Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shady Sheedy?

I once had a complicated writerly relationship with the agent Charlotte Sheedy and approached her to read my manuscripts (short story and novel). She wrote back to me instantly: "Of course we'll read your manucripts. Give us some time though because we have many books on the spring list and we're overwhelmed. Sorry you sent your work to [name of publishing house] with someone else. I have a lot of bestselling books over there."

I love that her response was both so positive ("Of course we'll read your manucripts"), and yet also so confidently discouraging ("Sorry you sent your work to [name of publishing house] with someone else [meaning my previous agent at the time, who came very close to selling something at said publishing house]. I have a lot of bestselling books over there.") As if I ruined my chances of getting published by having an agent who wasn't her! (I think that was meant to be a little bit mean.)

Anyway, in the end, Charlotte kindly passed my manuscripts off to her assistant agent, who rejected me in short order.

11 comments:

the individual voice said...

OK. Now I am totally certain you are a male, because this is such a classic version of female high school bitchy that girls do to girls all the time. Of course she's not sorry. She's gleeful to make you feel like if only you had chosen HER as your best friend first you would have it made but you didn't you loser and so she'll pretend to have her dog read/pee on your manuscript and off with you!

anonymouse said...

Nooo.... WR must be a girl! Men are too full of themselves to make a blog like this, even anonymously.

When I was a kid I nearly died of jealousy because Ally Sheedy published her book when she was thirteen. No one told me her MOM was an AGENT. Jeez, I could have saved myself so much angst.

zumabitch said...

Whatever gender, WR's sense of humor is a rare treat in the oh-so-serious literary world.

Did you notice she had brokered a deal for a biography of the cod?

Writer, Rejected said...

I am third-gendered. Seriously. This probably explains a lot of my lapses and my sense of humor, which I use to cover.

But, really, what I don't understand is mean.

In my paid professional life as something other than a fiction/film/story writer, I go OUT OF MY WAY to spare the feelings of other peeps, and it doesn't hinder my success at all. In fact, it helps, I'm pretty sure.

zumabitch said...

This, to me, was the worst kind of mean. Mean with a smile, mean with a petty bitchslap behind the veneers.

I agree that going out of one's way to spare the feelings of others is a little-practiced form of emotional generosity. But these aren't "normal" people you are dealing with, WR, in this literary thing. They can be little monsters of subtext, as we have seen.

The problem is that the whole enterprise is set up to breed contempt, and by passively "submitting" one is doing one's own part to support this kind of literary agriculture, which, as you know, is thriving. We hand them the power and they get a little drunk on it here and there and behave like poor old Charlotte. But this is true of all creative businesses (acting was no joy, let me tell you) and as long as there are writers and stories and meek little verbs like "submit," it will continue.

the individual voice said...

It's really true. The vast majority of people agents deal with are rejected which gives them a FALSE, let me repeat, FALSE sense of superiority as the gatekeepers more times than not cracking the whip like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld. On the other hand, I don't get the need for meanness per se. I mean, I am extremely apologetic but firm with a "Thank you so much for calling but my cat is choking on a hairball. So sorry. Gotta go. " to phone soliciters -- yes, I still get a few. I feel sorry for anyone with that horrible job. I also typed extra nice letters to slush pile rejects when I worked in publishing, very briefly, because I found it too depressing, killing all those dreams. Hey, my NaNoWriMo novel is on the very subject:"The Dispicable Slush Pile Outsourcing Conspiracy." Be sure not to look for it in your bookstore.

zumabitch said...

But IV, can we read it at NaNoWriMo? Who needs the middleman?

Writer, Rejected said...

Yeah, IV. Or post the first para and we'll read it here.

the individual voice said...

I've never done this before so I don't know how it works but for sure I will find a way to post the 50,000 word novel. This blog has inspired the title, so for all I know it may have a cameo. I can't promise anything. We will see what content arrives in my brain during the scheduled writing marathon. I have absolutely no idea what that might be. I just see a lot of paper.

Anonymous said...

In my experience most big agents like to take a swipe at you for any lack of desperation they perceive you to feel.

You must prostrate and flatter, flatter, flatter, and then they will dismiss you with a kindly murmur.

If you imply that you have broken some invisible Rule of Hierarchy, out come the claws!

the individual voice said...

Demons! I think I'll be a demon agent this Halloween. Red eyes. Claws. Yes!