Monday, September 19, 2011

Odd Jobs

Help Wanted...
Help Wanted... by Thewmatt, on Flickr

There are some people who happen upon their dream job on their first try and stick with it for 25 or 30 years. I am not one of those people. While I've never actually held down a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job in my life, I've worked since I was 14. I've had jobs ranging from absurd (hawking deep-fried fish at the county fair) to amazing (costume designer for a short film about human trafficking). I've had good bosses (Bob Evans) and bad bosses (Mitchell's). Some jobs have utilized my skill set (grant writing), others have made me painfully aware of my short comings (waiting tables). I've always dreamed of making a living as a writer, but here's a rundown of the fabulous jobs I've held in the meantime.

  • Babysitter
  • Harvesting grapes at a vineyard
  • Bus-girl at Bob Evans, a popular family restaurant east of the Mississippi
  • Cashier at Marc's, a Cleveland-area store that's a cross between Big Lots and a supermarket
  • Food vender at the Lorain County Fair
  • Camp Counselor at Youth With A Mission Los Angeles, prepping teens to build houses in Tijuana, Mexico
  • Page at the local public library
  • Selling merchandise for bands at underground concerts
  • Featured columnist for the Avon Lake Press, my hometown newspaper
  • Serving ice cream at Mitchell's, a Cleveland-area gourmet ice cream shop
  • Waiting tables at The Mustard Seed, a natural foods market/cafe
  • Usher/box office/concessions at a movie theatre
  • Wedding/portrait/concert photographer
  • Photography intern at the Palisadian Post, a Los Angeles area weekly newspaper
  • Temp assistant for a literary agent while her full time assistant was on jury duty
  • Assistant for a garden antiques dealer
  • Submissions agent for a celebrity photography agency
  • Costume designer/set dresser/screen writer for Traffik, a short film about human trafficking
  • Office manager/grant writer for Sound Art, a non-profit that provides music programs in inner-city neighborhoods

So what random jobs have you held? What are you doing until you make it?

Friday, September 16, 2011

"No Response Means No"

books by no_typographic_man, on Flickr

One of the things I love most about social networking is connecting to people I'd never have a chance to meet in real life. I follow several agents on Twitter and it has given me a lot of insight into the publishing world and given me specific info on approaching (or not approaching) specific agents. I get to watch in real time as agents share query mistakes, wish lists and more.

On the flip side, I've also watched a lot of drama unfold, particularly in regards to the "no response means no" policy adopted by some agents. I've heard very good arguments from both sides of the issue and it's been very informative for me as a writer in the midst of querying.

An agent that I follow posted a blog explaining why she adopted a "no response means no" policy and frankly, it made a lot of sense to me. I think most agents know fairly quickly if they are interested in a manuscript or not. Taking the time to reply to each query can be very time consuming. I worked (briefly) for a literary agent in college and she spent more time on negative responses than anything else. Granted, she gave feedback with most responses, but she also received a lot less queries than most agents today and she wasn't on email yet.

Anyway, that issue aside, the agent who posted the blog also talked about the emotional/karmic impact of saying no all the time. I think we forget that agents want to say yes just as much as we want them to say yes. They want and NEED good projects to rep. I can only imagine what it's like to start each day hoping for your next great project and sifting through hundreds of emails, only to find nothing you feel passionately about.

And as writers, we want agents who are passionate about our projects - as passionate or more than we are. I've heard enough horror stories about writers who signed with agents only to part ways later because the agent wasn't really passionate about the project or just wasn't able to find a place for it in the market. How much worse would that be than to never sign at all?

My experience with querying is very limited. I've sent a grand total of seven queries in my entire life, six of which I sent less than a month ago. Of those, I've received one form response, one personalized pass and silence. The one that bothered me the most? The form rejection. The personalized no felt like a pass - like the agent was telling me the problem wasn't my project, just that it wasn't for her. I can handle that. The form rejection made me feel like my project wasn't worth even reading. The silence is hard, but it is easier than hearing "no" over and over, especially in a non-personalized email.

However, if an agent has a "no answer means no" policy, I really appreciate some kind of auto response so I know they got my email and it didn't just end up in the spam folder. The other things that I appreciate is a time frame. I know agents are busy, but even if it's a huge range, like six months, some kind of closure helps so much!

