janet says, the editors this agent deals with have probably grown accustomed to her voice.
Great oxymoronic caption. My first disbelieving chuckle of the day.
Ok. So the take away is--agents come in many stripes and spots. And they're not perfect?! I appreciate the OPs balance of pros and cons. Intellectually, the agent is THE one. The emotional grab--not quite there.
But good agent/author relationships, just like marriages that last long-term, are built on more than the rollercoaster of our emotions.
The other thought that came to me after I hit publish:
People with hearing impairments may have a more nasal tone to their voice than people with full hearing capacity.
Congratulations to the OP. If the shark says yep, go for it.
I can understand your doubts, like maybe you can't beleive you will be published. Maybe the querying game is over. Sometimes it is hard to think beyond what you thought was the end. It's just a new beginning.
It can be hard to let go of the dream.
I never imagined I would live in my dream abode. I spent all my time desiring it, then when it happened I spun circles in the void. What followed the dream. That was a big slap in the face. I could finally concentrate on painting and writing. Now I have no reasons to procrastinate.
Lisa B, funny you should mention marriage, because my first thought was my late mother-in-law, Hell-en. I swear John Wagner must have had her in mind when he created the cartoon character Maxine. Hell-en even looked like Maxine.
Well, OP, considering how far down the path you've successfully journeyed, and what the agent knows that you may not, this may best be handled with an eye-roll and a little more patience.
Or, start writing fiction, where people aren't annoying, but character possibilities (as long as you can locate the exit).
While selling the book won't be an issue, and the agent will inevitably brag about her clients (which is a good sign, because that means she'll also brag about OP come the time), another thing to consider is that the OP is signing onto a relationship with this agent that will likely last years. And if the OP is this annoyed now, I'm wondering whether things will gradually settle, and the OP will get used to the agent's mannerisms, or whether the OP will always feel this way about the agent and his/her negative feelings might increase, which isn't good for any relationship.
So I guess my question is not whether this book will sell, but whether the relationship will be something the OP can live with. I hope so.
This reminds me of something just the opposite, like hearing a wonderful rich voice over the radio, then finally seeing the person only to notice they've been beat with an ugly stick. Some DJ's will joke in that self-deprecating way that this is why they do radio.
If she offers representation, passing this up would be like telling the Publisher's Clearinghouse Winner team, who are at your door with balloons and THE CHECK, which is printed in blue, "No thanks. I think I'll hold off for the pink colored check."
She's obviously successful. No one else cares what she sounds like, apparently. Right?
I would love to have this problem.
A couple of years ago, there was a popular video circulating FB. It was taken by a brother as his spoiled sister received a Miata for her birthday. Her "Daddy" led her out of their multi-mil home to see the bright red car with the big red bow - and she wigged out. "I wanted THE BLUE ONE!!!" much to the giggles of The Brother, who Got His when Sis realized he was taking the video.
I'm not suggesting this goes to that extreme, but that it's human nature to sit around pondering What We Want and then when we get really close, to fret about the little things.
This is a little thing.
Congrats on your Agent!!!
I, by the way, am still on cloud nine, but didn't make it to bed til 2 and am now thoroughly exhausted. But regardless, I still have a glowing, long review I can read as I yawn. :)
Someone who likes me once said if I ever get published I should hire a publicist because I sound like a hick on the phone. A lot of people aren't going to think I have two brain cells to rub together.
I wouldn't put too much stock in voices.
There are some shows I absolutely refuse to watch because of the voices of some of the actresses, but they aren't potentially making me money and giving me a career doing what I love.
Someone once asks a famous horseman what his favorite horse color was. "Whatever color the horse is who is who gets it done."
Good luck with your manuscript. I'm sure there are thousands of authors who would give a lot to be in your position. I know one quite well and I wouldn't have to drink a barrel of beer to pee in her pants.
I'm sure I'm not alone in saying this one -
I've worked professionally with lots of people who annoyed me.
At first I thought you were heading a different direction and I was about to yell "YES, GO WITH YOUR GUT." Because if something feels off, then you have a problem.
But when the something is something that the agent cannot control (such as her voice) and clearly it hasn't impeded her to this point (based on her signing deals), I'd agree with Janet. It's a superfluous thing to get hung up on, and it sounds to me like you haven't been in the query trenches long enough to realize the opportunity you have is wonderful. Because when you've traveled in the desert as long as some of us, and Agent Buttonwheezer shows up with a glass of water, you don't pass it up.
Finding an agent is tough. If you feel like it wasn't, or it didn't take long, or you think finding another would be easy, you're going about this whole business the wrong way. Great books, and I mean NYT best sellers and literary classics, barely managed to find one agent or one publisher to take a chance on them.
Spend ten minutes on THIS website and tell me you want to turn her down. Even if she sounds like a snake, with a long tail, perhaps like one slithery Barbara Poole (curses! I've used the beasts name again!), you should be jumping on this opportunity.
Listen to the voice that tells you something feels off. Don't listen to the one that tells you this is all simple and can be replicated whenever needed. Even if your book is destined for absolute incalculable greatness, someone has to believe in it as much as you do, and you've found a unicorn like that.
Ride the unicorn.
We all like the Shark. We all hope to have an agent we like. But it's more important to have an agent who is a good agent. To have an agent both likable and good at what they do would be ever so lovely. But to turn down a good agent in the hope of finding dream agent wouldn't be sensible.
What if you see the agent's picture and he is butt-ugly (at least in your eyes)? Or you meet her at a conference and she has a facial tick? Or a limp? Or a loud and/or snorty laugh?
What if all the time you're listening on the phone thinking, "Uggh that VOICE...!" she's thinking the exact same thing about you?
As much as we recognize that such judgments are unfair, we all make them. There are voices we like and voices we don't like, just as there is music we like and music we don't like. We want to treat people the same way regardless of how they look... and yet the pretty girl/guy still makes us smile or blush.
