I really wanted to write about this yesterday, but there was no time between work and family. That's okay. What I have to say will mean just as much today.
As I'm sure most of you have already heard, Nathan Bransford, AKA Agent Orange, and sometimes known around here on the QQQE as Him, is leaving agenting.
When I first read Nathan's post about his decision to move on I was devastated. It hit me like a ton of e-readers. You might wonder why it would matter so much to me. You might ask yourself why would I take it personally. To understand that you would have to know more about my story. And I don't mean the story that I'm writing. I mean my story.
I won't go into all the gory details but I had a pretty rough life, especially in my teens and early twenties. I got myself into a lot of trouble but the thing that really matters here is that I stopped writing. I had always loved reading and writing and anything that was even remotely related to the English language. When I was in school I wrote poetry, short stories, essays, articles for the school paper, even songs for girls, and I always excelled in English and Literature classes, charming every instructor I ever had with my passion for the written word. Then after high school life got in the way and I gave it up. I can't quite pin down one single reason but I didn't write a thing creatively for over a decade.
Then two years ago the bug infected me again and I set out to write a novel. When the story took me it ruled my life for 9 months or so, pounding out thousands of words a day until I had possibly the longest first draft of any aspiring novelist (okay maybe not, but those of you who know me know my first draft was LONG). I line edited it and did some simple but lazy revisions and then jumped right into querying. I didn't know any other serious writers so I had no one to show my novel to and I had never even heard of a query letter until after I finished the story. I had no idea how unprepared I was to enter the publishing world.
Those of you who know this blog know a lot of the stories from my first round of querying. They are mostly pretty terrible. I got a few requests, and did hear some very kind words about my writing, but the overall sentiment came down to "you're talented, but this needs a lot of work, and no one can represent something of this length." There were also some harsher statements. I got frustrated. Eventually I gave up. I spent several months last winter angry and in despair. Something that I had always dreamed of, even if only in the very back of my mind, now seemed impossible.
Then one day last spring, just out of curiosity, I was browsing literary agent blogs. I can't remember how I found it but I discovered Nathan Bransford's blog. Then I found his forums. I read his posts about 10 Commandments for the Happy Writer, How to Write a Query Letter, Examples of Good Queries, and many others. I couldn't believe it. After all the cold cruelty, or at least professional detachment I had felt from every other literary agent out there, here was one who was human. I felt his passion, his optimism, his kindness. I was inspired. I joined the forums, posted my query for critique, did my best to critique some other writer's queries, and suddenly I was making friends, with other writers. Suddenly there was hope. I began to connect with people who knew what they were talking about, people who had the same dreams I had, and who knew how much courage it took to pursue those dreams.
I started this blog, inpsired by Nathan's desire to give back to the writing community, I wanted to help other writers avoid the same mistakes I made. I began by posting all my terrible early queries so that people could see what not to do, and then it evolved into posting the successful queries of other blogging writers I had met, some even published or soon to be.
I got to know Nathan better. He is a well known internet phenomenon, and I'm sure he corresponds with thousands of people every week, but he took the time to respond to every direct question I asked him in the forums, even if they were just links to stupid stuff on the internet. Eventually I found the courage to email him directly, and we developed an online acquaintance, his graciousness always shining through. I became even closer with his right hand man from the forums, the sheriff Bryan Russell (Ink), who has given me so much help with my writing I don't know if I'll ever be able to repay him, even featuring some of my creative writing on his blog in the form of some flash fiction pieces (see the "my writing" page above if you would like to take a look).
I was full of hope, optimism and drive to get my novel published, and I dreamed of one day being ready to query Nathan properly and have such a brilliant human being represent my endeavors into publishing. So when I saw that Nathan was leaving agenting, I was devastated. I spent a couple hours feeling sorry for myself. Then I wondered about Bryan, suspecting, as I did, that Nathan unofficially represented him.
I wrote to Bryan, and we discussed it a little bit, and I thought about it more and I realized that I was being foolish. Of course Nathan is an amazing guy, and I'm sure that every writer he ever took on as a client would tell you that it was a pleasure to work with him, but really publishing is just a business. Your agent does not need to be your best friend. Any literary agent with connections, who is professional, and who shares your vision for the story you want to tell can represent your work. Nathan taught me that there are agents out there who are kind and giving, but he also taught me that they don't need to be placed on a pedestal.
I asked him once if he thought it would be appropriate to query agents using a little joke for my genre description. I was worried they would be insulted. He basically asked me if I would really want to work with someone who was that uptight. He had a damn good point.
So I've gone on and on now about myself and how personally affected I was by all of this but that is not what I had intended for this post to be about. First, I want to wish Nathan the best in all his endeavors. He is going to work for CNET, where he is going to help them coordinate a social media strategy. They picked a pretty good guy for that position.
Nathan is also still going to keep writing books, and he will keep the blog and forums going strong. He remains ever impassioned about books, reading, writing, and publishing, and will always continue to keep us all up to date on the newest developments in e-books.
Secondly, and truly foremost, I would like to thank Nathan for everything he has done for me, and for writers everywhere. Finding his blog and becoming encouraged again changed my life. I can't conceive of how one person could possibly find the time to do so much, and be so giving, and compassionate. He's probably too humble to ever admit it, but I believe that Nathan has touched thousands of writers in similar ways, so I just want to say that here is one man who sees it.
Thank you for everything you do Nathan.
Up with orange and monkeys, and down with mosquitoes and the Lakers!