Monday, October 22, 2012


Every year, I get a little less frothy about MEETING AGENTS at the JRW conference, but every year it's easy to watch other attendees who are almost in awe just being in the presence of anyone they think might "make" them.  Everyone is so lovely, but the more I watch the more I see how deeply generous agents kind of have to be, in the quasi-magical world of publishing.  These people love to read in a pretty rare way - and the discipline it must require to parlay that into a career, in which some days must be spent enduring page after page after query after hope of hopeless writing, or writing at least mismatched to their catalogues, kind of floors me.  To love something enough to endure really bad writing on a not at all infrequent dosage schedule - to love it enough to encounter GOOD writing, and have to say no - to love it enough to immerse their whole lives in reading, to a proportion most of us don't even dream of indulging - that's a pretty massive saturation.

And they do this because they want to make dreams come true.  They want to sell, they want to advocate.

One of the things I find in common, among many of the agents I have met or just seen, is a kind of pained expansiveness.  These are people who have to make a living rejecting dreams - just so they can fulfill a few.  Saying no to excruciatingly formed personal memoirs, saying no to good writing when it's not the right time, or it's not the right fit, saying no to *people* they like, whose work just isn't quite ready.  Saying no just because this week yes has already been said to its limit.

There are poker faces and almost overly kind faces, but even if only for a moment, it's not unusual to see an agent express at least just a moment of the conflict this expedient requires.

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