I hate hearing myself speak, and I'm considering a paper bag with eye-holes when it comes time for publicity pictures. Thankfully, these shortcomings haven't prevented me from being married and gainfully employed, so we know we can recognize them as natural but petty prejudices and overcome them.
As Janet said, go beyond the agent's tone and listen to her passion. That's what will sell your novel. My wife clearly saw something in me she connected with such that all my many failings appeared insignificant, so this is not an insurmountable problem.
All the best to you, Opie! :)
Hey Julie, (Weathers)
Can I just vent for a second?
Personally, I get pretty TICKED off when Southerners are immediately lumped into the stoopid category b/c we have a "twang." I've been on the receiving end of a such a snub long time ago - but I never forgot it. I had a long career in IT. Early on in that career, after a nine year stint, I was let go from ITT. (now Alcatel) They let me continue to work for them until I landed a new job. Which was extra-ordinarily nice.
So, the job was to fly up to New Jersey and train customers on their new ITT key system phones. I made a lot of friends as I went weekly, reporting into the regional office, and then driving all over New Jersey, upstate New York, anywhere a key system had been sold and they needed training. I was all of, oh, 26 or 27 at the time.
After about twelve weeks of this, the kind folks at the NJ regional ITT office threw a cookout party when they learned I'd landed a new job and would no longer be coming. They invited their neighboring businesses to attend because they had it in the parking lot - which was kind a like a strip mall. Cookers had been set up, we were having a few beverages, and eating hamburgers/hotdogs.
It was great until the Regional Manager says to one of the people invited from another business, "I want you to meet Donna, she's the reason for this shindig."
Me, reaching out to shake his hand, "Hey, nice to meet you."
Man, snorts while shaking my hand, "Hey? You mean Hi, or Hello."
Me, nervous laugh, "Oh. Okay. Hello?"
Man, "So. I hear you're from North Carolina."
Regional Mgr interjects, "She is, she is."
Me, "Yes, from Raleigh."
Man, "Uh huh, " turns and smirks at Reg. Mgr, "and where is that exactly? Isn't North Carolina the backdoor to Hicksville?"
Me, a short disbelieving laugh which I follow up with what is, evidently my BIGGEST linguistic error, "Oh, come on ya'll, that's...,"
And before I could finish, Man cuts me off and says, "And that right there is the downfall of the English language.
Needless to say, there was no more conversing with him. If that had happened today? I'd have reacted differently. As in a good old fashioned southern a** chewing the likes of which would have singed his hair. I'm afraid my "redneck" would have shown up and would have had some difficulty in departing until I spoke my mind. TWIT.
So, I can appreciate the "someone who likes you" saying to hire a publicist, but if someone said that to me, I don't think I'd appreciate it..., but that's just me.
I do think finally, finally, the stigma of a southern accent is not as likely to be viewed as lacking brain cells. My most recent boss - who was one of my ALL time favorite bosses, was from Brooklyn. You'se shoulda hoid him.
Congrats to the OP for getting to where you are. If the agent's credentials are top notch than obviously voice isn't a hindrance to being a successful agent. Go for it and good luck!
Donna: "If you want to judge me because my form of English has a way of expressing the second person plural pronoun that distinguishes it from the second person singular pronoun, then take that up with the myriad of languages that also make a similar distinction, not to mention Old English, including the King James Bible and Shakespeare!" Then you throw your drink in his face. ;)
First of all, great title Janet.
Okay, I'm going the other way here with marriage. You're not marrying this agent for crying out loud and you're not going to be spending everyday with her. You won't be sitting across the table from her at meal times, you're not going to be in bed with her every night before you go off to dreamland, so what's the big deal?
The big deal is she's likes your work and she gets it. And you should be happy she's bragging about her clients and the deals she's made for them. You could end up being one of those clients.
Like someone else said, I don't think you've been in the trenches long. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. Otherwise, you would jump at this opportunity. I think you probably think (and forgive me if I'm wrong) I hooked an agent so quickly, there'll be other agents coming to call, so why choose the one who annoys me. I'll turn her down and wait for one who is mellifluous.
The problem with thinking that way is there may not be another offer. When you're querying your 100th agent, you'll be kicking yourself and saying, why didn't I go with her?
My ms is lighthearted, and what's currently in-style appears to be the dark and gritty stuff. Last week I received a personalized rejection which stated my ms was “lovely” but not the dark stuff she represents. Said agent B encouraged me to continue querying because she was sure this would find a home. Now she may say that last part to everyone, but the tone of this email was very encouraging. And after the form rejection from agent A I received just a few days prior to this one, which stated basically “I have a lot of clients and I can't see wasting my time on your ms”, I don't care if this agent B is old, fat, snaggle toothed, with a voice like a buzz saw. I'd jump over the moon wearing a cow costume [which, come to think of it, probably isn't a costume] to have agent B rep me.
A father once tried to bribe his little boy to do a chore.
“I'll give you a shiny new nickel if you do that for me.”
“Can I have a battered old quarter instead?”
Take the battered old quarter who loves you. Don't die broke.
I have a pal (not a good pal, but a she'll-take-my-phone-call pal) who's got six books and awards and is a regular on the conference set. When I was offered rep by two agents and called her to get her advice because I had no one else, she said to simply go with who got the book the best. That was the only criteria. So I think you've got an easy decision. Congratulations.
She also told me something that many might find disagreeable (and it's her saying it, not me): she said that she doesn't know many writers who like their agents. She respects her and she has a career because of her, and her agent is great at getting her books sold, and is a great person to navigate all the crap that comes with publishing. But she and her agent aren't buddies; they only talk the books, only see each other when business requires them to be together. But she gets her books sold, gets her freelance assignments. And that's the agent's job.
Now, I like my agent a lot, but I do think there is a danger of all of us in wanting agents to be more than they are -- we get desperately needed validation from them, and I think we like to like anyone who likes our books (there's some solid writing there, huh?). We expect them to be cheerleaders and editors and confidants and best friends. And I'm sure that sometimes happens. But we have to remember that their job is to find someone to publish the books we write. Anything else is gravy, and expecting anything else is unrealistic. The job itself is enough.
