Monday, September 28, 2009

Grumpy Professionals at the Conference

If there's one thing that hammered home some reality for me at the conference, it was hearing horror stories about agents or editors. And what reality smacked me upside the head, you ask?

They're human.

Yep. Fallible, exhausted, excitable, annoyed, happy humans.

At a conference it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of meeting someone who can make one of our dreams come true that sometimes editors and agents tend to take on celebrity status.

I was shocked when I heard the first story of rudeness, but then I took notice of my surroundings and slowly, slowly drifted back to Earth.

Pitch appointments were all day long for these professionals. About five sit in a big room at different tables and in fifteen minute increments they listen to us pitch, they read our work and they (hopefully) give their opinion. One agent whose class I attended could barely speak in the evening, her voice was so hoarse.

Lesson learned? They're at the conference for work, not play (well, not too much play, LOL) I decided I wanted to look everyone in the eye as a person (a fellow dog lover, a fellow bookaholic, a friend), and not as a stepping stone to success.

Have you ever met a celebrity? How did you react? Is it easy for you to see beyond someone's profession?

56 comments:

Tabitha Bird said...

that is such a great way to look at meeting a person, regardless of who they are. I know what you mean though about meeting someone who can make your dreams come true, I think I'd feel the same. But you are right, a the end of the day these dream makers are VERY human.

I have met a few semi famous people. Mostly local football stars. But I once met Bryce Courtney, author of the Power of One and I was so nervous I barely spoke :) He is a bit of a hero of mine :)

Jody Hedlund said...

Great point, Jessica. We need to see them as human beings with their own joys and sorrows. They're there to work and so are we, so I think we all expect to share about our writing in one form or another. And yet, I think it begins to take on another demention when we writers work too hard at getting the agents and editors to like us and our writing. That's when perhaps we overstep the professional boundaries.

Jessica said...

Hi Tabitha,
LOL! How are you meeting football stars? That's kind of neat. And yes, if I met one of my favorite authors (Francine Rivers) I'm pretty sure my tongue would be cleaving to the roof of my mouth too! LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Jody,
Such a good point. Because it's all professional first, before anything else, I think writers need to have the self-respect to keep it that way. We're not a fan club (as much as we might feel like it, *snort*).
But we're all human and just as editors and agents get rude, sometime we might be a little enamored. LOL!
You should do a post on professional boundaries. That would be a good one.

Catherine West said...

I have to say, this is the first year I have ever heard any talk about 'rudeness' from agents and editors. You're not the only one I've heard it from either. I am surprised, but I have to wonder if the state of the economy has a lot to do with that. I can imagine it must be pretty frustrating to hear a bunch of pitches all day long and know you can only really follow up on a handful. But there's really no excuse for being rude, is there? Like you say, they're human, and I do think we writers place unreasonable expectations on the industry professionals.
Celebrities - we have a few here in Bermuda. There's a particular actress that we run into from time to time. She's lovely, but I have to admit, it's hard to get past the whole Oscar-winning actress thing. I think that would come in time, if you got to know the person beyond their celebrity status. I'm not sure I would ever want that kind of life though, it must be very difficult to have people see you not for who you really are but for what you do.

Jessica said...

Hi Catherine,
I agree. I'd rather have my life now. LOL! I didn't realize there were celebrities in Bermuda, but I guess I'm not surprised.

Honestly, I've never heard about rudeness at a Christian conference, only at secular, so I was pretty surprised too. It happens though, like you said. :-) Maybe the economy had something to do with it? I do know one person was possibly in physical pain, and we know that can make us super grumpy.

anita said...

Great post, Jessie. And I think you hit the nail on the head when you said they're only human. As writers, we tend to put them up on a pedastal because we feel like they hold our entire futures in our hands. It would do us all good to remember WHO really does hold our futures, and try to be understanding and mindful of the stress and demand that must come with jobs like editing and agenting.

Thanks for the reminder!

anita said...

Oops. That was supposed to say "our entire future in THEIR hands." Snort!

It's way too early for me. :-)

Kristen Painter said...

I met a lot of celebrities when I worked for Wolfgang Puck. They're people just like us, but with a lot more money and sometimes, a lot more attitude.

Terri Tiffany said...

I've met a ton of celebreties from going years to CBA shows. Soon you see them as only people like me--especially when you use the same bathroom and walk the same halls and stand in line at the same snack stand. People are people.

