My next bit is up at RTB: here. It’s about being in the company of writers. I think I actually have more deep thoughts in there than what I posted but they’re just not accessible this week (I have four contracts that just landed on my desk and they’re going to take all the deep thinking I’ve got to process). Anyway, it’s also me thinking about what I get out of conferences. I went through a two or three year period where I was doing at least one or two a month. I recall at least one time where I traveled for five weekends in a row, four of them business and one of them a wedding. In the last couple of years I’ve been cutting back a lot, and trying to decide, when invited, what the value of attendance really means to me as an agent, or, in some cases, as a fan (I sure wouldn’t mind another invite to Wiscon – they had me out for workshops a few years back and paid my way which is becoming almost a must these days). Anyway, I was talking about reconnecting with writers, which I think is a necessary thing when the balance of your contact is via phone, email, and writing samples. It sets up a very insulating dynamic overall, and I have seen other agents become disenchanted on that basis, and watch for that in myself. I know writing can be a solitary endeavor in most cases, but agenting can often become that way as well. I’ve wondered how other people handle that, since my methods don’t always yield reliable results.

7 responses to “RTB

  1. Ghu knows I’m not an agent, but I work alone both as a writer and in the Day Job. I find travelling to the company of writers consistently energizes and encourages me. Even, or especially, when I get to hang around with people like , who remind me what is possible. If I stayed home all the time, I’d either ingrow or burn out.

  2. I think it may be a good idea to take time out when you feel a burnout coming on — just as any day job vacation is needed to recharge and regain equilibrium — and then the con-going and the conference hopping and the meetings with people will not be such an emotional chore.
    For example, I am pretty much taking this year off from conventions, feeling a bit burned out. Last year I was nearly everywhere in my writerly “put on my public face” capacity, and it took its toll.

  3. And I would imagine the downtime in the bar or whatever is quite different from a series of appointments, too.
    I am going to two cons next week–Gaylaxicon this weekend and then Readercon–and I swear, I have a nearly physical longing to be there already. One needs the company of one’s own kind.

  4. As a natural-born introvert, I have enough trouble psyching myself to get out and deal with Actual People as it is without also being a writer! Being able to meet and interact with others who want to do the same thing I do–and folks who want to help us do it–is possibly the most exciting thing that has drawn me to Writer’s Weekend two years in a row now. It gives me a huge feeling of being among Tribe, even more so than many SF cons I have attended.
    It’s gratifying to know that editors and agents can feel the same way. 🙂

  5. To your bit on RtB — amen. I am a social creature, within limits, but one of the great debates between myself and the ex was that he never really was able to understand that conferences and conventions, for me, aren’t ‘play’ but ‘work’ (except one, which is a very specific case).
    So I burned out, and cut back, and have been much happier for it.
    How do I handle the lack of stimulation? On-line picks up some of the slack, but not enough — there’s nothing like a real-time discussion to get the brain fluid flowing. My writers group is good for that, but it’s only every six weeks or so.
    So I bug all my writer friends for lots and lots of e-mail. And do things like the Persephone Retreat, which is all about renewing yourself in the company of writers. And a hot tub.

  6. When I do attend cons/workshops/retreats, I always wonder why I don’t do it more often. I come back home confident, rejuvenated, brimming with new ideas, and if I’ve had a chance to brainstorm with writers, I’ve usually solved 10 “hopeless” problems in the current novel.
    An agent probably find cons more of a working weekend: current clients want to discuss new and ongoing projects and get a detailed update on business; prospective clients want to pitch their work; and you want to make your own pitches to editors. You’ve got panels and workshops you’d like to attend, and some you’re participating in. But as long as you’re not over-committed, the battery-recharge from interacting with people is probably the same as it is for a writer.
    The recharge is great, but the face-to-face meeting is the best reason to interact with people. Just as a pitch or the teaser on the back cover of a book only gives you a hint what a book will be like, a manuscript only gives a hint who the writer is. As for agents, I did a phone interview with a friend’s agent a few years back and thought she sounded like a real mover and shaker in the business. But when I met her in person at a writers guild business meeting, she was nothing but an argumentative, unkempt, chain-smoking drunk, that editors avoided like the plague. One told me that no one at his publishing house would work with her, and sent back – unread – everything she submitted. Another editor told me she got so drunk at a dinner meeting with him, she was sick on the table.
    An extreme case, but still…!

  7. I know writing can be a solitary endeavor in most cases
    The more serious I became about writing, the more I realise that writing isn’t solitary at all. Ok, much of the actual work is done in a space where it’s just me and the computer, or just me and a stack of index cards, but if I had to depend only on what my mind brought up I’d be writing rather shallow and trite.
    And I’m not just referring to the books I read, and the way in which I engage with those stories, but the whole process of talking writing to other people who understand me when I say ‘and then this character turns up at three in the morning and demands-‘
    So much of what I’ve learnt about writing has come in conversation – from short workshops to e-mail to meetings with a friend for lunch. Often simply the process of describing where the problem lies will rattle something loose, and I tend to go home *wanting to write more*. And the more I am aware of this, the more I notice it in others – so many books I pick up have a page of sincere acknowledgements: people who simply understand that sometimes dinner is late, people who read the whole thing, those who contribute one obscure point, and many who live inbetween.
    The company of writers energises me. I particularly enjoy the usenet group rec.arts.sf.composition which is frequented by writers of all levels and a great place to hang out and to meet people; there’s a professional attitude floating around, and a recent visit to Lonely Planet in London has us beam and smile how many names we recognised as ‘ours’.
    but agenting can often become that way as well.
    I would guess that you wanted to be an agent because you’re passionate about books and writing. I can see how that might sometimes be possible to forget, particularly if a majority of people you meet think that you’re their ticket to fame!
    I think sometimes successful writers suffer from that as well; and sometimes in the awe of ‘wow, I’m getting to meet <idol> ‘ people tend to forget that <famous writers> might have similiar interests and want to enjoy themselves – eat, drink, be merry, not be accosted by fans at all times. I know that *I* have been guilty, to a small degree, of starstruckness; which passed. Cons are probably a good place to hide in crowds, simply because _so many_ people will have some degree of recognisability, and the effect wears away after a time.
    Are you coming to Worldcon?

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