So Opie (I love that, Colin), I hope she stays in love with the book to offer rep and you get at least that validation, and if you think she likes the book enough to sell it, then congratulations, and welcome to the next step.
I have a y'all story that I didn't witness, but heard from South Carolina friends. They vacationed in France with his brother-in-law, who had not traveled widely. In an elegant gift shop, he wondered if he could order items sent to his home, so inquired of the proprietress, "Y'all sheee-ip?"
She responded with a blank look, so my friend pulled him aside and explained that he should try again in less-regional English.
So he obligingly repeated the question: "DEW y'all sheee-ip?"
Donna, some people are idiots no matter where they're from, like that man who spoke to you. But, speaking about a Brooklyn accent, that reminds me of the story about the boid on thoidy-thoid and thoid.... Okay, sorry, I had to go there.
Colon, I love what you say about voices being like different styles of music. Not everyone likes the same music, amen to that. I think your wife fell in love with you for more than your British accent, but I'm sure it didn't hurt.
Dena, I don't know what you look like, but I can just picture you jumping over the moon wearing a cow costume. LOL! You made my day. (It doesn't take much, does it. *sigh*)
I don't know if this a little TMI, but when my wife had a tubal pregnancy, I called 911 as she looked like a Kabuki theater reject with dark circles around her eyes. Paramedics arrived and couldn't find a pulse. They get her to the Cedar Sinai Emergency room and have the crash team doing all sorts of tests. I had managed to get a message to her least favorite doctor, and he arrived and saved my wife's life. He had the bedside manner of a Russian foot soldier in Berlin in the spring of 45. He said in his odd creaky voice."I've never had someone lose so much blood and survive." As I hugged him I thought he sounded like Cary Grant.
We still joke about his voice, but at least she's here to laugh with.
Whenever I hear a Brooklyn accent, I think of home, of growing up surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles. I think of driveways and red brick stoops and loud laughter. It makes me smile.
My accent has long faded, by way of NJ and FL, but every once in awhile, you can hear it. It does kind of throw people off to hear - "Ya'll want some caw-fee." :)
I might be reading too much into this, but it sounds to me that it's more than just the sound of the agent's voice that bothers OP. Talking "non-stop" might mean the agent is coming across as rude. When OP gets The Call, can she ask for a week or two to think it over? Then, she can contact the other agent(s) who have her query to see if there's any interest. Or, would it be bad form to ask for time to think it over after they have already talked on the phone several times?
Hank, I'm sure that doctor not only sounded like Cary Grant on that day, he looked like him as well. Glad your wife is around to share the laughter.
Eileen, good points. I think if this agent does offer representation, she should contact the other agents she queried and let them know. She very well may get other offers and then she can decide. The advice Janet and others have given is not to jump at an offer, but to take your time and choose wisely.
InkSW, that's hilarious! It reminds me of a story in reverse. My husband and I were traveling to Beaufort in South Carolina and we couldn't find the way to get there. I told my husband to stop and ask for directions (just the thought of asking was already an ordeal for him). So after 20 minutes of turning around he pulled up along side a lady walking down the street:
Patrick (in a French accent): Is zeese zee way to Beaufor?
Lady: Beaufor, hmm? No, never heard of it and I'm from around these parts.
He thanked her and asked a gentleman going by. He didn't know either and looked just as confused.
Me: Okay, let me ask the next person. I think your accent is the problem.
Another person comes along...
Me: Can you tell us how to get to Beaufor?
Him: Beaufor? No. (He looks at me and thinks for a second.) Oh wait, you mean Bweufurt! Yeah....
Well, in this case, it was my former editor and a very good friend. She was joking, but we banter back and forth, with odd remarks. Oddly enough, she's from Tennessee and lives in Texas now. I can't trace any accent, but perhaps it's my ear. I can't detect an accent in my boys either and my mother laughs about it.
She did say if people listen to what you're saying, they'll pick up the vocabulary, but that accent. I don't think it's that bad. It's probably gone now since I've been in yankee land. I'm going to start listening to recordings of Shelby Foote just to listen to him speak. I don't care if he's reading the phone book.
I'll take a little ribbing, but I'm not going to be insulted. I can usually eviscerate someone verbally in a very charming way. Or not. It depends on how many beers I've had.
You're right though, some people do tend to equate being from the south with certain stereotypes.
I remember going back to Montana once and some shirttail kin started making fun of my accent and asking me if they were saying "you all right."
"I guess it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to sound like an idiot, you're doing fine."
Donnaeve - I'm from New England. I'm a good ol' Yank. And I spent, as you know, time in Ark. And I throw y'all around like candy. It fits. It works. There's nothing like it. I don't do it in ignorance, I do it purposefully, not to irk others, not to make a statement, but because IT STINKING WORKS AS A PART OF COLLOQUIAL ENGLISH.
And, all right, I'll come right out and say it.
I have a Harvard degree.
There, it's out.
And one from Wellesley. Where Hillary went. And if she ends up on the ticket, God forbid, I'll vote for her. But I digress.
And a third from the University of Vermont. In Vermont, there's a saying. What makes a Yankee?
If you live East of the Mississippi, people consider themselves Yankees.
But those North of the Mason-Dixon line scoff and say, "Nope. You have to live up here to be a Yank."
But those in the Northeast scoff and say, "Nope. You have to live here to be a Yank."
But those in New England scoff and say, "You people are out of your mind. If you aren't a New Englander, You aren't a Yankee."
But those in Northern New England scoff and say, "Where do you people get off calling yourselves Yankees? You have to live up HERE to call yourselves Yankees!"
And those in Vermont huddle up in the winter and wonder what the heck everyone else is talking about. "We ORIGINATED the term Yankee."
And those BORN in Vermont look at those not born in Vermont and say "You don't even BELONG here. You're not a Yankee."
And then those born in the Northeast Kingdom shiver and say, "Shut up, pass me the whiskey, and what the hell's the debate about? None of you know anything about what it means to be a TRUE Yankee."
