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  • Writer's pictureEmily Echols

Seekers and Rejecters

Minutes before I pitched my novel to an agent at the writing conference multiple people told me it wasn’t that bad. They were wrong. It was a dumpster fire. It was a thousand times worse than the worse case scenario I had imagined.

I don’t know how to advocate for myself. I had respectable answers to some of the agent’s questions but either I forgot how to speak or she dismissed them outright. She rejected the answers that that I had crafted from the magazine articles I’d read and the speakers’ advice. I’d followed the rules and she pursed her lips and shook her head.

But I thought the rest of the day would make up for it. Alas, it turned out to be my worst fears combined into a day that I paid for voluntarily. An entire day full of strangers. Putting myself out there and being rejected. Talking to people all day and unsuccessfully remembering how to use words. Not being/saying/doing the right thing. Not knowing about assumed rules that everyone else is following. Missing the moment when everyone else broke into groups and became best friends. Feeling like the least prepared person in the room.

 On top of all that it felt like they were just trying to sell us stuff. It’s imperative to have two different kinds of editors look at your work before you submit. Oh, by the way, I’m an editor. All the advice was contradictory. You have to buy my book of agents. Any book of agents is out of date the moment it is published. So much of what the agents said boiled down to personal preferences. This annoys me. Oh, I love that. Every agent, editor, and author who spoke was jaded and discouraging.

The more I listened the more I realized that the way I tend to write, simply writing the stories I want to, is never going to get me an agent, a publisher or commercial success. I need to pick a genre, study that genre, and only write within that genre. Not knowing what box you fit into is suicide and leads to agents arguing with you, which I don’t recommend. 

After my pitch meeting I was in the ladies restroom trying to remember how to be a person in front of other people again. Sometimes I have trouble with that. A gray-haired woman wearing wooden lizard earrings gave me a hug. She said she’d been there, that it was hard to put yourself out there. Brush yourself off. Try again. She touched her gray hair and said, “You’re doing this at the right time in your life.” Kindness from strangers always blindsides me. It makes it harder for me to remember how to be a person in front of other people instead of easier.

I went to a panel called “Writers Got Talent” in which they read a first page aloud and agents on the panel raised their hands to indicate when they would stop reading. After one particularly brutal critique one agent said, “I want you to know that this isn’t how we really read manuscripts.” Then she glanced around at the other agents. “Or at least, it’s not how I do. We’re seekers, not rejecters.” That sentence was the gray-haired lady with lizard earrings hugging me all over again.

I’ve decided the chance that I’ll ever find an agent, a publisher, and commercial success is pretty much nil. But I’m not going to stop writing my stories that don’t fit into the right boxes. The problem with not having an agent, a publisher, or commercial success is that I still would like to share my stories. I’m not sure how that’s going to look but readers are the best seekers of all.

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