Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fish On!

I recently wrote about fishing, and how it's just like life--because maybe nothing at all will happen, but maybe something exciting will happen in the very next second, and you just never know. That also makes it like diarrhea. Here's what fishing is even more like: finding a literary agent.

You can grab your best pole (fishing pole, guys) and fling that baby out there time after time after time, and a lot of the time you reel it back in and there's nothing but weeds on the line, or you think you get a big bite and it turns out you're snagged on a log, or you get your hook stuck in the tree behind you on the back-cast (that would be when you write a masterful query letter to one agency only to realize you have addressed it to an agent in a whole different agency), or, most often, you do this for weeks and months on end and hear nothing at all. And after you've done this enough times, you begin to wonder about your worm (fishing worm, guys). It was a nice stout worm when you
started casting, pink, eager, and wriggly, but now it's kind of sad and unappetizing, and you start thinking maybe  you aren't a good judge of worms. You start thinking, maybe there's something wrong with this worm. Maybe it's, like, the worst worm in the world. All raggedy-ass and bloated with too long of a preface and not much of an arc and an over-reliance on adverbs and little yellow bits gooshing out of it. That kind of worm. Or maybe you don't have a good hook.

But you keep casting, because every now and then you get a nice bite and you can play it for a while.

I've tried to get representation for more than one book. I've got two novel manuscripts all ready to go. But most recently I tried querying agents for the most recent one I've written, a humor book about birds.  Things started out pretty well. A lovely woman with her own agency and a professed fondness for birds told me, Listen. You're a marvelous writer. My colleague read your sample chapters and said "I'd read anything this woman writes." I just have no idea how to position this. Is it a bird book, or is it a humor book?

Um. It's a funny book about birds?

She squinched up her face. That's not a thing.

I didn't ask why a person would say they'd read anything I wrote, but not have any idea why anyone else would want to.

Humor is a weird genre. You can't even reliably put it in the non-fiction category. I mean, I've got a lot of really good information about birds in my book, but if I tell you that an ornithologist once rendered two-thirds of a DeSoto through a working turkey before being fatally pecked, well--you can't necessarily take that to the bank. Although it's a lot closer to the truth than you might think.

It takes a certain amount of confidence to keep plunking away with an obviously defective worm. The kind of confidence you get when your beloved blog readers keep saying nice things about you, no matter what. So you spruce up you worm and drop it back into the big, dark lake. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the pole just bends over.

Yes, friends, I have an agent! Her name is Barbara Poelle, from the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and you may all refer to her as Ma'am Yes Ma'am. And I don't want to say I was (finally) a genius about this or anything, but I really did choose to query her for a whole different reason than I did the others. What I'd been doing is going methodically through the list of agents who were looking for "humor" and maybe "science/nature." Barbara represents fiction, almost entirely. But she claimed she'd look at anything that had a unique voice. And when I looked her up on the internets, I will be damned: she was funny. She, personally, was funny. And I took a shot.  I can work with a funny person. Turns out, so can she.

This doesn't mean I've got a book coming out, but it puts me a lot closer, and I owe it all to you guys for keeping my spirits up. Well, not all.


73 comments:

  1. Yay! Congratulations! This definitely sounds like a book that I would read, since I love both humor and birds!

    And I guess finding a literary agent is a bit like finding the right marriage partner: it's more important to find the right one than it is to just find one.

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    1. I think that is true, although I would have taken the first representative of the Nimrod Literary Agency And Storm Door Company who said "yes." Actually, I think a lot of marriages are that way, too.

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  2. CHEERS~! finally someone recognized your great talent.

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    1. Thanks! I won't tell you how many have passed on the wonder that is me. [urp]

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  3. Unlike diarrhea when you do get a strike it is a good thing. Congrats!

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    1. I don't think diarrhea gets a fair shake, generally, but I take your point.

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  4. Congratulations, Murr! I've been following you for awhile and know just what you mean about your worm. Glad you kept casting it out there and now have found Ma'am Yes Ma'am. :-)

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    1. It's a mighty big lake. And heck yes, you've been dropping by for years. I love that about you, and the fact that you jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

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  5. Congrats to Ma'am Yes Ma'am! She is a wise woman to recognize you, a wonderful writer!!!

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    1. Oh look what you did there: congratulate my agent! That is one slick bit of sucking up, and we both thank you.

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  6. That's fabulous! I am very excited for you, and for us.

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  7. This really IS good news! And thanks for the clarification on poles and worms. I was starting to get confused.

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  8. You're not really a fisherperson unless you call them "rods" (that's fishing rods, guys).
    Congratulations on your literary agent-person Ma'am Yes Ma'am. We are all thrilled around these parts (that's geographical region, guys).

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    1. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
      I should point out I am from Virginia, and nobody ever said "You get a line, and I'll get a rod, honey."

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  9. Who knew it would be so hard (that's difficult, guys) to get an enthusiastic and enlightened agent? Your talent seems so obvious to me. If the problem is essentially simply how to market your work because it doesn't fall into a tidy category, that seems nuts (insane, guys).

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    1. I think you and Ruth and I have started a new meme. Let's see if we can keep it up (that's going, guys).

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    2. Thanks for the clarification jenny o. I was getting confused again.

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  10. I am so excited for you (happy, guys) please keep us informed!

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    1. Actually, I'm a little excited (excited, guys).