The whole thing is a matter of perspective, y'all. I've lived in the Northeast Kingdom, and my kids were born in VT and raised in the Northeast Kingdom - and they say y'all. My nieces and nephews - one of them half Thai - were born in the Raleigh-Durham area.
So you can just tell those people all from me that they can take their elitism and s*0ve it. And if they need anatomical descriptions, I'm happy to provide them.
So there. Ppppthht!
(Julie steps off of soap box, waves wand, and makes it disappear.)
(I have lots of soap boxes. Have you noticed? Many of them revolve around people treating other people not-nicely. WE'RE ALL HERE ON THIS SAME STINKING PLANET, EXISTING TOGETHER! For goodness' sake.)
Wait, I guess that wand waving didn't quite take. Maybe I'd better give it another try...
Donna, also tying back to the OP but more on another note, for a brief period after the Mean Surgeon incident, I worked in finance. I was sick of surgeon elitism and needed a breather from medicine. So I talked to rich people and managed their money for a while.
Every morning, this guy called (No, I'm NOT kidding) Mr. Dong would call, and one of us lowly not-rich people would talk to him. And so at 8:00 on the dot, somewhere on the floor, (we'd all get very quiet and wait so we could giggle in a very juvenile manner), someone would get to pipe up, "GOOD MORNING, MR. DONG, HOW ARE YOU!"
And the killer was that Dong was a horrible, mean person, so it was okay to give it right back to him. Sort of. I won't tell you his first name, because that isn't cool. But it made the entire scenario very giggle worthy, and those phone calls were usually a good 40 or 50 minutes long, because he never BELIEVED anything we told him - even though we told him essentially the same things, in uber-cheery voices each and every morning. It was like a contest - who could out-cheery Mr. Dong the best.
It was "turn the other cheek" taken to the extreme.
"Yes! I am absolutely sure that 'x' fund dropped by ten cents a share last night! I am so sorry, I know what that does for your portfolio this morning, but there is always tomorrow's 8:00 call to look forward to!" Said with utter sincerity and complete cheer. Every. Single. Time. And with a floor of over a hundred of us trying our best to do our jobs while listening to whoever was dealing with this impossible man in as pleasant a manner as they could.
So, anyway, my point - and I do have one - is that every job, even writing, is about customer service and professionalism. And if people don't get that, that's their problem, not ours. We rise above and treat people - Agents, editors, other writers - with as much kindness, professionalism, and cheer as we can summon - even when they reply with downright ignorance about our accents or positions.
"I guess it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're trying to sound like an idiot, you're doing fine."
Julie, this goes right into my "Might Come In Handy Some Day " file!
LynnRodz: You're right. My piano playing. Not that it's spectacular, but she has a thing for musicians. That and my accent sealed the deal. ;)
And if I'm Colon, does that mean my children are semi-colons? ;)
Sorry to pick on you for a typo, but I can't pass up an opportunity for some "Dad humor" (my kids would say, "Yes, you can. Really.") :D
Being from Maine, I guess I could be called a Yankee, but prefer being called a Red Sox fan.....oooof!
Over here in France I'm just called Hank the Yank by my British friends, although to irk them I call myself a colonist.
Colin - and your grandchildren will be demi-semi-colons, and your great-grandchildren will be hemi-demi-semi-colons.
And if they marry Powells... or Pollips... Never mind.
You know, for me... I really wish you hadn't gone there. Truly. Because now I'm thinking endoscopy, and that's just... not a pleasant place to go.
hank/Julie: So, would the term "colonist" also apply to someone with a prejudice against me? :)
anti-colonist? but I don't believe anyone would be against you Colin.
Thanks LynnRodz, for the kind thought.
Okay, I'm spending way more time here than I should.
Colin, sorry about that typo! LOL!
Julia, that reminds me when I was working at this int'l lawyers' office here in Paris back in the 80s. All their clients were extremely well-known and wealthy. Anyway, I was doing a friend a favor, she was on maternity leave and I was filling in for a few months. On my first day, the phone rang and I answered:
Voice on the phone: Let me speak to Maître S.
Me: May I say who's calling?
Voice: Who is this? Don't you know who I am?
Me: No, I'm sorry I don't.
Voice: I'm the Duchess, of course.
Me: Well, sorry Duchess, how was I to know?
She was very hoity-toity that day, but after I took her several paper to sign (she lived right across the street from their office on the Avenue Montaigne) she turned out to be really nice. The only problem was, like your Mr. Dong, she would call every single day to chat. I think in reality they were just lonely.
You folks are great.
So, my mom's from Maine. I used to spend two to three weeks there every summer. Auburn to be specific. Reid State Park. Sebago Lake. Old Orchard Beach. Some of my best memories ever.
Every now and then (like Madeline-Mora's sneaky dialect) she'll reference North Carolina as Nawth Carolina, or say picture like pitcha. Cracks me up. Plus she made me eat grits with sugar and butter growing up which was sacrilegious to my grandmother on my Dad's side (he was from here) who said it was a sin. We ought to be eating them with red eye gravy or at least just butter, salt and pepper if my mother didn't know how to make it. She learned.
Julie W - with the context of who said it behind your story, it actually becomes funny. I get it.
Julia - "might could" works, as does, "well dang, I knowed it when I seen it." :) That last one might be pushing it a little.
Hank - I love that your called Hank The Yank, but I think I like "colonist" better. (Ha, sorry Colin!)
This American Life had an episode on "vocal fry" and the disturbing trend that older people dislike young women's voices, although male voices display the same vocal tics with even greater prevalence. While young women are perceived as having grating and whiny voices, older people have no problems listening to men. I'm paraphrasing horribly, but it's disturbing nonetheless. Listen to TAL episode 545.
Donnaeve - I use "might could" judiciously and in specific situations.
Thing one: "Can we go to Pizza Putt?"
Me: (Deliberating over whether I can afford time away from MS) "We might could do that - if y'all get your chores done."
Thing one: Grooooaaaan.
Me: (Smile. Get back to MS.)
