Friday, February 12, 2016

Some questions you shouldn't ask

Recently we talked about questions you should ask an agent before signing, and questions an agent might ask of you before signing.

In a lovely example of cosmic irony,  I have some recent emails with examples of questions you really shouldn't ask, particularly at the query stage:

1. Please let me know what you charge.
If you don't know the standard commission rates for a literary agent, you're too green to be querying.

2. Why should I hire a literary agent?
For starters, you don't hire me, you retain my services, and if you don't know the difference, the NYS Department of Labor does. If you want to hire me, feel free to offer a starting salary. You can see how I negotiate first hand!

3. What can you do for me?
I'm not going to pitch you. I'll discuss your book, answer your questions, tell you how I operate, and why I think I'm a good agent, and let you decide if you want to move forward, but that's it. Some of this is ego of course but I don't want a client who isn't eager to BE a client.

4. I have no idea how to do this, so could you help me?
I'm really ok with how brusque or rude that sounds because I no longer care about offending people who don't or can't grasp that I am not the public library information desk.  It's really easy to get caught in the trap of not wanting to offend people such that you end up spending valuable time doing things that do not earn money or move your agenda forward (my agenda is world domination of course.)

And if you think "oh but it could earn money" let me just say this: so can the six other projects I have right now.  Given there are MORE salable projects than I have room to take on, my FIRST selection criteria is "has the writer prepared for this new career?"

And by prepared I don't mean you know everything about publishing, because none of us do. But you know the basic terminology, you know the difference between trade publishing and self-publishing.  You know what an agent's commission is. You've been in a bookstore; you have been in a library.

Think of it this way: if you want to dance with the Rockettes (and who wouldn't!) you don't show up at auditions asking how to do a high kick. Yes, the choreographer will teach you the steps but when she says "stage left" and "step, ball change" you know what she means.

Or: when Vince Papale went to walk-on tryouts for the Phildelphia Eagles, they gave him a playbook yes, but he already knew the rules of the game.

And I can hear all you woodland creatures, particularly new ones and lurkers, having a blistering moment of panic that You Are Not Prepared. Well, rest easy. If you're reading this blog, and generally following the guidelines set down here, you're going to be just fine. No question about it.

1964 Rockettes at the Macys Parade!


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

So you finally found my picture. I'm the fifth from the right or eighth from the left, dang, I can't remember.

I've been a Reider for so long I should be an expert.

Hang around and even YOU will like kale and lima beans.

Sam Hawke said...

As usual, the QOTKU is on the ball. If you're reading the blog (and the comments!) I'd be surprised if you didn't have a grip on the basics of querying! Now we all just need to worry about whether our hamstring flexibility is up for that line of VERY impressive kicks. :)

Laura Mary said...

A few years ago I can across some interview advice for nervous interviewees, that recommended turning things around i.e. imagine you are the one calling the shots, you are the one deciding whether this job is good enough for you.
I can see how it might boost your confidence a bit, but to anyone with an ego you run the risk of coming across like the asker of questions 3&4!

I may not know *everything* an agent does, but I know that I want one, and I know *why* I want one!

Anonymous said...

Real talk for a second.
I was convinced as a child that I despised lima beans. Then, I realized the green beans in succotash WERE lima beans, and those were my favorite part.
Media bias is real.

End off topic anecdote.

Aside from showing how green your horns are, the question "what can you do for me" just sounds rude. Kind of sounds like sitting down with a lawyer and saying, "Now, before I pay you anything, tell me, what do I NEED a lawyer for?"*

*Which is different from saying, "I have this problem, can you help me?" I imagine that's the lawyer equivalent of a query.

Unknown said...

Maybe I should be a dancer. Never taken lessons, but I understood the terminology. It all looks easy until you're in the line-up.

I was the person with these questions at one time. Who needs an agent, I'd say.

I now know I do, and why, and how to go about it, and what to expect, and how to plan for the big day when an agent finally succumbs to my talent and asks for a full.

No worries. Except getting the book polished. Writing tips,that's what I need at the moment. I just hang around here because I like the people. More of a safe-house. A Linus blanket. I still learn stuff, but it's more about people than querying. Not saying I know all there is to know about querying, but any questions I have are in the archives. I'll probably have a lot more questions when the succumbination happens, but until then, I'm happy to sit on the couch and sip hot chocolate and laugh at you guys.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

The funny part about "I don't know how to do this, can you help me" is if you're reading this blog, or Query Shark.....Ms. Reid is already helping you quite a lot indeed.

Also....I do work at a public library (though nowadays I'm in what we call "tech services", not at our front desk at all hours) and in that setting, nobody has asked ME about how to get published. In my writing group they have, but that's one thing writing groups are for, asking all those questions about books and writing and publishing you can't necessarily ask elsewhere in your life (or don't know where to turn).

What you shouldn't ask us at the library is for help filling out your tax forms. We can't do that.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

The Rockettes? (looks at short, not-skinny legs) 2Ns, I'm jealous of your long legs. Wanna trade? But, I did do gymnastics although my cartwheels on the beam became "poopy" after I took a fall, no matter how hard I tried to keep them straight.

I'm with Lucia. #3 sounds rude. The ego of a wannabe writer who lacks humility. Or a socially inept person whose relationship skills are hamstrung (see what I did there, Sam?), like a Sheldon Cooper.

And we're keeping someone in thoughts today, am I remembering right? A brother-in-law's funeral.

Donnaeve said...

Yes, Lisa, I think Lucie Witt said it was today...?

