December 30th, 2009

The weird way I got my agent - with someone's old newspapers

I started trying to get an agent in 1991. This was back before the World Wide Interweb. I had a guide to literary agents with a green cover that I pored over religiously. I got over a hundred rejections total for my first novel and then my second.

And then I read this article which appeared exactly 17 years ago. I read it a couple of months after it came out, because my old officemate used to bring me her old NY Times. Then I would gradually read them at home, because the NY Times always has interesting stories, but I was too cheap to pay for my own subscription. [Full disclosure: the old coworker retired years ago, and I left my job two years ago, but every few months I go to her house and retrieve a few bags of newspapers that she has set aside for me.]

After reading the article, I looked up Harold Ober in my green book. That was it. There was no other way to figure out more about them. [Full disclosure #2: Sometimes I try to recreate how I used to learn about things before the Internet, and it gives me a headache.] I typed up a letter to Wendy [no email, remember?] and got ready to send it off. At the last minute, I double-checked the spelling on her name [no T on Schmalz].

And she asked for a full manuscript [by letter]. And then offered [by phone] to represent me.

Now we’ve been together longer than some couples have been married. Longer than a few readers of this blog have been alive.

What if I had given up after my hundredth rejection? Around the same time, I took a writing class. At least two of the folks in that class - Tom and Jane - were far better writers than I was. They both gave up after getting a few rejections. As far as I know, they haven't been published.

Don't ever give up!

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Do you think they paid someone to write this badly?

Earlier today I got an email titled, "To April; From Chuck." At firstI thought it might be from my old high school boyfriend, Chuck. There aren't a lot of Chucks around these days.

Alas, it was not Chuck, who isn't even on Facebook. Curious after getting the email, I googled the real chuck. He seems to be a plant manager at Robroy Industries.

According to its Web site, "Robroy Industries is an organization of synergistic member companies dedicated to product and service leadership within specialty markets!"

Yes, I have no idea what that means, either. And yes, that is their exclamation point.

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