Great words Matt Adams! Thanks!
Woah, french sojourn! Wow.
Great question and answer. :)
I love accents and I love voices! All of em! They feel like windows into minds I want to know. Even ones I find not aesthetically pleasing still make me smile and feel stoked to hear it. So many great accents in my neighborhood! Love it!
LynnRodz - glad I made your day with my cow over the moon line. As to what I look like, other attorneys describe me to my clients who are looking for me in court (most eviction attorneys don't meet their clients in person until the day of trial) as "you can't miss her. She's the one with the Roseann Roseannadanna hair". I don't have bangs, but apparently that description works because my clients always seem to find me among the crowds. Is that good or not? Maybe I need a makeover.......
Congrats on the intense interest of a successful agent, OP!
Go LynnRodz! I was going to say the same thing about marriage, but you said it much better.
Maybe I'm strange, but the only times I've found a person's voice annoying, it's been not so much the sound of the voice but what they're saying.
Considering turning down the perfect agent because of her voice, to me, is like turning down the perfect spouse because they have a mole on their nose.
I just had a flashback to Jerry Seinfeld. Remembering all the dates and partners the main characters had. "She's perfect in every other way, but her voice..." <-- I'm sure that was the plot for more than a few episodes.
As for accents and regionalisms (and that's what we're talking about when we talk about the 'southern' or 'Brooklyn' way of talking) - I grew up surrounded by eastern European accents: Ukrainian. Polish. Russian. Even German. Including my own family. Accents are incredible cultural trophies. They say where we're from, and often where our parents and grandparents were from. They show what times you, your parents, your grandparents have lived through. They have nothing to do with intelligence, and everything to do with culture.
My niece's boyfriend has a strong Russian accent (he's from Russia). He speaks quietly, because he's afraid of people taking note of his accent. When we can get him to speak up (as some of us have slight - or more than slight - hearing impediments), he has a beautiful voice and his accent is wonderful. And it's just so sad that he doesn't feel confident enough in his past or his present to speak normally.
French Sojourn: Beautiful, appropriate, and insightful story. So happy all went well for you two.
Lizzie: That's interesting. I wonder if that 'vocal fry' is actually a result of fading hearing on the part of the elderly?
I remember reading articles about how the speakers in a certain small region of England had the friendliest voices on the phone. And it's not like they had the clearest enunciation or the best understandability or anything. It's just that people receiving phone calls find their voices friendlier, no matter what they were actually saying.
First time through, ReCaptcha asked for ice cream. Sure. Then had to do it again and it asked for drinks! But only two. If I keep commenting, maybe I'll get tipsy?
Get you first book published with whatever it takes. If it goes well you too might learn to appreciate that agent. If not, and you book is a success, then the whole thing will make shopping a new agent easier. The voice might be different in public. I am pretty sure my voice doesn't sound the same when it is recorded. It is hard to tell the difference between train wreck though.
I live in Tampa and like most of the rest of the people in Tampa I am from elsewhere. We have such a huge amount of dialects here that they cancel out. I do prefer using some of the twang I retain from raising hell in south Georgia. It gets worse when I'm in contact with a snob with a Yankee accent.
I am officially an old fart ( or surly curmudgeon) starting today. That allows me to say the "y" word.
Dena - I LOVE Roseann Roseannadanna! And I'm pretty sure my (only) lawyer friend - also a dedicated Arkie transplant (originally from CA) - also loves her. Excellent.
Craig - say whatever words define you, in whatever way you want. After all, here we are. On this blog. By definition... don't words define us? Isn't that why we're here?
I grew up hearing "You're from Boston? But you don't have any accent!"
Yeah. Well, I also grew up with a father who grew up in Miami under the strict tutelage of his father - who had been in the British Royal Navy. And so I heard the crack of the whip...
"THERE'S AN 'R' IN THAT WORD, YOUNG LADY!"
"WITH WHICH! DO NOT END THAT SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION!"
"Do you Really want me to proofread that essay / lab report / math paper? Are you sure? Have you already gone through it? More than once?"
He drove me crazy.
He also gave me the giggles during Easter Vigil Mass when yellow hat lady got up to do Gen 1. Every stinking year. "Hey. Julie. It's her. Mr. Rogers / Romper Room does "Evening came... Morning followed. The first day." And I would lose it - every single time.
Knowing the rules - and breaking them judiciously. ;)
And now I love him for it. I know the rules - and I also feel free to break them at will. I hear his voice as I write and as I speak and as I teach my kids, and I miss him like crazy. And now, I do have an accent - but it draws from Downeast Maine; the Ozarks; Boston; Northern Vermont; and a little bit of rural Ohio. It's just America.
I hope when my kids get "out there," they know what the current expectations are; I hope they can write coherent fiction and nonfiction pieces at their educational level. And I hope they also feel free to break the rules and enjoy doing it - knowing why they're doing it.
Oh, drat. I'm on that stupid box again.
You see? This is why I write. :)
Congrats on the agent interest, Original Questioner! I feel your pain and I think if this agent's speaking voice is the only thing which bothers you, you should go ahead and work with her should that offer be placed on the table.
There are some voices I cannot countenance, I guess maybe because of the tonality? But I blame my migraine brain for that; it's a useful (and typically truthful) catchall. But I LOVE accents and try to get people to speak more when I realize they have one (I try to be subtle about this, not "OMG I LOVE YOUR VOICE TALK TO ME").
I'm from New Jersey and so use "you guys" as a genderless collective address. I've also had to be on the phone in nearly every job I've had, from Sea Girt Foodtown up through the Cat Fancier's Association (they used to be in Manasquan, NJ which was .6 miles from my house) and now at my local library. I've cultivated a "professional" phone voice with its own mannerisms which is, say, bereft of the liberal vulgarity with which I typically pepper my conversation (audience depending; my grandmother has not heard me say the word "fuck", as a for instance).
Just got home from work, read the post and only some comments.
For anyone old enough to remember Jim Neighbors, he had the hokiest backwoods voice there was and yet that man had an awesome (rich baritone) singing voice.