My question about these questions would be, were you, QOTKU, actually at the point of speaking to future clients and they asked these? Jaw on floor. (Was there an audible snapping of your own jaw?)

Questions 1 -3 have a tone I can't quite put my finger on, but they are off putting to say the least. Question 4 makes me see a potential client who might wear out your server in your server room by blowing up your email asking similar questions..."oh, I don't know what to do, should I do this, what about this? Can you help me do this? Is it time for submission, why not, are you there, why aren't you answering, I thought you said you'd help, you're no help, you're MY agent, I'm calling you, pick up the phone, why aren't you answering my calls, can I get you some doughnuts, paint your living room (these might be good questions here), this is my tenth email today, I'm tired of waiting, I'm coming to NYC, where do you live?...

Exaggerating of course, but yeah. Green and troubling, all of them.

nightsmusic said...

Hmmm...number 4 is a two-edged question.

A) Don't know how to do what? You don't know all the ins and outs of behind the scenes publishing? Well, that's what our QOTKU is for. SHE knows all the ins and outs so you don't have to. In that case, you don't know how to do this and will she help? Absolutely! You've done all the up front stuff and been offered representation. Now your job is to write and follow her lead.

B) Don't know how to query? How to attract an agent? How to do a synopsis? READ THE DAMNED BLOG! Because Janet has answered those questions and so much more. In this case, that's just a flat out stupid question.

So to me, number 4 could mean a couple different things and I'd have to see it in context before I passed judgement as to whether it was honest or stupid. I'm guessing in this instance, it was stupid or wouldn't have been mentioned.

Anonymous said...

I've never tried a Lima bean, but I did teach myself to like brussels sprouts, because I read an article that said no child would ever say they loved them. Now they're one of my favourite vegetables. I hope that won't get me into trouble here. I've recently learned the pleasure of a good steak if that helps!

Having read all of Janet's blog (some of it twice) I think I could pass a pop quiz about agenting and not ask questions like these, thus proving myself to a useful woodland creature. I hope there are no leg licks required, because, while mine are long, they don't always listen to complex commands like 'don't walk into that desk'.

DLM said...

RABlack, brussels sprouts are SO good. I like baby brussels sprouts, brussels sprouts split and grilled with thick-cut bacon and a glaze, big sprouts off the stalk. Mmmm-mm. Brussels sprouts am yumptious.

I promise not to lick your legs, but you might want to stay away from my dog, Penelope. She's a pants-sniffer, and sometimes can't resist a taste ... ;)

Laura Mary said...

I think it's pretty much a given that we will all ask a 'green' question at some point, whether it's during the first flustered phone call, or months later when we think we've got a grip on what's going on but have managed to get completely the wrong end of the stick somewhere... It's gonna happen no matter how prepared you are. As long as it's not happening daily, I think (I hope!) we'll be forgiven!

BJ Muntain said...

I had a chance to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular in NYC in 2014. Loved it! Found out later that there are 3 Canadian sisters in the Rockettes. So proud of our girls!

Julie, how is your son doing today?

And my thoughts are with Lucie and her family today.

Colin Smith said...

words: I'm with Diane in the love love LOOOOVE Brussels sprouts group. And I'm a vegetarian. Aaaand, I'm still here... so far... :)

That "what can you do for me?" question could be a badly-worded distillation of "do you have publishers/editors in mind for this novel?" and "what's your basic/broad-outline submission strategy"--both of which are, I think, valid questions. But I could quite see an agent reading/hearing that and thinking, "Who are you? Janet Jackson??"


Amy Schaefer said...

This is why we all need The Call. It helps you determine whether the person on the other end of the line is crazy or clueless or just plain unpleasant. Or funny or charming or thinking along the same lines as you. It is just as valuable for the writer as the agent.

Brussels sprouts don't work for me. And I hate telling people that, because I inevitably get: "Oh, but you'll love the way I make MY brussels sprouts!" Then I'm forced to try them. I dislike them as per usual, and am now in the delightful position of having to a) lie and pretend I liked them, dooming me to eat brussels sprouts at this person's house forevermore, or b) console someone for having served me food everyone knew in advance I wouldn't like. Raaarrrr!

Phew! Let me get my heart rate back down.

Being a dutiful woodland creature, I wondered whether I should capitalize the hated vegetable as "Brussels sprouts", as Brussels refers to the town. But the standard seems to be lower case. Opinions why? I'm guessing that "sprouts" is the part of the noun we care about, and "brussels" is just a modifier, so we can drop the capital. But I need to get on the treadmill so I'm not going to dive down the internet rabbit hole on this one.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I always get frustrated by questions that are easily solved by a google search or a little sleuthing. I'm in a job where I have to investigate a lot. (I also have to translate a lot between English and Computer Developer, but that's beside the point.)

Granted, there are times when I've been researching answers all day and I'm exhausted so I just call up my mentor and ask, "What do I do with this?" But here's the thing: I already have the job. I imagine that there's a huge difference between a querying author asking #4 and a client asking for help with a confusing aspect of the business.

As for the ongoing lima bean/brussel sprout debate... pretty much anything is good with garlic, lemon, and butter. If the French made snails delicious with those three ingredients, we can probably do it for veggies.

BJ Muntain said...

I love brussels sprouts. Always have. I get a lot of flack from my friends because I don't eat lettuce, so of COURSE I don't like ANY vegetables.

When did lettuce become the end-all and be-all of vegetables? Just because it's the cheapest salad-filler? Funny, but people look askance at all other cheap fillers...

