Single White Female Seeks Literary Agent/ How Finding an Agent is like Finding a Date

This week, I sent my revised book proposal to an interested agent. Fingers crossed.
For those of you unfamiliar with the book-selling process, here’s how it begins:
You need an agent.  Literary agents are the baleen to the publishing industry’s whale. The Brita to the publishing industry’s drinking water. The pan to the publishing industry’s gold, according to agent Nathan Bransford.
So you send known literary agents a query letter, trying to pique their interest in your writing, and in you. A typical agent receives 50-500 queries a week, and will take on one to two new authors a year.
Should you be fortunate to hear back from the agent, he/she may request your book proposal, which includes and author bio, chapter summaries, sample chapters, and a comparative market analysis, among other things.
This is not an easy process.
It reminds me a lot of the futility of dating. I’ve been a divorced woman now for more than twenty years.  If dating was a paid union job, I’d have retired by now.  Actually, I think I have.
But I remain optimistic about seeking an agent, much more so than I am about seeking a partner.

Here’s how seeking an agent is different than seeking a date:

At speed dating event in Anchorage, where we both struck out.


When seeking an agent, it’s time to be self-promoting. 

Another words, talk about your accomplishments, your goals, and your strengths.

When having a first date (as a woman), I’ve noticed men respond better to a woman who asks about them. Their accomplishments,their goals, their strengths. They enjoy a good listener.

Agents appreciate pre-editing. It’s in an author’s best interests to have their work looked at by a critiquing group or professional editor in advance of submitting it.  Dates like their Special Someone to speak freely. At first. The editing comes in later, after that relationship is cemented, when suddenly the Special Someone’s jokes and opinions are in need of a tweak.

Personal referrals to an agent are preferred. If you know someone who writes in your same genre and who’s happy with their agent, it’s supreme if you can get them to give you a recommendation. Not so with dating. Does your friend have an old flame that’s available? Don’t even think about it. Way creepy.

How selecting a literary agent is like finding date:
A good literary agent will never charge a fee for their services.  Enough said.

The relationship between a literary agent and an author is mutually beneficial.  Their efforts complement one another. If an agent promotes the work of their author well and the work sells, the agent’s commission increases right along with the author’s profit. Lasting relationships I’ve seen or read about also provide a win/win opportunity for both parties. Wife gets a raise, shared household income increases. Husband begins an exercise plan, extending his life with his wife.

You should know everything about your agent before signing a contract, much the same way you should know your sweetie frontwards and backwards before getting married. Sites like Predators and Editors and the Thumbs Down Agency List can give more information. Unfortunately, you’re on your own with dating.
One last thing.

I’ve learned a lot from rejections from literary agents. I’ve learned a lot from my failed relationships, too, so long as there was dialogue about the relationship’s demise. But agents, like lovers, are often distant in their rejections, either not responding to queries, or sending a form letter that states basically, “It isn’t you. It’s me. Someone will want you soon, I’m certain.”

Here are a two of my favorite rejectors.

Gordon Warnock


Jeff Kleinman of Folio Literary Management

And here’s to hoping I don’t accumulate many more.

It’s almost Christmas. Kindle owners, do you have my short story yet for 99 cents?


Secrets of A Thanksgiving Survivor: Guest interview with Jack the Turkey

I met Jack the Turkey  last spring when I visited my sister’s farm in New Mexico.

I was smitten immediately. Outside of his obvious good lucks, I loved the way Jack walked with us around the property, keeping up with our conversation, interacting with the other farm animals, and becoming despondent any time I shifted my attention from him to a baby goat or to my sister. The guy had a lot of charisma.

I later learned that as a farm turkey, Jack’s was only expected to live a year or less. And yet, here he is, living out loud at age seven in Eastern New Mexico.

Jack’s early life story is sad. Raised by a single-mother who died when he was still a babe, Jack grew up without ever meeting his father. He was separated from his siblings at a young age, and found out that they, along with most of his childhood friends, met their demise in large ovens.

But Jack is a success. A survivor. He’s defied the odds. I interviewed Jack in May of 2012, and he had some words of wisdom that are worth passing on.

Q. You’ve outlived your turkey peers by far. What do you attribute to your success?

A. Thank you. I know this may come off arrogant or self-centered, but it occurred to me as a young guy that I’m better looking than the average turkey. And people really respond to that, so I started taking care of myself. I began walking a lot, and although the people who raised me gave plenty of food, I refrained from eating everything in front of me. I don’t want to get too big. I groomed carefully, and kept my feet clean by washing daily in the dog’s water dish.

