Shocking fact #1: At the writers’ conference I attended last weekend, I saw an editor take the elevator upstairs to her room. She did not fly there, nor did she head below ground to the basement to sleep in a cocoon of her own wings.
Shocking fact #2: I had dinner with an agent and she did not bite heads off bats or kill our waiter and suck his brains out through his ear. She ate salad – spinach and goat cheese, to be precise.
Shocking fact #3: I saw an editor go into the ladies' room. While I didn’t peer under the stall to confirm this, I’m fairly certain she was taking care of a basic biological human need.
From these facts, we can draw a startling conclusion – editors and agents are human.
But seeing the terror in the eyes of authors lined up to pitch last weekend, you would have thought they were all being covered in peanut butter and marched into a pit of starving vampire mice.
I know I speak from the position of already having an amazing agent and a fabulous editor. Hell, it was only eight months ago the aforementioned agent had to talk me off the ledge before my first phone call with the aforementioned editor. Believe me, I understand the terror.
But I guess I’m thinking about this because of something that happened last weekend.
I was herded into a pitch session with a pack of other authors, all of whom immediately grabbed seats on the opposite side of the table from the editor. I looked at the empty chairs beside the editor and thought, “that looks lonely.”
I also thought maybe she had a communicable disease the other authors knew about and I’d somehow missed the memo, but I took my chances and took the chair next to her anyway.
She looked at me in surprise, then smiled – a genuine, warm smile. “Thanks for sitting by me.”
Then we braided each other’s hair and had a pillow fight.
OK, maybe that part didn’t happen. My point though, is that authors can get so worked up by fear and respect for agents and editors that we widen the chasm between "us" and "them." While it’s true the balance of power can feel skewed, the bottom line is that we’re all people. We all have families and friends, food cravings and bathroom breaks.
And we’re all united by the same goal – to make our books great and get them into readers’ hands.
I know that perspective is one I’ll carry with me as I move forward with my writing career. Who knows, maybe I’ll even stop hyperventilating when I see my editor’s name in my email inbox.
Do you fight terror when you write query letters or pitch at conferences? Do you sometimes suspect editors and agents are all otherworldly beings? Please share, I’d love to hear your experiences.
Oh, and for the record, you know that old trick about picturing people in their underwear so you’re less nervous? Don’t do it when you’re sitting beside an editor. I’m just saying.
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