Give me brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, carrots, spinach, zucchini, squash, beans.

Lettuce (kale is a form of lettuce, isn't it?) is evil.

Amy: Brussels sprouts are like french fries or swiss cheese - they've become common nouns, no longer referring to the countries.

"What can you do for me?" is business. The two sides of a business transaction are 'what can I do for you?' and 'what can you do for me?' Unfortunately, a querying author is NOT on the 'what can you do for me' side of the equation. That's what makes it seem rude to us: they're taking the wrong role, the decision-maker. Whereas 'querier' very clearly means 'requester'.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

No to kale, Lima beans, and Brussel sprouts. My auto-correct insists on capitalizing veggies I don't care for. I do love okra. But I am mostly a carnivorous woodland beastie. The wolf tattoo on my right upper arm is no leafy green eating critter after all.

I will try not to be an idiot when the time comes for the "call". But as feral as I am, I often make a right ass out of myself. Especially when I am hungry or coffee deprived. Luckily most know to just ignore me when I am having one of my social spasms.

I will pray I don't scare off the right agent when he or she comes along.

Colin Smith said...

I've encountered very few veggies I don't like (artichoke is the only one I can think of at the moment), which is good for a vegetarian. :)

BJ: As you probably know, not all lettuce is created equal. Most people go with iceberg lettuce, which is pretty bland, and worth next-to-nothing nutritionally. Romaine is a better lettuce. And for a salad, I would recommend a blend of dark-leaf lettuces along with spinach leaves.

I like kale too, so what do I know? :)

Craig F said...

My goodness, when the Queen puts her foot down she means it.

My question is if she would take an extra step because Janet Reid (the Queen's alter ego) gets to put the first bullet into the bad guy in my freshly remodeled and painted manuscript?

Colin Smith said...

About being tongue-tied when "The Call" happens. I thought I would be a gibbering, slobbering mess when I actually met Janet face-to-face. In fact, I managed to hold my saliva, and was able to put words together into coherent sentences. Sure, she wasn't offering me representation, but it was one of those encounters you really don't want to mess up (first impressions, you know), so there was some pressure. I'm not Mr. Sociable, so I share the concern with saying the right things to agents. But I think a) we're often better than we think we are in those situations, especially if we don't try too hard, and b) most agents (especially the good ones) understand and will extend some grace.

Lucie Witt said...

Thank y'all for thinking of me and my family today. We are off to the funeral soon.

When I read posts like this I take some small solace in how far I have come since my long ago days first learning about this whole querying thing.

One the topic of vegetables, one of my husband's earliest memories of me is when we went to this fancy southern brunch buffet in town. They're famous for their honey butter french toast and fried chicken. I got both those (of course), but also a heaping pile of brussel sprouts (which I love). He'd never seen anyone willingly eat brussel sprouts before. I like all vegetables except frozen and canned peas. I'll meticulously pick them out of everything.

I love this picture today.

Lucie Witt said...

Julie, so relieved to hear about Cody (re: yesterday's post).

Colin Smith said...

Lucie: I'm cool with frozen veggies, and I'm okay with canned veggies, but fresh is best. My MiL loves canned mushrooms. I don't mind them, but... why?? They're so much better fresh.

nightsmusic said...

Lettuce is way overrated. I don't eat it if I can avoid it. I love brussel sprouts, but then again, I love anything with bacon and I make them with bacon so...

Bacon and chocolate (NOT together!) should in fact, be considered their own food groups.

I've seen the Rockets at RCMH many times. I absolutely love them! What a show. Thought I'd toss out that my aunt was a Ziegfeld girl...

Unknown said...

There are such readily accessible tools these days for learning enough not to ask such questions. For all its faults, I have found Twitter to be an amazingly effective way for anyone to "peek in" and learn a ton about a new community and industry. Following a number of agents for a while has taught me a lot about: 1) the role agents play, 2) norms and expectations for the author/agent relationship (agent venting helps a lot here!), and 3) which particularly agents might be a good match. It has also led me to gold mines like this blog, and helped me feel a little bit less isolated as I pursue the great, ill-advised adventure that is writing. Thanks, fellow woodland creatures!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

In the dictionary, next to "socially awkward", I am pretty sure there is a picture of me- tattoos, over-sized spectacles, and unkempt hair and all, not making eye contact and trying desperately to be invisible. Who knew that "networking" would be necessary for a writing career.

Thank God for Janet Reid and her ability to herd neurotic woodland beasts in the right direction and to save us from silly questions like "Why should I hire an agent?"

CynthiaMc said...

I know I need an agent because I am way too nice.

Back when I could afford to go to conferences I attended a panel with Jessica Faust on it and what she said struck me "I will fight for you." I remember thinking I needed her or someone like her. I will fight to the death for my family, my home, my country. Myself, rarely. Left to my own devices I'm a lover, not a fighter. My agent would be saying "Hell no, we're not accepting that offer. You're worth x and if this book does well you'll likely be worth y."

Dena Pawling said...

Amy – brussels sprouts is written with a small b because they are not actually food items.

As a lawyer, I get the “what can you do for me” question all the time. You don't necessarily NEED a lawyer to get into court, but there are certain types of cases where you'd be a fool not to have one, and there are certain types of cases where you are REQUIRED to have one. And just like agents who know there are writers out there they do NOT want to represent, there are plenty of folks out there that I do NOT want to represent. And those folks are not who you might think.

