Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When kids are screaming and an editor calls

A fellow writer fretted loudly on an online forum the other day. She was a nervous wreck.
Her agent had just told her that an editor from a publishing house would be calling her within the next "few days."
No specific day.
No set time.
She has children.
What should she do, she wondered, if the kids start acting up when the editor calls?
The tone of her post was apologetic, embarrassed, like she felt she should hide the fact of her motherhood from the editor and she didn't know how. What she wanted, it seemed, was advice on how to pretend she is not something that she most definitely is.
But here's the reality:
With the exception of John Grishman, Jodi Picoult, the "other" Lori Foster and a handful of other wildly successful authors, most writers either have day jobs or they are home taking care of children, writing on scraps of paper while cooking dinner, helping with homework or hiding in the bathroom.
Editors, if they are experienced and good at what they do, should know that. They should know that if they call unannounced, they are taking their chances. And the author should know that the editor knows he or she is taking a chance.
So why get the jitters?
Now, I have not had the good fortune of chatting with an editor from a publishing house just yet, but I have received important calls while caring for my four children. The older kids can usually be controlled with a stern look, but the twins, like most toddlers. tend to get in certain uncontrollable "moods."
Sometimes, they want me to hand them the phone so they can say, "'ello" about 50 times in a row. And they won't let up. They follow me around, both of them together, tugging on my legs saying, "'ello? Please?" and then screeching when I try to shoo them away.
Other times, they are in the fighting mood--cranky and tired, and tired of each other.
Still more often, they are in the "I want" mood. In this mood, they want something, I give it to them and then they want something else. It doesn't end until either they nap, someone takes them outside or Diego comes on the TV.
So I've developed my own rules for handling such situations.
I start with a bribe--a movie, a Popsicle, a lollipop--artfully and quietly handed off or popped in the DVD player while still talking, uninterrupted, in an adult manner with the caller.
If that doesn't work and I get the feeling that things will be okay if I just have a moment to get them under control, I ask the caller whether I can dial back in a few minutes. If he or she can't agree to that, then why calling in the first place?
What's two or three more minutes?
We could have killed that with awkward silence at some point in the conversation.
If I know it's just going to be one of those days, I ask the person on the other end whether I can return the call at a later hour or on a later date, and I make arrangements for someone to help me with the kids.
Then, when I return the call, I hide in the garage or the basement.
I don't mind chatting with the kids around if the caller doesn't mind.
But there is one thing I will not do: I will not give into intimidation.
No call is important enough.
I have a passion for writing. I keep a notepad in the kitchen because I can't help scribbling down my thoughts throughout the day. In fact, I wrote this post between 3 and 6 p.m. on an old steno pad and here I am typing it in at 12:39 a.m.
But my passion for my children is, and always will be, greater.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I have an agent!

My God, it finally happened.
I signed with an agent.
And he's even a really nice guy.
Roger S. Williams of Publish or Perish Agency is new to the agent world, but he arrives with an impressive resume. He has worked in publishing for 30 years as a book seller and as a sales director at some of the big publishing houses.
He also represents his wife, Gina Cascone, who has sold 30 YA novels as a ghostwriter (more than 2.1 million copies), two memoirs (both published by Simon & Schuster) and more.
Writing must be in his genes. Not only did he marry a writer, but he is surrounded by relatives who are successful authors. They include two sisters, a niece and a brother-in-law, all of whom have published (or have contracts with) with major houses.
Mr. Williams comes from a different direction than most agents. He made his connections with editors by marketing and promoting the books they acquired, a big plus in my book. Lots of agents can sell books, but this guy knows how to market them. He knows, not only what editors want to buy, but what readers want to buy.
He's also witty and honest.
Can't beat that.
It's still a long road.
He still has to persuade a publisher or two that my books are worth a few sheets of paper.
But at least I have a driver now.
I'm no longer sticking out my thumb on the publishing highway, scrutinizing every car that slows down as the driver studies me and we both try to decided whether it's safe or wise to take a chance on each other.
And if I keep writing corny analogies like that, I'm going to make his job a whole lot harder.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The "other" Lori Foster

They were closing in on me.
I felt it.
I felt it the moment I introduced myself at the Fifth Annual Readers and Authors Get Together Friday night. I heard it in their murmurs to each other. I saw it as they moved forward, toward the two of us.
Toward me.
I had forgotten that some of those people are obsessed.
Maybe even a little crazy.
And so I got out of there--fast.
It was a dynamic I had not anticipated.
I thought I would waltz into the Marriott 20 minutes from my home, drop off my donation for the raffle and say a quick "hello" to the other Lori Foster, the hostess of the event and the one who really gets paid to write.
I had never met her before, though she lives nearby and folks often mistake me for her.
Not the right folks, I'm afraid.
According to Publishers Marketplace, the "other" Lori Foster recently signed a 7-figure deal for her next romance/erotica series. The people she signed with seem to know where to send her paychecks. They are not at all confused.
It's the others.
My son's former teacher was certain that I was the famed romance writer. She was under that impression for more than a year before she finally got up the nerve to ask me. A literary agent once apologized for not getting back to me on her request for the manuscript for my novel. Her assistant had moved my email into the "other" Lori Foster's file.
A few good friends emailed me years ago, shortly after my first son was born. They had seen a novel on the grocery store shelves. It was written by Lori Foster and the title was the same as my son's first name.
Now really, would I write an erotica novel with a main character named after my son?
The other Lori Foster and I have exchanged a few emails over the years. I had thought about going to the get-together even though I don't read or write romance. More than 100 authors were scheduled to attend along with a few agents.
Writers are writers, and it would be nice to share their company, I thought.
But I couldn't go.
My daughter and husband had already planned a rafting trip with a YMCA group.
And I didn't want to spend money on a babysitter. My husband's company recently executed a round of furloughs and we have no idea what will happen when the next quarter begins at the end of June. I just couldn't justify the cost of the registration and the cost of a sitter for the three other children.
So I decided to donate a gift basket full of writerly things from my business, http://www.exclusivewritergifts.com/, instead. The woman who took my donation laughed when I gave her my name and pointed to the other Lori Foster, who was standing just a few feet away.
She was busy.
The buffet dinner was underway.
The fans and authors had gathered.
Things were hectic.
So I introduced myself and said a brief "hello" to this kind, petite woman with whom I share a name, a city and a passion for writing. I had to speak loudly over the din, loud enough for others around us to hear. I began to stutter a bit when I noticed the odd reaction.
I'm sure the novelty would have passed quickly.
I mean, what was there to say?
But it was too strange to be stared at that way.
And so I left, happy to have finally met her, but relieved that I had not registered.