Tip: Be a good steward of your given strengths

A.But after the first year, I could see my looks begin to slip. My feathers thinned and my wattle drooped. Then I met Molly. As a dog, it looked to me like she had a great advantage. People have always called dogs Man’s best friend. So I decided to copy Molly. She follows her owner everywhere. She likes to show affection. She chases things thrown to her, and hangs out with cats, dogs, humans, and me. Molly helped me understand that family isn’t just who you’re born to and with. Family can be created through any relationship where love and commitment exist.

Tip: Find a mentor to copy

A. That said, I’m not unaffected by my circumstances. I don’t like Thanksgiving, or Christmas. or New Years. Any of the holidays when my less fortunate relatives might be slaughtered. But every January 2nd, I’m reminded that life is a gift that I’m grateful for. I try to take nothing for granted, and I tell the younger turkeys I meet to take care of themselves, to value their relationships with friends and family, and to promote eating chicken for the holidays whenever possible. Or tofu.

Tip: Every Day Can Be Thanksgiving 

Happy Thanksgiving to Jack the Turkey, and to all of us survivors. 

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What Veterans Can Teach Us About Healing from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder


Happy Veterans Day.

Today, I stumbled upon this great slide show about new techniques used to restore our returning Veterans from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A simple definition of PTSD given by the Mayo Clinic is that it’s a mental condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

While PTSD was initially identified after veterans from the Vietnam War returned home in tatters, it turns out veterans don’t have the corner on the market to PTSD. Victims of domestic violence, natural disasters, or any frightening event can develop PTSD.  

The Veterans Administration has a useful quiz on their website to identify the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. If you’ve been through a devastatingly life-changing event but aren’t a veteran, just mentally omit the word military in the questions below.

Do you have

Repeated, disturbing memories, thoughts, or images of a stressful military experience?
Repeated, disturbing dreams of a stressful military experience?
Suddenly acting or feeling as if a stressful military experience were happening again (as if you were reliving it)?
Having physical reactions (e.g., heart pounding, trouble breathing, sweating) when something reminded you of a stressful military experience?
Avoiding thinking about or talking about a stressful military experience or avoiding having feelings related to it?
Avoiding activities or situations because they reminded you of a stressful military experience?
Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy?
Feeling distant or cut off from other people?
Feeling emotionally numb or being unable to have loving feelings for those close to you?
Having difficulty concentrating?
Being “superalert” or watchful or on guard?
Feeling jumpy or easily startled?

How to score your answers.   

Go to for more information

Thankfully, we can take a page from our veterans, and share in their healing. Yoga, acupuncture, exposure therapy, and even music can be a part of the plan.

Trauma happens to all of us. But it doesn’t have to last for the rest of our lives.


Today, thank a Veteran for their sacrifices.  

It’s a small step towards helping them heal.

More Than Happy In Our Shrinking World

This was a crazy week. With Hurricane Sandy images everywhere, Halloween coinciding with a full moon, and too many evening commitments after my nine hour work day, the one thing I did look forward to was my friend Duane’s birthday party.

Visiting Duane has been the highlight of my week for quite a while now, so I wanted this birthday to be everything he wanted.

Pumpkin pie with chocolate ice cream?( Blech!)  Sure!  A singing gram from sent to his home computer? Fun! Mexican food from East Anchorage’s Hacienda restaurant? Why not?

Life is short, and he’s so grateful for every day that he lives. He deserves a surprise.

His birthday was on Wednesday, but the surprise was on me. Tuesday, Duane died.

Like me, Duane loved true stories with happy endings. I found two short ones to share this week that begged the question:

When is it time to give up on finding a lost loved one?

When fifteen year-old Thomas Beck scaled a wall in a Budapest Nazi Concentration Camp in 1944, he left behind the love of his young life. Fourteen year-old Edith Greiman’s image stayed with him a long time. Through his childhood and young adulthood. Past his marriage, and even after retirement.
Beck lived his life with gratitude and attitude.

“Being locked up in Nazi Germany, what else can happen?”

It wasn’t until making a documentary about the experiences of his youth that he learned Edith was still alive and recently widowed.

Four years later, they still take nothing for granted. “We are more than happy,” Edith has said about their life together during interviews.

More than happy
. What a great statement.

Thousands of miles away, Cambodians are finally getting help finding their loved ones.  The Los Angeles Times reported that a TV show called It’s Not a Dream receives more than 50 calls a day from Cambodians separated from their families after the Communist government of the Khmer Rouge attempted to separate nuclear families, considering them to be a stronghold of capitalism.

Heng Vicheka reunited with his parents recently after being separated from his family as a little boy in 1993.,0,5962955.story

When his parents joined him on the stage, he showed them the ultimate respect by removing his shoes. His mother cried and promised to show her gratitude to the gods by shaving her head.

When is it too late to reunite with your missing loved ones?

If you’re still alive, you’ve still got time. Life is fleeting, and we all deserve to know what it is to be more than happy.