>>I'm really ok with how brusque or rude that sounds because I no longer care about offending people who don't or can't grasp that I am not the public library information desk.

I get asked for my “legal opinion” pretty much everywhere. Doctors and lawyers [and apparently literary agents] are expected to give professional advice, for free, to family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Sometimes I do it, especially if it really is a quick and/or easy basic question, or the person asking is someone I really care about, but many times I just refer folks to the courthouse self-help center.

As to the questions not to ask:
1. I know what an agent should “charge”.
2. I know why I should “hire” one.
3. I know what an agent can do for me.
4. I have a basic idea of what I'm doing, altho I have about 50 open tabs on my computer right now, of articles re the publishing industry waiting for me to read. I usually get to about 10 per day, altho I'm also adding several per day, so it does seem never-ending.

>>And by prepared I don't mean you know everything about publishing, because none of us do. But you know the basic terminology, you know the difference between trade publishing and self-publishing.  You know what an agent's commission is. You've been in a bookstore; you have been in a library.

Yay! I appear to be at least MOSTLY prepared.

But I'll NEVER be able to dance like a Rockette.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

What's with all the lettuce hate? I always thought it was a largely inoffensive veggie.

S.D.King said...

LAURA MARY, if we are ever at the same party, please sit by me. I like you.

Colin Smith said...

So, all this vegetable talk comes from asking green questions, does it? :D

Bethany: I know, it's sad. There's nothing wrong with lettuce. And if you're looking for something to shut your growling stomach without the risk of weight gain, some lightly dressed (or undressed) mixed lettuce will do the trick.

Donnaeve said...

Here's the *real* test of a true veggie lover. If you can answer yes to having tried these, then you are 100% stamped veggie lover:

Turnips (white AND green)
mustard greens
beet greens

There are a ton more, but theses are the more common/yet hated along with brussels sprouts - which I too LOVE!

S.D. and Laura Mary - yes, I sure do agree without a doubt we will all ask a silly question at some point, but I think it's the fact these are questions which are elementary/basic, and really do point to someone not having done their homework. Like so many have said, it's easy to find answers to most of these with a little research. Asking a question like "why should I hire you?" is not only the wrong word choice, it's like inviting someone to a party, and then asking, "why are you here?"

Just my thoughts. :)

nightsmusic said...


Ruabaga and Turnip: Hello, paternal grandmother was about as English as they come and grandfather worked the iron mines in the UP. Need I say more?

Collard and mustard greens: I'm 30 miles from downtown Detroit...

Beet greens and beets: Sauteed greens and buttered beets. YUM!

Okra: Snot in the soup. I refuse to ever eat them again.

And there you have it! :)

And I like lettuce. Nice, head lettuce. It doesn't like me so...

Karen McCoy said...

There's a beautiful saying in the book How to Be Happy, Dammit : "I'm dancing as slowly as I can." I take jazz and hip hop, and going at my own pace is the only way I get through. I don't have to rush it, and the steps will come when I'm ready for them.

Another gem from the same book: "Don't go shopping for kiwis in a shoe store." I have to tell people this in the library all the time. Another version of this is, "These are not the droids you're looking for." Don't ask an agent for things an agent doesn't do--and like Janet said, we can read this blog to find out what those things are (and aren't).

Colin Smith said...

Veggie lover test? Hmmm... let's see how I do:

Rutabaga (AKA Swede when I was growing up): Didn't like it as a child, but grew to love it. DING!

Turnips (white AND green): Love. Especially roasted. MMMMMMMMmmmMMM!! DING!

Collards: First had them when I came to the US. Yes, I like. DING!

mustard greens: Not something I've had often, but I have had them. Yup. DING!

beet greens: Not sure if I've had beet greens, so I can't give it a ding, but it's not a no. I'll certainly try them.

beets: Oh yeah. Especially pickled. DING!

okra: Yes, but prepared well. Okra is very bitter, even lightly sauteed. I'll eat it, certainly, so it gets a DING!

I guess I'm a veggie lover. :D

Anonymous said...

Years ago, we were broke. I needed a job, so I answered an ad to sell houses for a builder. You don't need a real estate license to sell houses for a builder. They hired me. I don't know why. I had a grand total of three dresses I bought at a bargain shop. I was driving an old Dodge pickup with a little camper on it and didn't know sic em from come here about houses or contracts. The builder hands me a bunch of floor plans, the price lists, a stack of contracts and the directions to the model homes.

I didn't even know what call waiting was. I thought something was wrong with the phone when it kept beeping in the middle of a call.

A couple and their teenage children come in the first day I'm on the job. I show them the houses in the high end division. These were the $80,000-$120,000 houses, which were country club type houses. He works for an oil company.

I show them the houses. They love the houses. They love me.

The second day a gay couple comes in. They love the houses. They love me. They decide on a house, but they hate the wallpaper. No problem. I tell them how much fun they'll have picking out all new wallpaper for the whole house and making it all theirs. It will express their vision all the way. I'll see if I can get an allowance since it really is ugly wallpaper. I'm a genius.

We go to the backyard and they get into an argument over whether to put in a pool or a gorgeous garden. The literally get into a fist fight. They hate each other. They hate the house.

Oh my God! I've destroyed a relationship!!!! I'm a failure.

The oil couple comes back the next day. They want the house. "No you don't," I say.

"That's so cute. She's trying to talk us out of the house."

"This is a big decision. Don't you want to look some more?"

"Nope. You were right. This is the perfect house for us. Write it up."

But I don't know how to write it up.