Jessica said...

LOL Kristen! I'd bet they have more attitude, though I know some people who might give a celebrity a run for his money.

Jessica said...

Anita,
You're so right. There's one who holds our future in His hands. Absolutely.

Jessica said...

Terri,
You struck me as very down to earth. :-) Wow, so how many CBA shows have you gone to?

Diane said...

I have met a few celebrities and I had the adrenaline rush but knew they were humans just like me, and they put their pants on the same way as me, so I treated them normally and they actually appreciated it more than fussing all over them. :O)

Jeanette Levellie said...

I admire your mature attitude, Jessie. To see people as human beings created in God's image--just like you--rather than stepping stones to success.

I've met only one agent I considered a bit rude--closed would be a more accurate description. I think she was tired, overwhelmed, and human. Like you said.

I also met an editor that I sensed was genuinely shy. Some people may have taken her reservedness as rude, but I spotted timidness in our encounter. I've since had a few encounters with her, and found her full of compassion and kindness.

Jennifer Shirk said...

Yes, I've met some celebrities. Some kept up with the image I had in my head and some didn't.
But you're right. It's so easy for us to be "star-struck" by writers or editors or agents and forget they're just like us. :)

Janna Qualman said...

You're one smart cookie. Thanks for sharing this observation, Jessica.

My husband is better with this than I. If he sees stars in my eyes, he's very good to point out, "They're just people." And he's right.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

What? Agents and editors are humans? Noooo! :D This is an excellent reminder of Truth. My husband's father is a pastor and starting off in our marriage I had high expectations of how he'd act. We've been married 10 years. I no longer have those expectations. Human as charged.
Sometimes *I* am so human it hurts.
~ Wendy

Tamika: said...

Jessica you are right! I can imagine the awe I would feel at sitting across from an agent or editor that I was attempting to woe with my work. The real dilemma is to remember that God has already laid the groundwork and placed the right people in my path to bring my work for fruitation.

A lesson learned for me, thank you. I am looking forward to a conference in my near future.

Blessings to you...

Jessie Oliveros said...

I agree-the agents/editors were kind of untouchables to me as well. But people. I have heard that a lot of agents/editors aren't actually looking for new clients but, of course, will still attend the conference. Probably not best to place all your eggs in the conference basket but to query the good old fashioned way.

Stephanie Faris said...

Not only human but YOUNG. It always amazed me to see that editor I'd been querying for months was in her early 20s!

Linda Kage said...

So, you didn't go tree-climbing with any of the agents? Darn. That would've been fun.

I think the most famous person I ever met was Julie Garwood because she's in my writing group. But it's easy to be normal around her. She's so very nice and down-to-earth.

Sarah Forgrave said...

I'm going to a local writer's conference in November, and there will be a few big-name agents there. I'm a little freaked out to meet them, but it's a good reminder that they're human too.

As far as celebrities, I've met a couple professional athletes. Although I've never met Tony Dungy, I did see him at a local restaurant one time. He was on a date with his wife and walked right by my table. I had to force myself not to stare, since he probably wanted to enjoy a night on the town just like the rest of us. :-)

WindyA said...

Great post, Jessica. "They are just people."

I have met celebrities before and as soon as I've reminded myself they are "just people" they are far less daunting to speak with. There is always an intimidation factor when you think of how people can affect your life, career, etc, but it is always good to remind yourself that these are "just people" living their lives and trying to get their bills paid.

Cindy said...

Jessica, that's a great way to look at it. Agents do a lot of hard work and it's a blessing to writers who get the chance to speak with them at conferences. It helps to see them on the same level.

T. Anne said...

There was a celeb on the plane ride back to LA with me and funny thing is he looked just like a human, lol.
I'm dying to hear every single detail about that conference. What agents did you get to pitch to?

Patti said...

I think we forget that their human because they hold so much power over our hopes and dreams.

ElanaJ said...

This is so true. I think we tend to elevate those we admire or those who can help us to celebrity status.

I have met a couple of celebrities, but I didn't know it at at the time. So I just treated them like everyone else. And I think that's a good way to treat agents and editors too.

quixotic said...

Great point! They are just as human as we are. Sometimes we need to be reminded of this.

Thanks

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

i could totally "hear" your voice in this post. so like you...sweet. :)

jeannie
Where Romance Meets Therapy

Jill Kemerer said...