What the agent sounds like should not be the issue. That she connects with your work and does her job, (baritone to soprano), is what it's about. You don't need a nice voice to have brains, you need brains to have brains.
I've shared this before, but I'm a slow learner. I'm back to learning how to speak Irish again.
"You need brains to have brains"
2n's that's going on my wall at work. That's hilarious.
All this talk about linguistics has me jumping back into old Labov studies I researched in college. There's so much good stuff in there, but the most common misconception is that language is somehow ruined when it accomplishes its chief goal outside of the realm of standardization. It's garbage really, as Donna experienced. Intelligence isn't linked at all to the way we talk. It's linked to the way we think. Just because we communicate an idea by dropping an /r/ or by conjugating you all to ya'll doesn't make someone stupid.
It made me red in the gills just to read about your experience Donna. Same with yours Julie.
:) And Colin, I didn't know you dabbled in piano?! I gave up dabbling in it when my wife played a few lines of Rhapsody in Blue. Of course she memorized the whole song in two weeks. She's ridiculous.
You can hear her play it by clicking here.
Good working music. :)
brian: Have you visited my blog? Every Monday I share a song and usually some anecdote associated with that song. That little blog feature is one outlet for the past 30 years of my "dabbling" in music--be it piano, guitar, recorder, or whatever else. As a self-taught musician I don't lay claims to great virtuosity, but I have a pretty good ear, and I get by on the mechanics. :)
This is exciting news, OP, and I hope it all works out and Agent will be bragging about you to another of us Woodland Creatures someday soon!!!!
I tend to speak too loud or too fast on the phone and I forget things like the names of my kids or the last book I read. I'm just an on-paper kinda gal who LOVES texting and email and Twitter with all my heart. (Though I do fine If I have a script - Hi, this is Jenny from Next Chapter Bookshop calling to say your special order is in.) So give her a break. We all have our quirks. :)
Best of luck!
Happy birthday, Craig!
I remember Jim Neighbors. Great actor, great singer. He had operatic singing instruction, as I remember, so his singing voice... amazing.
"the most common misconception is that language is somehow ruined when it accomplishes its chief goal outside of the realm of standardization"
Bingo. Language's one and only purpose is to communicate. And as long as the person you are talking to understands what you are saying, language is working. And if people can't understand what someone is saying (as in the prior cases of Beaufort and 'ya'll sheeeup') then it means that both listener and speaker have to work harder at their respective roles.
My niece's boyfriend? In his case, language doesn't work when he tries to hide his accent by speaking quietly. He needs to speak louder and the listener needs to listen closer.
To kind of pull this discussion back to writing: When I'm critiquing a piece for someone, I don't critique dialogue as closely as I do narration. If the dialogue has been grammatically correct for most of a piece, I might give a note saying "Grammatically, it would need to be 'this', but that doesn't mean you need to change it. So long as you know."
Because fictional dialogue is a strange chimera. We like to think it's 'spoken language' rather than 'written language'... but it's not quite. It's 'spoken language' written so that it's comprehensible outside of being heard. Kind of a cleaned up 'spoken language'. Sure, we might include an 'umm' or 'like', but we won't include every 'umm' or every 'like' in dialogue.
But again, as long as it is comprehensible, written dialogue doesn't have to follow the same rules as written narrative. And if it's incomprehensible, that's okay, as long as the author *means* it to be incomprehensible. If that's not what the author means, then it needs some cleaning. This is similar to 'don't write dialogue in dialect' - you don't want your reader to get lost in the dialogue. You want them to get the flavour without drowning in it.
I love language. I would have taken a full linguistics degree if the university I attended offered one at the time. Instead, I took anthropology, because that was the only degree there that included linguistics.
Colin, I had no idea! I've only seen fascinating musings on your blog, but I need to check it more often! Just made a calendar event reminder to look on mondays! I love that idea! Looking forward to hearing some beautiful melodies!
bj: I would even go so far as to suggest that the only place for formal i's-dotted-and-t's-crossed grammar and style is the English grammar textbook. Allowing language to breathe and not be confined to the straight-jacket of "Don't end a sentence with a preposition!" and "Don't start a sentence with a conjunction!" and "Never split an infinitive" and "Keep to the third person!" allows for VOICE. It makes the writing sound less stuffy, and a bit more accessible. I've read so much academic literature that could have been presented more enjoyably if the author had taken a few liberties with his style. It's a careful balance between not writing exactly how you speak and writing with such grammatical and stylistic precision you lose any sense of joy and enthusiasm in the prose. I just wanted to point out that this applies to non-fiction as well as fiction--at least IMO.
brian: At the moment I present music from CDs, give some help to people trying to figure out how to play the song, etc. As yet I haven't posted any of my own attempts to play. That might change in the near future... :)
2Ns: I do remember Jim Neighbors and his "gollll-ly."
LynnRodz, Colin, and Julie: like the spins y'all are putting on Colon's new name!
accents: In southern Illinois (I call it southern, they probably do not), I have many cousins and, as a child, every summer I spent at least a week there with all of them. In particular, Sandy and I would sometimes get into making fun of each other's accents. Until I met her niece from Georgia! Then Sandy said to me, "Now THAT's southern. I don't go 'round saying y'all."
And when I lived on an island in Scotland, the Glaswegian man that I worked with knew that if it was important for me to understand what he was saying, he would stand next to me, almost nose to nose, drop his brogue, and speak slowly and plainly. Then he would ask if I understood. It became a comical game between us but he made special concessions for me due to my hearing impairment.
And boy howdy, were there accents for me to learn on that island. The cook, from Edinburgh, liked to swallow her words. The more tense and stressed she was (most of the time) the more words she swallowed. One day, when she had tried and tried to tell me the menu, so I could announce it to the guests, she finally wrote it on a piece of paper. "Toe-mah-toe and bah-zul soup." Nothing Midwest about that. And then there was the Northern Irish woman from Belfast who loved to hear me to pronounce "oregano."
Fun derailment here.