I muddle through the contract the best I can, which is a promulgated contract (fill in the blank) and take it and the people back to the office. The secretary laughs her head off at the mistakes. The manager tells her to make herself useful and get a new contract. We make out a new correct one.

I've sold my first house, but now I have to take them for a loan application. OMG! Seriously? I'm going to have heart failure. My manager tells me to just be prepared and act like I've done this a thousand times. My people had all their documentation with them for the loan app. I walked in like I owned the place. Sat down with the vice president of the bank. (Why oh why oh why did it have to be the vice president???) He thanked us for being so prepared. After that, he insisted all my loans go through him. He didn't have a clue I was scared witless.

Leah B said...

"What can you do for me" drives me up the wall. Google fucking exists. It's not hard to research the basics. If there's a specific question, ask it instead. Don't be rude, don't be lazy.

Anonymous said...

Cody report.

I spoke to Cody a few minutes this morning. He was getting ready to go to the doctor and told him I'd spoken to the nurse. He said, "No, you talked to Boo the company secretary. She said, 'Oh, I got to talk to your mama. She's so cute!' No, she isn't."

Obviously, he's feeling better.

I asked him how his hand is. "Big."

The doctor said he won't get 100% motion back in it, but they're hoping for a significant amount. It was a lengthy reconstruction surgery.

As a parent, and many of you know this, you think you reach a point when you quit worrying about your kids and you do to an extent. Then you get that email in the middle of the night, "Mom, I'm all right." and you know disaster has struck. That's all you get because they've been put on blackout. The next day you get pictures of the blown up mraps in the convoy.

This rock your world stuff extends beyond children. Anything can happen at any time. Don't let a loved one leave the house angry or hurt. Nothing is worth it. So what if he doesn't pick up his socks or she doesn't cook your egg like you want it? Will it really matter if that's the last time you see them?

OK, I'm done being a wet blanket.

Dena Pawling said...

Julie, on this last deployment my son sent me a text one day that said "can't say much but I'm okay". I checked CNN and learned why he sent that text. I love today's technology. I can't imagine the anxieties of military families in the past.

Glad Cody's doing better. That's great news.

Janice Grinyer said...

Julie- Thanks for the update; continued healing wishes sent Cody's way...

And your RE story? Well said! LOL Confidence can get you a long way when experience is a little short- it's how we learn :)

I've got a story too-

My old Gynecologist has a log cabin in the Mountains north of Montana's big city with numerous ponderosa pine surrounding it.

Why do I know this?

Because he was concerned about fire danger and wanted to know what to do with his trees.

Being naked with just a paper sheet...and other "things", I felt a little vulnerable, so I proceeded to tell him free information that normally as a Forestry Consultant we would go visit the site and charge for. However it might have been a diversionary tactic on his worked if that was the case.

Moral of the story- Don't be that Gynecologist; if someone has information and that is their living, don't ask for freebies. Unless you have them in a strange predicament.

Anonymous said...

Donnaeve--okra? Okra belongs on that list? Is my incredulity due entirely to living in the south and growing up eating fried okra and gumbo, or is anyone at all else surprised?

Cheryl said...

As a vegetarian and a vegetable lover (those two things don't always go together) I feel like I should weigh in.

Lettuce: Easy. Good on sandwiches. I'm not much for green salads, though.

Brussels sprouts: roasted until crispy with lots of olive oil and salt? Yes. Most other preparations? Meh.

Kale: Some varieties are good. Some are not.

Lima beans: Sure, I like beans.

Rutabaga, beet greens, beets: Yes.

Turnips (white AND green): With a miso and butter glaze, please.

Collards and mustard greens: I have to be in a certain mood.

Okra: Yes, please, give me all of it.

I periodically grow okra in my backyard and it has the prettiest flower I've ever grown. That reminds me, I should probably start some seeds soon.

Captcha gave me grilled zucchini. How appropriate.

Unknown said...

Not a wet blanket. Not wet at all.

Anonymous said...

Julie: Great story, reminding us we can sometimes "fake it 'til we make it." I'm so glad to hear Cody is doing so well, and will keep sending strength for his long recovery.

Janice: The gynecologist story made me laugh, and wince. That's just so WRONG.

Mark's comments about how useful it can be to follow agents on Twitter hearkens back to one of Janet's questions from yesterday. If your social media presence is helping some of my fellow woodland creatures, why in the world would I complain?

Finally, lettuce: I have no problem with it. Inoffensive is a good word. But I really love the salad at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, which consists of house dressing over every kind of fresh raw veggie, chopped: cauliflower, carrots, garbanzo beans, bell peppers, zucchini, red cabbage, snow peas, mushrooms, scallions...not a shred of lettuce in there. Heaven!

CynthiaMc said...

Fried okra is one of the few vegetables I will eat. Ditto okra in gumbo. Elephants and cows eat salad all day long and they're huge. I don't trust it.

John Frain said...

Great news and even better lesson for all of us about life and loved ones.

In case anyone else was in my ballet slippers, step, ball change allegedly works like this: two steps - a partial weight transfer on the ball of a foot (e.g., placed behind), followed by a step on the other foot.

So relieved I'll avoid that question in case I audition with the Rockettes. Also, now if anyone asks me to dance, I'll respond that I'll be the director while they portray the dancer.

Colin Smith said...

Cynthia: If I had 5 stomachs, I'm sure I'd be huge too! ;)

Donnaeve said...