I will admit, other authors are my celebrities! And yeah, I get stars in my eyes and act like a moron when I get their autographs. I try very hard to be respectful of editors and agents, though.

Deb Shucka said...

What a great attitude! Every time I meet an author, I feel a bit starstruck, but in a good way I think. If our agent is supposed to be the most significant relationship in our life after our spouse, it's pretty important that they not be on a pedestal. Easier said than done. :-)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Conferences and book fairs can be exhausting, but, they are benefial for the editors/authors/agents as well as those who attend - so, you who attend are needed and loved and wanted there too! don't ever forget that!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

This was my fifth conference, so I'm getting better at seeing all people as humans. Never was much of one to think of them as stepping stones though.

I believe in giving each the benefit of the doubt, and at a conference as busy as ACFW's, we need to give that a very wide berth I think!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

I've heard a few stories about rude agents or editors. Knowing the crazy schedules they keep and some dealing with jet lag, I try really hard to cut them some slack.

On the whole, I hear more stories about rude conferees - you know, the ones who slip proposals under the bathroom stall. I think it all evens out. Hopefully, we go to a conference all prayed up and ready to encourage each other.

And - I don't know any celebrities.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Irritable Mother said...

Oh, how difficult it is to remember that everyone is human. Even celebreties are just people.
I remember hearing Kay Arthur speak once and listening her talk about every-day life - cooking, disagreeing with her husband, and the like. And I had a hard time picturing her in the kitchen, since I am only used to seeing her as a Bible teacher and speaker at women's events.
But, alas, we're all human, created by God and in need of His grace.

As for meeting celebreties? My saving grace is the knowledge that they meet so many people, they aren't likely to remember any of the stupid ramblings which proceeded from my mouth. *grin*

Erica Vetsch said...

Jessica, it was so great to meet you at ACFW. You're right, sometimes we put agents/editors up on pedestals and forget that they're having a grueling time of it in those pitch sessions too.

Jessica said...

Erica, it was great meeting you too! You were really sweet and funny. :-)

Hi Karen, we HOPE they don't remember anything stupid we've said! LOL That's so interesting about Kay Arthur. I know it's really easy to idealize people who are spiritual teachers. It's so hard to think of my pastor as a real person who loses his temper or something.

Hi Susan,
Oh yes, I have heard way more stories about rude writers, that's why this was a little surprising. LOL Not sure if it evens out because I think writers can be a whole lot more unprofessional than editors or agents.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

Yes, I've met several celebrities where I used to work at an arena facility. Usually I'm tongue tied for the first moment, but then I realize they are just like you and me.

You couldn't pay me enough money to have to travel like they do, giving up so much of their lives to us fans happy and coming back for more. I hear about their horror stories of what it is like to wake up in the morning and not know what town your in, if you ate or where you're headed today after traveling many more miles. I respect them and what they do with such dedication and would never think of imposing myself upon them even for an autograph.

Amy De Trempe said...

I haven't met a celebrity. Not sure how I would act if I did. However, I sit down with some known published authors, whose books I have read, and it was nice to find they are just like the rest of us.

Angie Muresan said...

You are so right on this one! I've seen Ursula Le Guin a few times at restaurants in my neighborhood and a part of me wanted to run up to her and gush my love for her writing, but thankfully, the sensible part kicked in and reminded me that every person's entitled to her/his privacy. So, I sat back and enjoyed my meal. But you can bet that I stared.

Gwen Stewart said...

I have taught celebrities' children. One of them is a musician, a very famous one. Yeah, try being the music teacher who teaches "Wheels on the Bus" to Anonymous Musician's kid. Try teaching that child the recorder when his dad plays...everything. Famously. And lucratively. LOL

As far as editors and agents go--I try not to think of them as stepping stone, instead remembering that I must work hard, and God will open doors. That really helps put things in perspective.

Have a great evening!

Pen Pen said...

The only one I've met was David Sedaris-the writer. My boyfriend took me to a meet and greet/reading with him as a surprise birthday present-I was SO shocked when I turned around and he was there-My bf hadn't told me where we were going till he was IN the room! I thought I was going to throw up, but I got in line to meet him. My mind was blank and I couldn't think of ANYTHING to say...My bf actually had to say, "This is Penny, and she's a big fan. She's a writer too." David was SO nice, and asked about MY writing-which I seriously don't remember what I said-but it was for sure lame. He signed my book with, "I can't wait to read YOUR book!". When we sat down, I started crying a little-I was SO happy, but I think my bf got thrown off-I was just overwhelmed. I jus never expected to meet David-it was a huge flood of emotions. If J.K. Rowling and Stephen King had been in the room too, I'd have fainted. :)
Did the agents respond to you looking at them as people and trying to get to know them a little?!

