My bizarre story about mistaken identity and the revelation it gave me on how we talk to each other and - most importantly - how writers communicate with agents. Also, highly recommend the Willamette Writers Conference!
You can find the Willamette Writers Conference here https://web.cvent.com/event/b8485532-15eb-4073-87ee-d07920fac5c3/summary
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Good morning everyone oh I forgot the chimes I'm all off kilter good morning. Everyone this is Jeffe Kennedy author of epic fantasy romance I'm here with my first cup of coffee. Ah, delicious. So great to be back in my grape arbor with my coffee in my home. All of these things today is Monday I know that what is oh it's August seventh ah yes and so I'm back from travels had a great time at Willamette writers conference if you are in the pacific northwest or want to be Portland Oregon area i. Do highly recommend it as a conference for a so. Especially aspiring authors but for more accomplished authors for if you want to go teach and so forth. It's just a very very appreciative audience the Willamette writers is a nonprofit organization that covers. Um. Well like all of Willamette Valley and beyond I suppose and Kate Ristau is executive director of it. They have ah terrific people on the board and they've really gone to a lot of effort to create a community that is very supportive and engaged.
And it was really just a lovely atmosphere. Ah I'm a little bit later this morning I flew in kind of later last night. So I have to adjust for dappling here.
Ah, it rained just a little bit this morning I wish it would rain more.
So so yeah, it was um I was really glad I went I've already received several emails from people thanking me and saying how great it was to meet me and so forth a lot of people hadn't heard about SFWA before so I feel like that was a really. Productive way to rep the organization as is part of my job description to do and I taught a master class I've mentioned that several times on that Friday and it was um. It was really super fun. It was a group of 10 students. We all sat around a big conference table or a smallish conference table and it was it was the right size class. Um, and they they soaked it all up. Um and it was. And they said very nice things to me afterwards. Everybody seemed just thrilled with what they learned and walked away inspired to go write and work at stuff which I feel like is one of the primary jobs of. Ah, conference or any kind of teaching is to have people walk away ready to get to work ready to do things I've realized I need do need to have cards I just use my SFWA business cards now.
And I do need to use cards ah to promote the the Discord and Patreon because I would like to start getting some more people in there now that we've got a good solid community I'd like to get some more people coming in I'm gonna rework the definitions a little bit and then do a push on that.
Ah, yeah, so it was nice to to feel like I really was able to teach something to people who are kind of coming at it from different levels I had ah a couple of interesting experiences. Ah, one of which I like wrote down because I thought I have to share this with all of you because there was this kind of lapse in communication. So one of the things that I had offered to do one of the programs they have are critiques. And I had offered to do like manuscript critiques or story concept Critiques and there were 2 kinds. There were on thepot critiques which were 8 minutes long and then advanced manuscripttis critiques which were 20 minutes long and I got the manuscript ahead of time and readdit. So I only had two advanced manuscript roots um people critique people. Ah and 1 of them never submitted their manuscript so I didn't have that for them to do.
I'm watching the hummingbird on the feeder. There's so many dead ants inside of it I don't know if this is bad for her to be drinking but I will deal with it today. Formic acid I mean that's like it probably keeps it free of bacteria. But. Who knows anyway, um so these so I was doing these critiques and one of the things I guess they were doing most of the critiques online and they were doing pitching online. And that was part of this being a hybrid conference. You know everybody's sort of morphing into this in-person plus hybrid and and I have thoughts on this but ah, the now I'm not going to get distracted by that sorry. if I edit it if I had high production value this is where I would edit I'm not going to go down that path because I want to tell you all about this bizarre experience. So anyway I had said during the planning stages they had said well the critiques would be online and I said why am I doing them online if I'm going to be there I would much rather. Sit down with a person face to face and do this and so I was the only one who was doing this in person I I think you know Kate Risaw who's executive director. Um, just accommodates me because she's lovely and but it.
It was odd that it was only me doing it and so there was some miscommunication and a little bit of confusion. So anyway I knew I was doing the on the spot critiques at two o'clock on Saturday afternoon and the advanced critiques at three o'clock and there was like only the one scheduled right? So but I wasn't clear on what the structure was going to be how I would know and so I'm sitting on the you know out on this patio where I knew that this is where I was supposed to be hi Killian. Killian has come up on the table to see all of you. He's very happy to have me home now you going to come say hide everyone no going up on the wall. Please.
Ah, all right? Ah I might have to pause or dash really now he's thinking about going Killian oh all, right apologies for that if you're a long time podcast listener you will know that. Ah. Cat wrangling is all part of the brand here at first cup of coffee. Ah, okay, so there was some confusion and I was sitting on this couch reading and just kind of hanging out and being quasi-social and this one gal came and sat down and she said um well I'm your two o'clock and she said but if you want to get started early. We could get started early and I was like oh because it was still like ten til two and I said well you know I just don't know what the structure is going to be I don't know what the expectations are and. And she's got like a stack of paper with her and everything and I said let me go see if I can find someone to tell me so I finally connected with the volunteer who was coordinating this and and there was still like some kind of strange confusion. So this gal who was my two o'clock we sat down and she kept trying to like hand me her manuscript and stuff and I said well you know for an on the spot critique like this. Ah you know she's like do you want to read my outline I'm like no I can't I can't read your outline. Let's just talk about your idea and let me give you feedback and so I gave her feedback and ended up talking to her like.