Thank you for Cody's update, Julie. Yes, he sounds like he's recovering, but that crankiness is likely anesthesia hang-over. And great RE story. wordwacker said "fake it till you make it," and that's exactly what I thought.

Lucia, I included okra b/c, for one, it's like brussels sprouts - love it or hate it, and many north of the Mason/Dixon line have never tried it most likely. Me, I love it - no matter how it's prepared. It truly could be a southern thing, an acquired taste you only get from living down here. Actually, one of my favorite snacks (I JUST bought a jar b/c I polished off the other, juice and all) are Wickles Wicked Okra. If you haven't had pickled okra...yuuuuummm, but Wickles are The Best.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

One of my aunts took me to see the Christmas extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall once when I was 6 or 7. I had a new winter coat, blue, with HUGE pockets. It had a red scarf that came with, and I filled one of those pockets with my mittens, and candy canes, and one of my smaller Pound Puppies. I don't remember his "official" name, but I called him sparky. He was the tan one with the chocolate patch over one eye. On the train back home to the Jersey Shore, I noticed Sparky was no longer in my pocket! We called (or the grown ups told me they called) RCMH to report the lost item, but I never saw Sparky again. Or the Rockettes.

(also, I was kicked out of ballet when I was 5)

Julie: I'm very glad Cody's feeling more like his usual self! That's scary, very scary. And you're right, you never know when the last time is. We always think there will be more time. I'm never against having that reminder.

Lennon Faris said...

Yikes, these questions made me cringe. It's a partnership. No one wants their partner (business, board game, or marriage) to be rude, lazy, or helpless which is what all of these sound like to me.

Julie M. Weathers, I liked that story - I've faked confidence before but never with something so big (and so successfully, too!). Glad your son is doing OK.

Rutabaga - no
Turnips (white AND green) - maybe?
collards - accidentally
mustard greens - not sure
beet greens - again
beets - yes, and yuck
okra - if I did, it didn't make an impression

Guess I'm not a veggie person. Although as a kid, I did chew on dandelions, chives, and other things growing in our yard. Does that bump up my points a little?

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Goodness, Julie - first your story makes me laugh. Then the next one almost makes me cry. I'm glad Cody is doing better, and I hope he heals beyond all expectations. :)

I did dance for 4 or 5 years, but in a really relaxed, non-competitive environment, but I never had as much fun in a dance class as I did when I joined a swing-dancing club in college. Sometimes you just need to get out there!

Anonymous said...



"Julie, on this last deployment my son sent me a text one day that said "can't say much but I'm okay". I checked CNN and learned why he sent that text."

Exactly. They put everyone on blackout pretty quickly so as not to let word out before they are ready when something goes wrong. I think they're not ever supposed to get the quick "I'm ok" out, but many manage to do it.

I had to stop watching the news when Will was deployed for many reasons. I didn't have cable for years.

Donna, he's not being cranky, that's just Cody. I'm surprised he didn't call me a dork and he probably did. I often get a text. "Hey, punk. Call me." We have a strange and wonderful relationship. Mostly strange.

John Frain said...

Speaking of (faked) confidence, I remember back when I started my own business and it was just me. I'd use the royal "We" all the time in conversation to pretend there were scores of folks working with me back in the office (also known as my dining room).

I had a bank president (president!) call me into his office one day. They were a client. I had written and put together a full-page newspaper ad with a letter from the president. Had never met him, but wrote the letter and my contact got his signature. I was meeting with my client contact at his bank the day the ad ran. That morning, he'd already had three people stop in his office to congratulate him and thank him for the letter. I didn't know this, so when he called me into his office I was beyond nervous. But he was all smiles. He had the newspaper open to the full-page ad sitting on a table in his office. He told me: "When you get back to your office, I want you to gather everyone around, hold this up, and thank your entire office for me."

I so badly wanted to say "you just did," but I shook his hand and said it's the first thing I'd do when I returned to my office. I didn't wait. I called my wife from the parking lot and celebrated right there.

Be confident. As Janet says, it's a rule for writers. She also says to break the rules, so listen to her in parts.

Donnaeve said...


"Hey, punk. Call me."

So endearing, and I know you relish the quirkiness, b/c that's better than NO relationship! My son (Justin) is sometimes like a puppy. All wiggly, and squirmy when he has my undivided attention. He and Brooke (daughter) still compete for it, just like when they were kids. "Hey, Mom, watch this! "No, she's watching me now, not you, you already went once! It's my turn!"

DLM said...

Julie, it is a blessing to hear about Cody's big hand - all in one piece. You and I are not the closest pals on the boards here, but this is really joyous news. May it continue to get better from here.

This is what this community is: the very real happiness and hope we have for those we may never know except because of Janet.

Anonymous said...


It's great they compete for your attention even now. That's so much better than being ignored.

John, I love that story and it's a perfect example of just doing it.

I've been thinking about #4.

Thank God writing is like making love. We don't have to be an expert to start.

And for our atta boy speech. It's nearly half way through February. How the heck did that happen? Do something today to make your writing dream come true. This is your dream. Only you can make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Janet not sure if you get to this comment or not but I wanted to say thank for all that you do. This little fish will be your chum any day. It is nice to know that a rock star like you is at the helm of someones success.

O, when she's angry, she is keen and shrewd! She was a vixen when she went to school; And though she be but little, she is fierce.
William Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

No profit grows where is no pleasure ta'en In brief, sir, study what you most affect.
-William Shakespeare

Sherry Howard said...