Jessica said...

Hey Penny,
hmmm, I don't know if they responded too much. I tried not to take up a lot of their time. I did have some nice conversations with editors, but not about my book or anything. I remember your post about that guy! Very cool, and what a sweet boyfriend!

Jessica said...

Hey Jeanette,
Yep, one of the "rude" editors was actually someone who I realized was just super shy. And probably exhausted too.

LOL Wendy,
I can't imagine having a pastor as a father in law. That would be weird!

Jessica said...

Stephanie, that's something I thought was so cool, that these editors are my age! I could've been friends with them in school!!! That is something that really put me at ease.

Linda K,
Oh my gosh!!! Julie G is in your group! *fainting away* LOL I cut my teeth on her work at much too young an age, but despite the fact that I shouldn't have been reading her books, I still remember how much she made me laugh. Excellent storyteller there. Lucky you. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Sarah,
It's weird how we want to stare, right? LOL Thank you for stopping by!

Hi Windy A, you're so right. They have bills too. Thanks for commenting!

T. Anne,
When I read your comment I laughed. :-)

Jessica said...

True Patti. Thank you for stopping by. :-)

Wow Gwen! Talk about pressure. LOL

Angie, that's pretty funny! But you know, I think authors are a little different. I think for the most part (unless they're insanely popular like Meyers) they enjoy someone saying they like their work. We put so much into writing and I'm sure she's no different. But good for you for not acting like a crazy stalker! LOL And thanks for commenting.

Jessica said...

Eileen, you're such a sweet person. :-) It was busy, wasn't it? Esp. for people who had to follow a schedule (staff, volunteers, etc)

Jeannie, this sounded like me? That's kind of cool to think about. LOL

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

This is such a great attitude! I think it can be easy to forget that agents are just human.

Kara said...

You are right Jessica, we need to remember they are human. I overheard some young editors at my first RWA conference and was appalled by their lack of maturity. But on the other hand, I've seen writers actually corner editors in bathrooms to pitch their book. I'm sure they need to unwind just like the rest of us and maybe have a little space:)

Jessica said...

LOL Kara! I can see that happening. When I think of editor I think of wise, older, one who buys manuscripts and makes author's dreams come true. *snort*

But many of the editors I met were my age. It was pretty refreshing.

denise petrovich said...

I have never met a celebrity up close and personal. I've seen plenty and I would like to think (in my perfect vision of myself,lol) that I would be composed and treat them like other "normal" humans. Ha ha. You make a very good point and I am sure the agents are apprectiative of all who treat them with respect and consideration.

Stephanie said...

Hi Jessica-
Yes, as I get older it is much easier for me to see these people as the multi-dimensional humans they indeed are.
Some agents do seem intimidating but I've found that all fades away when I speak to them like humans, who too might also be a fellow gardener, Church go-er, Animal lover/owner.
Stephanie

Jessica said...

Hi Stephanie, Yeah, that's exactly what I meant! We might have similar enjoyments that are ignored because of our inability to see them normally. You put it so well! Thank you for stopping by and commenting! :-)

Hi Mom,
LOL! I'm not sure what you would do.... I do think you'd be respectful for sure.

brenda minton said...

I've never been particularly 'star struck.' I worked at a resort in my teen years and a lot of entertainers came through, some nice and some were not so nice.

I don't see a reason for rudeness. I know this is a silly mantra, but I learned it in a Harlequin Historical so it has to be right! Kindness Costs So Little.

And isn't that the truth. It takes far more effort to be rude.

A few years ago I attended a conference and an agent snubbed me, really snubbed me. I had no intention of bothering him, didn't even want to talk to him, but I was being introduced so I held out my hand and said 'nice to meet you.' (mr too big for your britches)

Not only did he not extend his hand, he actually turned his back on me to have a conversation with someone else.

Editors and agents really are just people. They are busy. Sometimes they are tired. Some are kinder than others. Some have better manners. :)