Chip MacGregor

July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July! (a rant)


So I had a post I was going to share today, even though it’s a holiday. I was checking some news online, when my phone rang. It was 9 in the morning.

Old guy’s voice: “Hello, I sent you a book proposal last week, and–”

Me: “But you’re not really calling me at home on the 4th of July to talk about it, right?”

Old guy’s voice: “Well, the 4th of July is the perfect day, since it gets into American history.”

Me: “Really? You’re calling my cell phone on the morning of the 4th of July to pitch your book?”

Old guy’s voice: “I thought you were a Christian.”

Me: “Um, I AM a Christian. I don’t see –”

Old guy’s voice: “You’re not showing the fruit of the spirit…”

Me: (Hanging up.)

Suddenly, it put me out of the holiday spirit. But it DOES motivate me to say something: I love books. I can honestly say that my life has been changed by books that I’ve read, and there’s not that many things in life we can point to and say that. A handful of people, a handful of books, a few decisions or events. So I’ve given my life to books and words and helping authors create books that make a difference. And YOUR book might be one of those fabulous books that makes a difference. But… you don’t just have a book — you have a life. Live it. Your book is important, but perhaps not the single most important thing in the world. Today is the day to go see a parade, watch a baseball game, barbecue, swap stories with the family. NOT to call an agent.

I don’t mean to be a jerk about this. I love going to writers’ conferences, since there’s great energy and it’s fun to sit and talk ideas and projects and books and authors. I rarely mind being pitched — even the classic elevator pitch, where some young author turns to me in the hallway (or even, yes, in an elevator) and says, “Hey, could I tell you about my novel?” Of course you can — it’s why we’re here! I’ll do it all day long and enjoy it. And then, sometimes, I’ll want to sit down with fellow agents Amanda Luedeke or Steve Laube or Jonathan Clements, order a beer, and talk shop. Or watch the Ducks play on TV in the hotel bar. And I’ll feel warmer toward you if you take that time to tell me that you love my Oregon Ducks than if you say, “As long as you’re alone, and it’s ten at night, and you’re clearly watching a football game, how about I share my dystopian zombie proposal with you?”

It’s true: I must be a terrible Christian. On Sunday, I’ll ask our rector at Saint Catherine’s what she thinks, and maybe she’ll give me some thoughts on how I can be better. But in the meantime, I’m going to go outside and watch the Manzanita parade of old cars, Boy Scouts, a pipe and drum corps, some cop-like guys on horses, and a few politicians in convertibles, waving as though we know who they are. We’ll wave flags and I’ll tear up when the veterans walk by and we all stand and applaud, because that’s what I do. Then I’m going to eat some barbecue and drink a Fat Tire (probably just one, since I’m trying to lose weight). We’ll swap stories and, if pressed, I’ll sing “The Night that Paddy Murphy Died” or “General Taylor.” Eventually we’ll all wander down to the beach to watch fireworks over the Pacific. It’ll be fun. My son and his 4-year-old daughter are going to stop in. I won’t think much about proposals today. And… I won’t be feeling guilty about it. If that bothers you, then you really need to be talking to some other, better, more spiritual literary agent. But you also need to gain some perspective.

End of rant. Go have fun. Happy 4th, everyone.

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  • Jaime Wright says:

    As my Gramma would say to all things ridiculous: “well, howdy-doo-dee, have they tripped their trigger!” (she was from the Old West, yes). 🙂

  • Lynn D. Morrissey says:

    I didn’t think I should be taking time to read this, Chip–today being a Holiday and all–but actually, it’s late, and I just realized another July Fourth has come and gone, fading fast like a beautiful sky-bursting firecracker trailing off into the night sky. Honestly? He really called you on July Fourth to talk shop?! Amazing. I was always taught never to call anyone before 9:00 a.m or after 9:00 p.m., but most of all: Never call an agent at home, especially on JULY FOURTH for goodness sake! Gosh, I wouldn’t even ask you to sing, though with a title like “The Night Paddy Murphy Died,” I must tell you that I am tempted! Sounds like a Scottish or Irish drinking song to me! =] With that happy thought, I will wish you a Happy Independence Day and bid you a fond adieu, without even having picked up the phone!