The OP can always suggest to the agent that she puts on another accent. Perhaps Welsh, or Klingon. Something less annoying. The agent wouldn't mind at all. Or suck it up and grab that great agent with both hands and don't let go. We all get annoyed by little things from other people from time to time. I get annoyed when Sharkums runs out of cake. Then I have none. But we have to grin and ignore the annoyance.
Brian - True, and understood. However, there are those out there who - right or wrong - draw conclusions based on the colloquialisms used. "Proper" grammar is, at this point, a colloquialism. One of many.
The choice to use it - or not - is a choice.
Having the knowledge and ability to use when appropriate it is putting a tool in the toolbox that one would otherwise not have, just as learning French when going to France is putting a tool in that same toolbox.
I don't begrudge my dad his /r/ dropping ways. He was passing down to me what was passed down to him by parents who were raised in the "You don't earn enough to go into that building or buy that item" era. For him, and for many like him, language was either damning - or elevating. It was a label.
And, as we have seen by the posts not only today but over the past few weeks - it still is, for many in this country.
"Y'all" is one of many, many words that provide examples which are freely used and which people either use to judge - or not. But the fact remains that SOME people judge others based on language.
And knowing how to use which colloquialisms in which situations is a tool which I will not readily abandon - and so whether "preposition not at end of sentence" belongs only in Strunk, when I'm surrounded by those whom I know will judge me based on that standard, you BET I'll stick to it. It's just not a battle I choose to fight.
When I'm with friends and family? I don't give a damn.
And hanging out here on the blog? I feel perfectly safe saying, "I don't give a damn." But two weeks ago I would never have put that here. It's another choice.
Yes, I agree that language is changing - and I agree that it ought to change. But I also believe that understanding both ends of the curve - how it was thirty years ago and how it is likely to be ten or twenty years from now - are both tools I want to be able to use, whether they are deemed currently valid or not.
It also allows me to write "Stuffy 14th century Arwein" and "Petulant 11 year old Daniel" with reasonably sympathetic and characteristic voices. Or at least, I hope and hear that it does.
Just my perspective.
Julie: I totally agree with you: "proper" grammar is a tool for the toolbox, not a hammer to wield and beat your prose to death with (see what I did there? :D). There are times when you will need it, even in your fiction. Speaking with grammatical precision can be as much of a character trait as any other accent or speech pattern, and can tell you something about that character. Maybe they are well-educated, or they like to appear well-educated. Perhaps it's a veil to hide behind, ashamed of one's perceived social status (think Hyacinth Bucket in "Keeping Up Appearances").
Funny - I have what my family used to call my "Nortel voice." Proper English, no "might could," no "mash the button," no strong southern pronunciations of various words. I could reign it in, although I'm sure I still carried a bit of that twang.
Because my Mom's from Maine, I suspect my accent isn't as "flat" as it could be. Anywho just notice discussion about when and when not to use colloquialisms, etc.
Also, it's Jim Nabors vs Neighbors. Weeeeellllll gaaaaaa-aaawwwlllly.
Colin - I had a big heads' up about "Educated Language" when I was teaching in Rural AR and a 11th grade Chem student wrote a note to me on a test paper that said: "Dear Ms. Davis (my maiden name) - why are you even trying? None of us are going to Harvard - none of us are even applying to Harvard - so what difference does it make?"
I changed my approach after that. I also talked to the kid about attitudes and expectations.
Julie: About the Harvard thing... I worked with a guy once who had his Computer Science degree from Harvard. He didn't tell me. In fact, I either found out (I worked for a brief time in HR so I would have seen where he went to school), or I asked him directly where he went to university. When he told me he asked me not to make a big deal about it--he didn't really like to mention the fact. So you're the second Harvard grad I've known who is reluctant to discuss their illustrious college background. That can't be good for the school--having such a good reputation graduates don't like to say they went there! :)
Of course, Colin, most of the examples you gave are things that true style afficionados know have never really been rules. :)
These 'rules' are why I say Strunk & White's elements of style are a good START, but really. If you want to know true style, read several style guides. AP. Chicago Manual of Style. Even Grammar Girl's blog and website. You'll get to know what is a diehard rule and what is simply prejudice. And even diehard rules can be broken if you know what you are doing. If you don't know what you're doing, you don't know how to break rules elegantly.
Jed: This --> Or suck it up and grab that great agent with both hands and don't let go.
And I see why you're *still* poor and *still* dead. :)
You're right, Donnaeve. I spelled Mr Nabors' name wrong. And I knew the right spelling, too. It just didn't click when I was typing it.
Harvard would have hated me. That's why I didn't go. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it... the fact that I couldn't afford to go to a university out of the province has no bearing on the case.)
I got to choose food. And the fun thing? The rest of the pictures were all of the alcoholic beverage variety. I told you. ReCAPTCHA *knows* what time it is.
bj: Try telling that to people who write much of the academic literature floating around. Clearly they aren't "style aficionados"! ;)
Speaking of music, we were weren't we?
Anyway I used to write music for a band way back when I was blond and beautiful. I'm not blond anymore. Seeing and hearing a band play my tunes was beyond awesome.
I was famous for one set.
BJ - I couldn't afford it either. However. There is a particular - unusual trait - in my family that is a double edged sword. On the one hand, I get nauseated at the prospect of talking to people (socially. Patients, clients, and the like don't count. I can give speeches. But put me face to face with a "real live" human actually interested in me, and you'd better have an airsickness bag handy. It extends to lurking for two years before chatting on a blog.) The
The flip side - or other edge - to this double-edged sword is that I take standardized tests well. Very well. And in certain well defined circumstances not related whatsoever to real life - that can be an advantage.
My son is currently struggling with this trait in its extreme expression; it's agonizing for me because I've seen pretty negative outcomes. I was lucky, in a lot of ways, and I'm so very grateful for everything I've experienced. I've had an extraordinarily rich life. But I do worry about my kids. :)
There are many of us who went to school "In Boston" or "In Cambridge," because people make as many assumptions about that - like that you must be rich - as they do about "y'all." :) There are rich folks there. But there are poor ones too. Mostly, they're people who are curious and passionate about something, and I loved every minute.