Only Janet can accomplish good cop/bad cop all in one post. From I don't care to you guys are just fine! We all start some place different in our journey of writing, but this hangout helps smooth the path. It seems that Janet shares the primary wisdom, and then all the woodland creatures sprinkle in the individual experiences that cement the understanding. A perfect blend!

Janice Grinyer said...

WWme- It's okay to laugh; we did! It was a particularly nasty fire year so I can't entirely blame him, although after I got dressed I did have to redirect the conversation back to health, not trees a few times :D.

Reiders, correct me if I'm wrong, but I do remember reading that Janet's contract is non-negotiable? To me, a non-negotiable contract usually signifies that the business entity/person has really done their homework on what works and what is needed to run their business. When they take their work seriously enough to stand behind their contract, this also means they know how to stand behind a contract negotiated on your behalf.

I can relate; our Forestry Agency Agreements are also non-negotiable. Periodically we review them to make sure we are meeting industry standards, with lawyers on retainers to fact-check, because we want our business to run smoothly with expectations agreed upon; this takes time and money. And in our business, I can only answer so many questions until we suggest to a potential client they hire a lawyer to review the contract with them. To receive our own contract back redlined, means they do not agree with our business AND the Industry's laws/practices in general - that is NOT a good working relationship to start with.

So we politely redirect them to other Foresters. That's okay. We are not desperate bottom-feeders (a term I hear in the logging industry, a lot :D).

DLM said...

One of us has to open the Reider Community Gift Shop & Wisdom Emporium (NOT JANET ... I don't care to go to Carkoon!), and here we have our maiden product: the t-shirts and coffee mugs quoting Julie: "Thank God writing is like making love. We don't have to be an expert to start."

Sherry, maybe we can also offer a bumper sticker saying "Janet Reid is all the cops" ... ?

Brigid said...

Donna—not only that, but one of my very first screennames was Rutabaga. It makes superb soup. Take out 1/4, purée it, and stir it back...perfect.

So far I haven't met a vegetable I didn't like, given enough butter, oil, or bacon grease. Roast 'em all.

We can totally set up a CafePress or something. Heck, I can do it if we want to make it happen—we can figure out Janet's favorite charity to donate proceeds to. I'd love a mug that said that. Just have to make sure it's in a good font.

I'd have to hide it when my in-laws came 'round though. I'm still pretending to be well-behaved.

Theresa said...

That Rockettes photo is a great way to kick off the weekend.

Another batch a crisp advice today.

Julie, so glad to hear Cody's surgery went well.

AJ Blythe said...

The list of veggies must be particular to the US, because I have no idea what most are:

Rutabaga - ?
Turnips (white AND green) - white have eaten, not fussed, green ?
collards - ?
mustard greens - ?
beet greens - ?
beets - ? (unless this is beetroot then Yum!)
okra - ?

My fear of making a newbie mistake when querying is what drove me to hunt for answers. I ended up here. The end.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Julie, glad to hear Cody has come through the surgery fine. And I imagine part of the limberness of his hand after this will be determined by carrying through with therapy?

The vegetables? Love all of them except the turnips I've bought have pink tops to them. Shouldn't parsnip be listed too? And there okra in jambalaya?

And I'm sorry y'all but lettuce cannot be dumped into one category. There's so many shapes and flavors: red oakleaf, romaine, arugula or rocket, watercress, endive, chicory, escarole, radicchio, and frisee. And you'll notice nary a mention of iceberg, which I don't buy.

Anonymous said...


The doctor already told him he will never be 100%, but he's already in therapy, so they'll try to get as much as they can.

Colin Smith said...

AJ: As I noted earlier (I know, so many comments ago), rutabaga is what we, in the UK, called swede. And yes, beets, are beetroot. :)

CynthiaMc said...

Doctors are frequently wrong. When our Marine was born he weighed a pound and a half and had frequent seizures. He had meningitis. He was on oxygen and that was supposed to cause vision problems. He was supposed to be slow to develop and possibly learning disabled. He grew up to be an honor student and a Marine. So tell Cody to go as far as he can. It worked for us.

BJ Muntain said...

I used to love dancing. Went to the dance clubs in the 80s and had a ball, every time. Sometimes three times a week. Found I didn't even need alcohol to have fun - give me a glass of water and set me loose. Then I met my ex, who didn't dance, and now... well, I haven't danced now for a long time. The last time I went to a dance club, no one really danced. They just stood around on the dance floor, talking.

Artichokes are okay. Iceberg lettuce
makes me gag. But all lettuce is evil. Spinach is okay, but I prefer it cooked. The only veggies I prefer raw are peas and carrots. Cauliflower is okay raw, too.

And I can't really eat peppers. I used to love them. But when they give you heartburn so bad you think you're having a heart attack, you just have to give them up.

Nightsmusic: Here here! Bacon and chocolate are definitely their own food groups. Unless you count chocolate as a vegetable (it's made from beans, you know), in which case it's practically healthy.

Bethany: The offensive thing about lettuce is that everyone thinks you have to eat it. I'm an adult and have been for over 30 years. I don't have to eat anything I don't like.

Donna: I don't like beets, but I like beet greens. I like the way my mum used to make 'beet-niks' - basically, bits of bread cooked wrapped in beet leaves. Unfortunately, I can't eat the bread anymore. And it's very difficult to get beet leaves here if you don't grow your own.

I don't like turnips or rutabaga. Never tried collards or mustard greens or okra. Some foods that are common down south are impossible to grow in Canada's climate, and too expensive when they're imported. And around here, mustard is grown for mustard. It's a big crop. No one eats the leaves.

