Thursday, November 19, 2009


I had a bad morning--one of those days when nothing seems to be working out. Too many projects, not enough time, miscommunication, the works. Jon wasn't doing any better at his desk and we growled and sniped our way through our tasks. Plus, we have all these worries about what's going on in publishing. How can we make sure our clients get a fair price for e-book rights? Are agents going to be necessary in the brave new publishing world? Are books going to be published in the brave new publishing world? Sometimes it's just too much to ponder!

Finally, about 11, I scooped up a few pieces of mail that needed to go out today, threw on my sweatshirt and headed for the mailbox. I got to the end of the sidewalk and stopped in my tracks when I realized I was staring into four sets of big brown eyes. Standing in the orchard across the road were two does and two yearling fawns. (I use the term "road" lightly. Cricklewood Cove is a two lane cul-de-sac, more like a paved path.)

It's cool and cloudy today and I could see the warm air swirling out of their black, shiny noses. They flicked their huge ears, and pawed at the sod. They didn't seem afraid of me, just curious. I stood as still as possible and stared right back at them. One of the fawns grew bored and stepped over to a young oak tree and began nibbling on the remaining dry leaves. I don't know how long the rest of us just stood there. Perhaps a few minutes or so. Finally one of the does began moving toward the street. I did not want her to go that way--in that direction lie real roads, real traffic and terrible consequences. So I whispered, "You beautiful things," and walked toward them. One of the does continued to stare at me as if to say, "Why are you in such a snit?" Then the group slowly turned, gave me a few second looks and headed back from where they had come, in the direction of woods, cover and some serenity.

I watched as they ambled nimbly away, stark white tails flicking in the breeze.

A transformative moment? For me it was.

Deer are everywhere in Pennsylvania, and most people think of them as pests. I've been told that the Pennsylvania white tail deer are not even native to the area but were imported from the West by hunting enthusiasts. Nonetheless, they are magnificent when you unexpectedly encounter them. They can elevate a bad mood in a heartbeat. They can help you put things into perspective.

I still have too much to do. It's still grey and cold today. Emails are piling up. But somewhere not far from here four lovely deer are living in the moment. E-books, publishing and the recession are simply not an issue. Munching on leaves and grass and finding a place to bed down are the real concerns.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I sat on the agents' panel at the Montgomery County Community College Writers Conference in Blue Bell, PA last weekend. The entire affair was classy and smoothly run. As usual at these events, I don't know who benefited more, the agents or the authors.

After giving brief comments about ourselves and our book "wish lists," we agents answered questions from the audience. The questions were excellent. Here are a few samples:
  • Do you need to be a celebrity to sell a memoir? Answer: No. But you need to be a powerful writer with a memorable and life changing story. (One of the agents quipped that it would be very cool if you'd given birth to an alien baby.)
  • Is "chick lit" dead? Answer: No. Now it's called women's fiction.
  • Is it OK to send a query for a novel that is not completed yet? Answer: NO.
  • Is it OK to send a query that includes several projects? Answer: No, no, no.
  • What about poetry? Answer: Oh, dear. Most agents love poetry. Trouble is, there is not enough money to go around, so there are few, if any, agents representing the genre.
  • Is it best to email or snail mail queries? Answer: It depends on the agent. Find out which format they prefer before sending. There is not a standard answer to this question. It's up to each individual agent.

After the panel discussion, Jon and I had 5-minute "dates" with authors. The authors were splendid--knowledgeable, passionate, innovative and funny. This part of the conference was especially well-managed by the MCCC staff.

All-in-all, it was a great writers conference. Montgomery County Community College is the ideal venue for this event with ample parking, beautiful campus, and great facilities. The writers conference is held every year at this time, so if Philadelphia is nearby, or if you would like to travel to Pennsylvania in the fall, consider going next November.