Chip MacGregor

March 22, 2016

On the loss of a friend


My friend and fellow agent Mary Sue Seymour passed away yesterday, after a long and courageous fight with cancer. I just wanted to mention it because Mary Sue was one of the nice people in this business, with a friendly and gentle spirit — something that maybe doesn’t describe a lot of us in the industry. She was friendly to me, even when I was being viewed as a less-than-likable person by some folks. There’s a story that I’ve long wanted to share…

A few years ago, I used to do a regular post on some of the awful proposals that were sent my way. It was done in the vein of SlushPile Hell, or the late, lamented Miss Snark, with a view toward poking fun, talking about the dopey side of this business, but maybe with a bit of educational content for writers. Still, it was basically a way for me to share funny stuff that I saw and rarely got to talk with anyone about. (I still remember sharing the worst opening line I’ve ever seen in a novel: “Ring! Ring!,” said the telephone. I believe the response I offered on the blog was Barf! Barf!, said the agent.)

Some people got it in the spirit with which it was intended. Others didn’t. I work in both the general market as well as the religious market, and let’s just say some people on the religious side weren’t terribly enthusiastic about my poking fun at their bad proposals. I’ve long felt too many Christians have become humor impaired; trading in their ability to laugh for a serious countenance because, you know, the-world-is-lost-and-people-are-going-to-hell-so-how-can-you-laugh-in-the-face-of-such-despair?!! I thought it was the dumbest argument I’d ever heard, since laughter is one of our most uniquely human traits. Not everyone agreed with me.

I got a bunch of cranky emails. At least one group of writers started coming onto my page regularly, just to complain about my tone and lack of charity, and to basically question if I was fit to work in the industry. It got personal. I was at a conference one time where somebody decided to unload in public, talking about my blog, my words, my personal life.

Mary Sue was at that conference, and, at a panel, she made a point of saying she thought my blog was great — that it was funny and offered good information, and that people should relax and be willing to laugh at themselves. I saw her after, and we talked. She admitted that it wouldn’t be her style to create a blog that poked fun at someone’s bad idea, but so what? She knew it was meant in good fun, and she said she had laughed a lot, having read some of those same proposals and having had the same thoughts about them that I had. Then she told me, “People need to laugh more, Chip. Keep doing what you’re doing.” 

I always appreciated that Mary Sue, a woman who was considerably nicer than me, would come to my defense. But that’s what she was like. She was warm and friendly, and never acted like we were somehow “competitors.” (A pet peeve of mine. Some agents act like we’re in a battle with each other — we are not. You represent your authors; I represent mine. It’s not like there is only one slot at Random House and our two novelists are vying for it in some sort of Author Death Match, for goodness’ sake.)

The world has plenty of cranky, abrupt people. It’s nice to make friends with somebody who spent much of their life on the other side of the ledger. Rest in peace, my friend. You’ll be missed.

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  • Thank you for sharing that. She sounds wonderful.

  • Cara Putman says:

    She was a sweet spirit in the industry.

  • Vie Herlocker says:

    Thank you for this remembrance of a very gentle, very giving lady.

  • Thank you for sharing your beautiful tribute, Chip. It’s clear she had a talent for thinking of the person she was with rather than herself, and putting them at ease. And I hope you’ll always remember the advice she gave you – don’t change!

  • Jodie Bailey says:

    Beautiful, Chip.

  • Michael Ehret says:

    Never knew Mary Sue personally, but I’m glad to know you. And this story about the two of you. She sounds like a wonderful lady. You? You sound like you … and that’s great, too.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      As I said, Mary Sue was considerably nicer than me, Michael. But appreciate your words very much.

  • Jodie Wolfe says:

    Thank you for the story, Chip. Great tribute to your friend.

    I agree, we Christians need to laugh more. 🙂

  • Mart Ramirez says:

    Beautiful story, Chip!! Thank you for sharing it with us.
    The world truly lost a beautiful soul. We will all miss Zmary Sue immensely.

  • Cecelia Dowdy says:

    What a wonderful tribute. I only met Mary Sue once at an ACFW conference. I sat at her table with a group of Amish romance authors. She was nice, gracious and invited me to submit. She was one of the kindest people that I met at that conference. I’m sure she will be greatly missed by her clients as well as others.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      I can see her sitting there, surrounded by Amish novelists, Cecelia! A very kind person. Thanks for this.

  • Ane Mulligan says:

    Laughter makes the heart merry. It’s Scriptural. However, there are alwys Pharisees among us. Besides, one of those examples was probably … Well you know. Mary Sue was a sweetheart and you’re a good guy. One who makes me laugh. Thanks, Chip for a beautiful tribute.

  • Lynette Eason says:

    Beautiful words, Chip. I, for one, would like to see more of your humor taken from SlushPile Hell. 🙂 I didn’t know Mary Sue very well, just kind of in passing at conferences, but she was always kind and had a smile for everyone she came in contact with. Thanks for posting such a lovely story about her, Chip. I wish I’d known her better. 🙂

  • Robin Patchen says:

    Lovely words. I never met her, but I’ve always heard the kindest things about her. I know she’ll be missed.

  • Pamela Meyers says:

    Thanks for sharing, Chip. I didn’t know Mary Sue well, but after reading so many tributes to her, I’m sorry I didn’t get to know her better. By the way, I laughed out loud at the worst opening you’ve ever seen in a novel and your response. I needed that laugh as I’m up to my ears in edits right now. Thanks!

  • Very sweet post. I attended my first writers conference a few years ago at RWA National in Atlanta. I had just finished my first novel, and I was basically by myself at this huge conference, so nervous about pitching. I pitched to you and Mary Sue, and though my manuscript was nowhere near ready, I came away feeling you both were spectacular people. She was so sweet, and I personally think you are very funny. She will be missed.

  • Peggotty says:

    I didn’t know Mary Sue, but what a fine person she must have been (be) to exemplify grace against the mob. I get your sense of humor, Chip. Writing humor these days can be tough unless it’s totally self-deprecating. As in, I feel like I’m in a straight jacket, where I belong. Writing a weekly column in a small town newspaper can be a real tightrope walk. There’s material lying around going to waste everywhere. Often, I muzzle myself and become an audience of one, or two, if the cat is awake. I agree that most people need to look in the mirror and learn to laugh more. Maybe blood pressure medication sales would decrease.
    Oh, and this post didn’t show up in my email yesterday. I saw it by accident after reading Erin’s today.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Thanks, Peggotty. If I could figure out the ins and outs of the new blog, I’d be a much better person. :o)

  • Patricia Bradley says:

    Thanks so much for this story about Mary Sue. I can just hear her saying that. ? It also made me cry.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Very much appreciate you saying something, Patricia. Thanks. I’m sorry for your loss.

  • Kelly says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. What a delightful lady she must have been. Lovely tribute.

    • chipmacgregor says:

      Appreciate that, Kelly. Please keep her family, her co-workers, and her authors in your prayers.

  • Edwina Cowgill says:

    Chip, a beautiful tribute to a wonderful lady!


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