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He said/she said…both sides of the table at an interview with an agent

July 20, 2012

What you experience…

You’re nervous as the first time you asked someone on a date. Your mouth is dry; all the moisture has gone to your hands, which could put out several fires. Normally, you’re at least a little articulate, but not now. Now, if someone asked you your name, you might screw that up.

Never mind that you have to recite the two-minute elevator speech you memorized and worked through to near-perfection at the pitch session you attended and made your friend sit and listen to you practice. Now you can barely remember the name of your book, let alone what it’s about. It’s like you have two left feet–where your tongue should be.

And here’s this person, this literary agent that you spent forty stinking dollars on. That’s enough for a nice dinner. In theory, it could be the best $40 you ever spent–if you can figure out how to speak a complete sentence.

She looks bored, to be honest. She looks like Darth Vader, if Darth Vader were blonde, in her late twenties, and worked out. But she’s the way to success, so you have no choice but to satisfy her. If only you could remember your name.

She smiles, but that’s just to suck you in, before she goes for the neck and drains every bit of hope you have…

What she experiences…

I’m tired. I never sleep well in hotels, which is odd considering the number of them I visit at conferences each year. But this is a pretty good conference. Some other people’ve had decent luck here–and I can scoot over the Disney for a couple days after. Assuming I can find a way to sleep.

Holy cow, all the writers look nervous but that one looks like he’s going to fall over dead before he gets to the chair. I hate this part. I mean, there’s a good chance I won’t be able to use what he wrote. But maybe I can. Maybe I can ask for 50 pages or even the whole manuscript. Sometimes it’s the really nervous ones who have the best work–if only they’d feel at ease enough to tell me.

I want this to work. I want to work for him, to sell his work. This is my job, to find work that’s good enough to sell and sell it. To see that look of sheer panic turn into sheer joy when I tell him he’s Officially Published. I love that part. I love this part, except for the writers looking like they’ve just bought their way into a firing squad.

I smile, try to set him at ease, but it doesn’t seem to work. He looks like he wants to run for the exit. I don’t remember what they charge for this, but I hope I can give him his money’s worth.

He nods, wipes his hands and sits down. I’d love to find a way to get them past the nerves so we can talk. I heard about what this guy read at the prompt writing this morning, how good it was. Maybe next year, I’ll go. It’s pretty early, but I don’t sleep that well anyway. Maybe I’ll write some. I miss that part, but work’s work, even when you’re in the industry.

As he sits, I smile a little more. I hate this part. I like the part where I read a few pages and they’re great. I hope this is one of those times. 

The person sitting at the other side of the table isn’t the blonde Darth Vader. Or Leona Helmsley’s male equivalent. Most likely, they’re just someone doing their job. And their job is finding salable work from good writers. They aren’t evil or mean and they want you to succeed. If you succeed, they succeed.

They want your writing to be good. They want you to succeed.

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