Personal opinions aside, the thing that really bothered me about this whole debacle was the way some people have responded. The agent who originally posted the blog has now closed to queries. She received so many negative responses that she's considered closing her blog as well. The anonymous nature of the internet has made us brave and apparently no longer requires even the most basic social graces. I don't know this agent at all. I sent her a query and never heard back, but I bear no ill will toward her. She clearly stated her policy and I knew that when I hit send. I know nothing other than what I've garnered from her Tweets and her blog, but I know that she's done nothing to deserve the kind of response she's gotten. It's rude and unprofessional and completely uncalled for. The lack of professionalism and common courtesy really bothers me.

Is it so much to ask that we treat each other with kindness and respect? Writers and agents need each other and in the end, we all want the same things. We want exciting projects and partners who share our excitement. We want people who will work hard and continue to work to make a project better. So be nice and remember, we're all in this together.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Civic Duty

First woman jury, Los Angeles (LOC) by The Library of Congress, on Flickr

I start jury duty in the morning. Here's to hoping for interesting people watching and avoiding getting placed on a jury! Unless it's a really interesting case and can resolve quickly so I can home to my little man and my big man can get back to work! Freelance gigs are hard enough to come by without needing days off! Maybe I'll even get some writing done while sitting around the courthouse.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Seven Random Facts

Seven by melanie_hughes, on Flickr

In continuation of my post on Blog Awards, here are seven random facts about me.

1. My given name is actually Jenny. Not Jennifer or Genevieve. Just Jenny.
2. I live in Southern California and yet I don't wear shorts. I own one pair. I've worn them once in the last two years.
3. I am terrified of fish. Completely terrified. Like I have nightmares and wake up in a panic because I think there are fish in my sheets. I can't take my eyes off a fish tank if it's in the same room as me.
4. I've visited Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Spain, France and England, but I've never been to Canada.
5. I didn't learn to drive until I was 19.
6. I now prefer a stick shift to an automatic, even in LA traffic.
7. I do all my best writing late at night, but I come up with my best ideas in the shower or while driving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Fight

The vast majority of romanic movies and books end after our protagonists fall in love. New love is raw and dramatic and exciting. We cheer for that first kiss, that first declaration of love. We share in the would-be lovers' heartache and frustrations as they step forward and back on the path to true love. And we fade out, before reality can hit and draw us back to the daily struggles of real relationships.
There is another love story, one that is seldom told, but one that holds as much drama and excitement and heartache. It is the story of fighting for love. Fighting to stay in love. Fighting to hold on through the stress and strain of daily life. Fighting to prove over and over that after all the years, you would still choose your partner.
So why isn't this story told more often? Why do we stick to falling in love? I think it's harder to write the other kind of love story. I think it's harder to fight with our characters than it is to watch them fall in love. We've all fallen in love, probably dozens of times, and fallen out of love just as often. But love worth fighting for is much rarer. In short, it's easy to fall in love. It's HARD to stay in love.
I want to write about the fight. I've loved writing about new love, about first kisses and yet-unrealized dreams. But there is so much more to love than the beginning. I want to tell those stories.

Blog Awards

Who knew there was so much more to being a writer that writing?! Building a platform is just as important these days as polishing a manuscript. There are so many great resources out there for aspiring writers to build an online presence and I feel like I'm barely keeping up! Rachael Harrie runs a great platform building campaign twice a year to help writers connect to one another and build a web presence. It's a great opportunity, but I knew that I wouldn't have the time to dedicate to the campaign this time around.

That being said, I've still felt the love from the writing community. Two of my blog followers - Megan at Paws, Fangs and Smiles and Lyla at Lyla Writes gave me my first blog awards!

So thank you, Megan for the Liebster Award!

The Liebster Award is "to showcase bloggers with less than 200 followers." After receiving the award, bloggers are asked to pass it along to five other bloggers with less than 200 followers. I'm going to take this opportunity to give a shout out to some of my fellow Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award writers:

Thanks for all the ABNA encouragement and I look forward to seeing us all in bookstores some day!

I also want to thank Lyla for Versatile Blogger and Irresistibly Sweet Blog Awards.

The rules for these two awards are:

1) Thank and link to the person who nominates you.
2) Share seven random facts about yourself.
3) Pass the award to five more blogger friends.
4) Contact and congratulate the blogs nominated.

I'm going to pass these along to:

Leigh Ann Kopans (my awesome crit partner!) - Because of the wide range of posts she manages to write every week! Always something new and exciting!
Rachel McClellan - Because she has done so much to help out other writers -
Ladonna Watkins - Because she's a fellow SoCal writer! -
Chanelle Gray - Because she has great book reviews -
The Query Goblin - Because she's awesome and helped me with my query SO MUCH -
Casey McCormick - Because she has gathered the most helpful collection of links on agents -

I will post my seven random facts later this week!