5 minutes longer than the 8 or whatever because ah, well because like there wasn't someone immediately after her and she figured that out and kind of kept going. But anyway I kind of felt like I felt like her questions for me were. Strange and I couldn't figure out why they were so strange. So then the gal who's coordinating comes and sits down with me and she and I got to know each other a little bit better over you know, like the rest of the afternoon and the next day but I hadn't really talked to her before and she said well. Um. Kate says that we should talk and that that we would get along well and she said so so you like wine and I was like well yes yes I I like wine but and it was this very. Tilted conversation and I couldn't figure out why why am I in such a weird conversation and she was asking me odd questions and she said um and she said so in so in your work. what do you represent and I'm like what do I represent and I I didn't I said I don't know how to answer that question I said do you mean like thematically and she said yeah yeah, like what what kinds of things do you represent and I said well I don't think I think about it that way I I said I I always start with.
A character and a situation and and I build out the story from there and you all I mean if you've been listening for a long time and maybe you haven't I shouldn't assume because some of you may be new listeners from the conference. But. You know that's just not how I think about my work I don't start from idea I don't start from theme so I'm like well what do you mean What do I represent in my stories and and and we continue to have this kind of awkward exchange and then the the person came. She said well do you want a few minutes to um you know clear your mind before the next person I said sure they'll be good. So then the next person came and she sat down and she had like her manuscripts and stuff at shruffled them and she said ok so I think I'm pitching to you and I was like no no. And so now the light is dawning to me and all of you are probably caught up because I'll probably have in the show notes that this is what I'm talking about. But I said I'm I'm not an ancient and it turns out that the gal who was like arranging the critiques thought that she was arranging. Pitches and she thought that I was a literary agent so that was why she asked me what I represented and you know and and then later she came up to me and she said oh I realized I was mistaken and I didn't realize that that you're a writer I thought you were an agent and she said no wonder you were so.
Floored by the question of what you represent and ah just tell you folks I mean it was a funny miscommunication and and I kind of felt bad for the people who thought they were pitching to me and I was like I could try to give you feedback on your you know your ideas. But um, yeah, yeah, so oh if you're on video Killianss behind me oh look at that leap that was Killian oh you bad cat. Okay, if you were on video that was kind of awesome. Ah, but he came down the garden path behind me and did a full. Running leap onto the table where I'm sitting under the grape arbor and up onto the high wall around the garden. So I test stop and ah get him down but I was successful. We'll be glad to know. So anyway. Really interesting takeaway about this whole thing was not only were we talking crosswise of each other so that created an interesting miscommunication which would I'm absolutely going to use in a story someday. But also it was really weird. Talking to people who thought I was an agent because they did not talk dorate to me killing ah but he is just wild. He is so happy to have me back and he's just racing around.
This gives you incentive to look at the video because you get to see him go dashing by. He's gonna be 1 years old 1 year old in couple weeks amazing so i' thought that this was a really important takeaway because. Agents will often say things like talk to us like we're human beings. We're people too. Ah, people were not talking to me like I was a regular human being. They had this weird kind of deferential attitude and they um. I almost can't explain it except that I almost wish that every writer out there would have this experience of having people believe that they are a literary agent. It's this weird form of deference and. Ah supplication and I have I just have not really ever had bizarre conversations with people like that you and and I could tell that they were like all wound up that they had this tension around talking to me. So like even the gal who was coordinating when she asked me what I represent. Ah she has an agent and I asked her who her agent was because you know I always ask people who their agents are because I'm always like gathering information on agents and I wasn't familiar with the agent's name and she said oh well, she's local.
But I could tell it kind of bothered her I didn't know who this agent was and just as a point of reference not all agents know each other. Okay, so it it wouldn't be all that strange for me even if I were an agent which there but for the grace of God Go I I do not want to be an agent. But I will tell you that Ah, there are writers who become agents because it gives them more power over the the industry and I don't mean that in a diabolical way. I mean that it gives them more. Ah, feeling of more control over the process instead of being. That's the supplicant at the table which is how writers tend to view themselves as being the supplicant at the table which you are not. You are the source you are the you are the font you are the the creative. Beginning of it all. So yeah, um I I would love to be able to give you a takeaway on how you talk to agents but all I can tell you is how not to talk to them. Um. This whole thing where people were so tense and and careful about you know, like and trying to figure out things to ask me Andnna It was just oh, it was really enlightening and I know that.
I used to be worse about it. Although I think I was never as bad as some people because I remember one of my the first conferences I went to and I was pitching with 2 other writers you know and we would like practice our pitches together and stuff and and they were both physically ill. About pitching and it's there is just no reason to do that that okay I have to walk that back I understand the reason because I myself have sorry I'm laughing at the cat I have been concerned about the same things. Um, and and I've been tense pitching to agents and I understand why a lot of agents don't like taking pitches at conferences especially one after another because because people talk to you weird? Um, so I think whatever you could do if you are. If you were in the quarry trenches if you are out there aquaring and pitching I know it's hard I mean I spent years doing it and it sucks and I I cried many tears. But 1 thing that if you were all able to do is. Recognize that agents are simply people who have a particular business expertise and maybe they can help you and maybe they can't but pitching is really all about It's not convincing them that you are there.
I Don't know like you're trying to trick them or talk them into taking taking you on as a client what you're doing is interviewing each other and finding out if you have um commonality if you have um.
If you fit and so now I'm thinking as I'm talking which is never wise although I suppose I should always think as I talk preferably before I talk ah that I would love to rework agent pitching possibly editor pitching too but definitely agent pitching in this light. And have it be set up in a different way so that there is not this weird energy. So anyway, that was one of my great insights from the weekend I have a whole nother story to tell you and I've already talked for nearly twenty minutes ah between rambling and and cat wrangling. So I will save the other story for ah the Friday podcast. Um, yeah, so glad to be back. Hope you all are doing well hope that you are um.
That you got to have something wonderful over the weekend that helped feed your creative cycle and refill your well and I will talk to you all on Friday you all take care bye bye.