The most rewarding part of my job is making a writer’s dreams come true. The most difficult part of my job is time management – can we have more hours in the day, please?
Each student brought something entirely new to the stage—their poems ranged in theme from the personal to the political, and the event seemed to celebrate diverse voices as much as it did the power of youth and of literature in general.
There are so many rewarding things about this job: Obviously, discovering something amazing — that rising rush when you’re saying to yourself as you turn the pages, oh my gosh, please stay this good, please stay this good. And then, obviously, selling that amazing thing— picking up the phone when the perfect editor calls and starts telling you all the things they loved about the manuscript even more eloquently than what you conveyed in the first place. But all the little connections along the way are rewarding — writing to someone you met a decade ago and having her book your author on her radio show, or interview the author for their blog, etc… Every effective thing you do for a book that you love is rewarding.
More optimistically, while I don’t think we can ask art to “do” anything—after working with my students—I’m more convinced than ever of art’s potential to open a space that is fertile, healing, sacred, and shared. Tomas Tranströmer says, “Every person is a half open door/ leading to a room for everyone.” This work shows me time and again how writing opens that door. It is the most hopeful thing I know.
It’s incredibly hard to get started working in this industry without financial support from family, a spouse, or years working another job. And it’s not because publishing houses aren’t making any money, let’s be clear. The salaries getting cut aren’t usually the ones at the top. Without paying internships, travel/lunch stipends, remote opportunities, open houses, wider candidate pools, acceptance of mid- to late-career changes, and higher starting salaries, we can’t widen the demographics of people working here. And without widening those demographics, we can’t change the landscape of what actually gets published.
Luckily, groups like WNDB, POC in Pub, Latinx in Pub, and Literary Agents of Color are trying to shift some of those things!
This is my encouragement to savor every moment, from the creation of your book idea, to penning the idea, to escorting it to agents and editors. Any attempt to rush the process may deter from your book’s future successes, let alone publication potential, if the wrong steps are taken.
We are so excited for the Poetry Out Loud state semifinals and finals next week! Minnesota’s contestants have chosen a beautiful range of poetry from authors of all eras, ages, and identities, and we can’t wait to experience them. We are equally thrilled about the local poets, artists, and literary figures judging the competition. They are a passionate and creative group of individuals with strong ties to Minnesota, and they have produced a rich collection of criticism, essays, articles, and poetry.
That's what we're trying to do when we create intimacy in fiction. We open characters up so they're vulnerable—so they can be hurt—and then (usually) we hurt them. Intimacy works very much like conflict. Bring characters together—whether aggressively or tenderly—and things will happen. They might even change.
It's controversial, of course, to suggest that intimacy can substitute for conflict, that it can create change all on its own. But if you won't go quite so far, you can surely agree that it complements conflict, making it more painful and thus increasing its impact.
That's what happens in A Good Country. When the friendship explodes, it hurts more than it ever could have without the moment of communion.
FINDING the idea that I’m beyond excited to work with, SELLING it to a publisher and seeing the joy my author experiences, and literally HOLDING THE BOOK after the fact. It’s a birthday x 3, and it’s just the best experience seeing my authors reach these goals.
There’s another reason why we may close to queries: we’re getting ready for a busy few months of conference travel. Yes, writers’ conferences. It’s one of my favorite things to do, as I get the chance to visit other cities in the company of other book folks. There’s the adventure and book talk; this is why it’s a delight to attend them.
In order to ensure that we’re ready for these conferences, we’ll plan any classes that we plan to teach at the conference, while finishing any reading from our query inboxes beforehand. The goal: to have both the time and the room on our lists to potentially work with any writer who presents a fun and exciting idea at these conferences.
The organizers of these conferences are promising their attendees that the agents and editors will be available for book pitches. It’s our responsibility to be receptive to these ideas, and to provide the education to anyone who may need to fine tune an idea. While every writer may not find their perfect agent/editor match at a conference, it’s important those agents and editors in attendance provide the critiques and education that will result in finding a future match (maybe through the inbox or at a different conference).