Academic literature is a whole different category. And a very elite one, in that the only people who actually want to read it are other academic people. Shall we just call it ... umm... how about a 'niche market'? :)
Harvard would have hated me. We didn't really have standardized testing. At least, not much. Of course, I don't remember high school much at all anymore. I probably would have done okay - I always enjoyed tests - but I wouldn't have been able to afford to live away from home. I wasn't trying to imply you were rich. Just that, for someone in Saskatchewan, Canada, to go to Harvard, it would take a lot of money just to *be* there. I didn't know anything about scholaraships. I could only find information about local ones. And then there would be the travel, including getting a student Visa. Impossible? Probably not. But I didn't know it was possible.
The reason I couldn't take linguistics? Well, the first university I went to (my first year) had a good linguistics program. I was living on my own and enjoying my classes. Then my parents moved to the other city with the other university in the province, and dragged me kicking and screaming to live with them there. I tried my darnedest to get a summer job that would let me stay at the other city, but couldn't find one in the time my parents had given me. The problem was, although this other university offered some linguistics classes as part of an anthropology degree, the linguistics part of the program was pretty much useless. But I did learn a lot about culture taking anthropology, and I think that shows in my novels.
Choose the food. I'm waiting for my supper to cook, and I am so hungry... OpenID error. So, yes, ReCAPTCHA knows what time it is. So it gave me cakes. *headdesk*
The agent sounds pretty keen, the only one I knew would sit across a desk while chain smoking hand rolled Turkish tobacco, from a stubby ivory cigarette holder, pinched erect between her thumb and and forefinger. The only word she'd utter would be the occasional, 'Yes' with which she'd punctuate a prospect's stream of hyperbole and pronounced with a deep glottal extension of the vowel, that only a chronic smoking habit could produce. Let's call her Mr. C, she was something of a legend but her and her kind I suppose, are long gone, replaced by the ebullience borne of a rolling order of double strength espresso from the nearest coffee chain outlet.
I loooove this question. OP, do you not realize how lucky you are! Some of us would kill to be in your position. It's a bit petty. Maybe now that you're on the verge of success, you're a little scared? Self-sabotage? I'm sure once your book starts selling millions of copies her voice will grow on you. My yoga teacher's has. At first, with her Eastern European accent, whenever I opened my eyes to check that I was doing the pose correctly, I expected to see a dominatrix! But now, I have transformed with her voice; it's amazing.
Donnaeve, great analogy re the balloons.
Colin, I'm sure that was an unfortunate typo on LynnRodz's part. Whoops, I instantly went to the other definition of colon, not the grammatical one! (I usually use the 'm' dash)
Turn the tables, OP. What if your writing is brilliant, but you have some sort of physical drawback or speech impediment, etc.? How would you feel being judged by that?
*s* Why do we catch things only after we've posted?
Dena, speaking about voices and Roseanne Roseannadanna's hair, now there's a voice you either loved or hated! I personally loved her.
Jed, there seems to be an interesting story about you, Janet, and cake. Did you tell it and I missed it, or is it a private joke between you and Ms. Shark?
Colin, now I'm going to have to pay extra attention whenever I type your name!
To the OP:
The question I'd ask straight off is this—do you respect the agent?
We'll never all like each other and even when we do like each other, we won't like everything about each other. You don't have to like everything about an agent, but if you're going to work with them, you should respect them (for their work, if nothing else). A relationship without respect, particularly a professional relationship, is a relationship that's best ended before it begins.
Not even a writer can write off the importance of respect.
Gilda Radner was a comic genius. Her hair was thicker than mine, but otherwise mine is similar to hers, unruly and always looks like it needs a good brushing.
I don't like my voice but I don't think it sounds like hers.
It's always something.
It sounded to me as though the problem was not just the voice, it was the fact that the agent talked at great length about herself, her deals, her other clients. My guess is, it's unlikely that an agent would take up an editor's time with her brilliant career - I wouldn't worry so much about whether she might come across to an editor the way she did to me. I WOULD be a little worried by someone who, on the client side, spent time talking that she could have spent listening. Selling a book is not just selling a book - a good deal is not the deal for the biggest bucks, but the deal that gives most weight to the client's priorities. If an agent thinks she will impress a client by talking about herself, rather than getting a sense of what the client cares about, that's -- something to bear in mind.
If Deal With Good Money is OP's only concern, OP's priorities are probably aligned with the agent's and there's probably nothing to worry about.
Bottom line is - Do you think you could trust this person with your book?
Did the bragging sound legit or like it was puffing? (I remember one dubious agent's website where she crowed about several ebook-only "deals" with small presses that don't require agents.) Can you verify any of these deals or maybe talk to a client?
As to her presentation. You're not interviewing roommates. When I jacked my shoulder up the first time, my orthopod was an unctuous prick. Could not stand the man. Yet, since his patient list included several professional athletes whose shoulders earned them more in a week than I made in a year, I had faith in this guy's ability to cut and sew on me if it came to that. When it was important, I would be asleep and not have to listen to him. [As the old joke goes, "What's the difference between God and a surgeon? God doesn't compare himself to surgeons."]
If you trust this agent, she will be doing the important stuff during the time you don't have to listen to her. And music is in the ear of the beholder. Frankly, if I was agented and heard the word "sold," I wouldn't care if she sounded like Jabba the Hut.
To paraphrase her Sharkiness - "quit over-analyzing."
> you're right to realize she was trying to impress you as much as you were trying to impress her.
OK Janet, so tell us, please please, pretty please - what do *you* sound like on the phone when you're trying to impress a writer you want to reel in? (Now THERE'S a flash fic contest if I ever saw one.) I wanna hear your Impress voice, in case I never get to experience it in real life. #livinginhope
Though you already do impress the hell out of us, as must be obvious to all. Who else's blog is the Algonquin Round Table of the internet?
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