  • Peter DeHaan says:

    What a terrible way to start a holiday. Suddenly the sunburn I got while watching the parade that morning doesn’t hurt so much.

  • Cathy West says:

    So…what the heck is a Fat Tire? 😮

    • chipmacgregor says:

      It’s a very good beer — produced in Colorado by New Belgium Brewery. A favorite of mine, Cathy.

  • Sara says:

    This post made me smile so wide I just had to comment. We had a run in with a guy yesterday who had similar tact. He came banging on our door during my daughter’s nap time and when we didn’t answer he proceeded to shout at the door, asking if we were home. My husband finally went to answer it. This guy stayed at my in-laws a couple of nights last week but left his phone. Apparently he thought it was a great idea to show up at our house on a holiday and start shouting at the door. In the end, Mr.-guy-I’ve-only-met-once-before got his phone. Oh and, while he was at it, he decided to invite himself (and his friend) to our family barbeque. He left after eating four plates of food. Suffice it to say, it was quite an “interesting” holiday. 🙂

    • chipmacgregor says:

      This is where we are different, Sara. You’re nice. There is no way on earth I’d have given that guy food. But good for you — the world needs more people like you, who can be nice in the face of jerkiness! Happy 4th. Thanks for coming on to comment.

  • Linore Burkard says:

    Yikes! Definitely a rant-worthy event. I would have hung up too. (Sheesh!)

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I was really close to saying things I know I’d have regretted. I don’t like to hang up on people (since I hate being hung up on), but in this case, I saved myself from having to apologize for some very bad words, Linore.

  • Vicki Hinze says:

    Excellent post, my well-adjusted and BALANCED agent. We’re not building a career with a life. We’re building a life with a career!

    • chipmacgregor says:

      This from one of my favorite authors to work with. Thanks, Vicki. Hope you had a nice 4th!

  • Preston Brad Rentz says:

    Oh, one more thing. If you want great beer and to lose weight, try REDBRIDGE. It’s gluten free and very good. Especially with salt and lime. But I’m in South Texas, don’t know if you’re into the salt and lime thing. Happy 4th.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Redbridge. Thanks, Preston. I’ll look for it. (Really.)

    • chipmacgregor says:

      By the way, Preston, thanks for that recommendation. I liked Redbridge. Someone else suggested O’Doul’s Amber (not their regular one, which tastes, um, as though someone already drank it once, if you get my meaning). The Amber is great — tastes like actual beer!

    • Preston Brad Rentz says:

      Chip, very glad you liked the beer. And yes, it tastes like actual beer. I don’t think we’re missing anything of value. I’ll probably venture out at some point and try other gluten free brews. But Redbridge wins out of the first three I’ve tried. As a middle aged guy trying not to look middle aged, I like this gluten free thing.

  • Preston Brad Rentz says:


  • Dana Mentink says:

    I think it must be hard to be an agent because people can see you as an opportunity, rather than a person. I know I’ve had moments trying to talk to you at conferences when somebody will charge right in and disrupt the conversation to snag your attention. Not very polite! I hope you enjoyed your Fourth in spite of the phone call! 🙂

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I did, Dana! Had a great time watching the parade, listening to a celtic group, and watching fireworks. The day wasn’t ruined! :o)

  • Steven Hutson says:

    Apparently I’m no more Christ-like than Chip, because I didn’t even answer the phone on Independence Day. But wait…this guy has Chip’s cell number, and I don’t? Oh, the injustice…

  • Jamie Chavez says:

    Love it! (Well, not what happened to you. But I love the post.) Similar things have happened to me (and I’ve blog … er, ranted … about it); I feel your pain. Happy Independence Day!

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