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.