And don't give me anything pickled. That's something else I've never liked. Yes, I'm a cranky old bat. But that just means I can eat what I want (unless it has gluten in it).

Julie: I'm glad Cody is recovering. That's got to be painful. Here's hoping he regains most of his motion. Hands are important. I'm not being flippant here - they really are important. Tell him he's got the whole passel of Reiders rooting for him.

Dena Pawling said...

Julie, doctors can be good at what they do, but they are not gods. I was told my #2 son would never talk, nevermind read. He would never make it to a group home, would need to be placed in an institution by age 12.

Next month he will be age 20. He lives at home with us. He talks. He reads. He's a sweetheart. He is definitely group home capable. Might possibly make it to assisted living (less restrictive than group home).

Tell Cody to believe the doctors only if it makes sense, and never accept a prognosis like that without a fight. We're all rooting for him to prove them wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of asking questions. Even "stupid" ones. But these questions are a few steps beyond stupid and bordering on offensive and rude. If you're going to ask questions in a professional setting, do some basic research first.

Julie, glad to hear your son is recovering and in therapy already.

Since everyone else is off topic: I was on the danceline for three years in high school. That picture? Those are not high kicks. High kicks are when you almost hit your own forehead. WE did high kicks, and splits. Also, it is not fun to dance in parades. Every summer, we danced in the parades of all the small towns around the Minneapolis metro area. All of them. Hot, painful, exhausting, hard work. Breathing in fumes from gasoline and car exhaust and melting asphalt. While smiling. Shin splints by the end of summer, so bad you could hardly sleep. But it was great fun to dance at football and basketball games and other various events. Two of my three sisters were also on the danceline, but not all of us at the same time. My youngest sister was wiser than we were. Or so she claimed.

AJ Blythe said...

Colin, we don't have swede's either, so sadly I still don't have a clue what they are... must google =)

Donnaeve said...

Julie, I do enjoy it, *most* of the time. :)

Brigid - LOL! From now on, you're Rutabaga, not Brigid! But yes to the soup! I also make a mean butternut (or acorn) squash soup. One of my neighbors *expects* it every Christmas.

AJ, oh my. Rutabaga's are a root vegetable - a lot like turnips, only orange. They have a mild rooty taste, but honestly, all ya'll have got it down when you mention roasting - with olive oil/salt, or butter, or BACON. I believe you can make any vegetable taste pretty darn good that way! All the other greens like mustard, collards, turnips - well - think KALE. LOL! But here in the south, we cook them in ham hocks, and other secret ingredients. :)

Okra - you probably need to Google it, and it might make you gag. Someone above - nightsmusic I think - said it was like snot in soup. Oh Dear. I love okra, fried, stewed, boiled, pickled. I don't care. It's good to me, but I think like grits, it's a southern thang. Although Colin said he liked it! But Colin thought it was bitter. I've never tasted bitter okra...maybe (again) b/c my taste buds are southern?

AJ Blythe said...

Ahhh, rutabago = swede = turnip! I know turnips, and I love them in soup.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

This is the first time I've jumped on since 7am. Watched my two year old granddaughter today. Whew, it was fun.
75 comments, wow !
As I scrolled down quickly the only comment which caught my eye said something about everybody being off topic. So shall we discuss Trump and Bernie or would that be too off topic. How about coal vs.nuclear, olive vs. Canola, blue vs. gray or Janet' s high kickers vs. Cosby.

Panda in Chief said...

Everything goes better with bacon, especially vegetables. Even brussels sprouts. (But not okra. Nothing could make me eat okra.)

Julie, glad your son gets to keep his fingers. It is really a scary thought to all of us who work with our hands. Hope he gets back more use than the doctors are saying.

I will probably ask inept questions if I ever get "The Call" but I'm pretty sure it won't be the ones you posted, Janet.
Fuck no!

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

This thread is one of the funnest I've ever read here. Going off topic isn't too terrible as we are not hijacking a valid question

After my confession that I'm quitting writing. I signed up for an online crit group with my local SCBWI chapter and registered for a one day master class. So much for whimpering famous last words. I've quit writing at least four times. I am embarrassed that I did it publicly. I can hear y'all snickering.

Telling myself and truly believing I would quit (for 48 hours) was liberating. I actually dusted the house, even the inside a wall lamp.

Julie, I'm happy Cody will keep his fingers and get movement back. About a two ago someone in my family had a accident and lost all sensation from the chest down, no more function below the sternum. It was like a tsunami hit the entire family. Life has regained some normality. I hope Cody will be able to ride.

Julie, your novice realtor story is fabulous.

I agree with what KD says about those questions and I too am unashamed to ask stupid questions.

Brigid, I'd refrain from opening a Cafepress store with anything about QOTKU. That sounds like a trip to Carkoon. There is the Pinterest board Christina created. I think the link is at the top of the blog on the right.

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

Sometimes I've got a lot to say.

Sometimes I just like to read what everyone else has to say.

And then I shall offer up this on-topic joke for an off-topic day:

A man suffered a hand injury in an accident, however, the doctor was able to save the hand. When the man woke up he was amazed. "Doctor," he asked, "Do you think I'll be able to play the piano?"
The doctor replied, "I'm pretty sure you can."
"Great," said the man. "I've always wanted to learn."

Anonymous said...

Re Cody and therapy. He's been down that road before so he knows how important it is and what can be accomplished. Once again, thank you all for the good thoughts.