OK, so go ahead and laugh

April 9, 2008

Well, I thought I’d give you all something to grin about at the start of your day, whether it is spent glued to a corporate chair or hard at work on the manuscript which you hope will change your life.
There was once a literary agent who had various anxieties in her life: the biggest one being the vast inbox of submissions that loomed before her like an Everest of decision-making. Oh, how well she knew that if she stepped carelessly on those submissions, she stepped on precious dreams. In order to Get Ahead and maximise the absence out of town of the Husband (fear not, the agent was guarded at all times by a huge, slavering Hound who never left her side), the agent decided to rise particularly early one morning and attack the pile. Clad in new red Vera Wang robe and itsy-bitsy golden ballet slippers, she skipped downstairs, flicking the switch on the coffee machine en route to letting the Hound out of the back door. But oh dear – the Hound had problems descending the slippery steps! The agent went outside to assist – only to hear the door click shut behind her. Locked! Bolted! Impenetrable!

Alone with Hound, the agent deliberated – what to do? 6.15am, 40 degrees, and not a neighbour (or not the only neighbour with a key) stirring! Nothing to be done but to tough it out, manifesting the spirit that once made the British Empire great. So the agent sat down on the cold concrete step, reassured the Hound that breakfast milkbones would one day be forthcoming, and waited. And waited. And waited – as tentacles of cold inched their way into her rapidly freezing bones. There was much to think about on that step: Is it better to look only for fully formed manuscripts (like the agent’s many competitors) or work creatively with authors in the gamble of reaching a great submission together? How to help authors realize that finding an agent isn’t the end of the rainbow – it’s only the beginning? What is going to be the next big thing in children’s/YA fiction in the US and UK markets? It’s amazing the things you delve into when your rear end is frozen off at the crack of dawn.

Eventually the cold became too bad for any rational thought, so the agent made an innovative decision (much akin to those set out in Gary Paulsen’s novel of survival in the wild – HATCHET). She set off (surreptitiously, creeping through the undergrowth – what girl wants to be seen clad only in Vera Wang and a pair of ballet pumps?) towards the road, making a rapid grab on the morning’s papers. After all, we all know the value of newsprint – and I don’t mean in terms of articles on super-delegates. Safely back at her step again, she took the papers out of their little plastic bags (one blue, one white) and put the bags on her feet as socks. Then she fashioned a Batman cape out of the Style section of the New York Times and hunkered back down, revelling in something that could almost be termed warmth (or at least a reprieve from hypothermia). Didn’t we always know there was much to learn from people living rough in London and New York?

The roar of school buses alerted the agent to a world gradually awakening and she set off once more, this time to the neighbour’s front porch (helpfully gathering up HIS newspapers as a peace offering) where she sat in his rocking chair until a movement in the window alerted her to the presence of humanity. Yesssss! A quick ring on the door bell and baffled-looking neighbour appeared – clearly perturbed and somewhat mesmerized by the sight of a mad-looking female, hair standing on end and clad in Vera, the New York Times and plastic-bag socks – proffering him his Wall Street Journal.

A few words of explanation and all is understood. Ah yes, of course! It’s the British lady – well, we all know she’s unusual anyway because she speaks funny, so what can you expect?

It’s amazing what excuses an agent can find to avoid the submissions inbox, isn’t it. And, well, there’s always another day – isn’t there?

Enjoy your day, everyone. And wrap up warm.

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