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  11. Oh man, I can't wait to read your book about peckers (as in wood, as in Woody Woodpecker, as in--fuhgeddaboutit) and tits (as in bush, as in--oh nevermind) and boobies (as in blue-footed).

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  12. Sheesh, I forgot to say how happy I am for you! Your writing needs to be enjoyed by many, many more people. Hopefully your awesome agent can arrange for that to happen.

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    1. If I can help more people enjoy themselves without actually getting out of my chair or anything, I'm there.

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    2. I'm sure if I were with those people in your chair I'd be enjoying myself, too, but I just like reading your words on the web or in a book. That's enough for me. Congratulations! Publicity tour!

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    3. Good thing, because Pootie's in the chair with me, and he's a little too broad across the beam to allow a lot of company. Thanks!

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  13. Hot Diggity! Let's hear it for Murr! And if "Ma'am Yes Ma'am" doesn't work, try "Yes My Goddess."

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  14. Congrats! and well-deserved. You've got pluck and perseverance and a lock on how life, at bottom, all works out in the end. I'm really, really happy for you.

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    1. Don't think we don't all know what you're talking about, there. And did you know it's pronounced "dire rear?"

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  15. Sorry 'bout commenting three times, but there's just so much to comment on. Pootie's gear. That is adorable. Where in the world did you ever find those togs? You're a Person Who Sews; maybe the credit goes to you. (I would've said sewer, but - yucky implications. And I would've said sewist, but - woo woo terminology. Is there another term?)

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    1. That one was a gift. And he has a little credit card so you never know what's going to show up on the porch. I think we can put the Roto-Tiller incident down to the fact that he has pudgy typing hands.

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  16. Happy dances. Wobbly because that is the best I can do, but very happy.

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    1. Aren't all the best happy dances wobbly? I appreciate it, anyway.

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  17. What a big milestone! Congrats. I am sure you have much weight lifted off your shoulders and your spirits now have you walking on cloud nine. Good luck.

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    1. I admit the world feels different with a big YES in my bucket. Even though I'd gotten some "yes, buts."

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  18. Brava! Best of luck to you and Ma'am Yes Ma'am! My husband and I actually suckered in (er...were chosen by) a literary agent. She wanted us to create a book from our Museum of Depressionist Art web site http://home.comcast.net/~doowahditty/museum/
    She envisioned a coffee table book, while we were thinking of a comic book. Never got to print, alas...

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    1. Hey, let's get your site out with a handy link for everyone! Bagasse, indeed.

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  19. I also would and will read anything you write. YAY!! Congrats.

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  20. Always makes me happy when someone realizes their goal. I'm told that Edison once said, it wasn't so much that he was a genius, it's that he persevered. I'm glad you persevered - hope this is just the beginning of a new career for you (and Pootie!) Hope Dave is ready to live with a Famous Author some day! (That would be YOU, just in case there was any confusion!)

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    1. Yeah, I was thinking--show me the bitch, I'll take care of her.

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  21. Terrific !! The internet can put out books, but publishing takes people.

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  22. Hooray for Barbara! I would list your book as humor, simply because it's funny and because humor sells more and faster than books on birds.

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    1. Clearly the way to go...although there is a veritable shitload of birders out there in the world.

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    2. Even birders like to laugh, I'm sure.

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    3. Heck, birders are some of the most joyful people you'd care to meet. And even the ones that aren't are kind of funny-looking.

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  23. You REALLY go fishing dressed like that??? I have only seen that in the movies...Chevy Chase goes fishing....

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    1. Well. Steelheading. It's also important to be in a nearly frozen stream, and to go in far enough to get a little over your waders.

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  24. Thought nothing could compensate for mid-term election results, but this sho' helps! Ma'am Yes Ma'am will be the lucky fishergal.

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    1. Shoot, Nance, I'm barely watching the news. It ain't good for my health.

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  25. Congratulations on your agent! Woohoo! :-)

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    1. And I hadn't even QUITE run out of people to query, either.

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  26. The internet is really slow between Oregon and Virginia. I get your blog posts a day after others appear to, so what I want to say has usually already been said. Still, I do want to echo "Congratulations!" to you.

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    1. Thanks! The Murrmurrs notice that comes in your email always shows up late in the evening after the post has been up since 3am. I do Not Know Why, but even I get it then. You can always find it by going to the site anytime after 3am Saturdays and Wednesdays, though.

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  27. That's what I'm doing wrong! I should send a picture of a worm with my query letter! Thank you so much, Murr. Success for me is now just around the corner!

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    1. You're in science fiction. Send an ACTUAL worm. Modified.

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  28. Excellent news!! Like I said, you're the Victor Borge of Birding! "Funny bird book" wasn't a genre till you came along.

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    1. Sweet Tim! That explains why that one agent didn't know it was a thing.

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  29. In a sad world in which M*** Mc*** is majority leader, you even the score. So overdue, so well-deserved: YES.

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    1. Thank you. You will enjoy tomorrow's post.

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  30. You're living the dream, sister, and I find myself doing something suspiciously like a Black Power salute right now. Trust me, it's a moving gesture. You would wipe a quiet tear from your eye, were you here.

    Since that ain't happening, go have a beer on me. I'll pay you back for it next time I see you.

    SOOO great to have the validation of someone in the biz being willing to put her energy and time behind your talent.

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    1. I AM moved. When are you showing up? I don't want to hear you've ever come to Portland without rummaging in MY beer fridge.

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