Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Bittersweet Goodbye.

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!

51 comments:

salarsenッ said...

Matt, I love this post. I think Nathan influenced a lot of writers the same way. I know, after first conversing with Kiersten White (by total accident, I might add) Nathan was the next blog I happened upon. This was only about six months ago. I've followed him diligently. But what was really cool, was how most others followed him, too, so if I missed something someone else was blogging about it anyway.

He will truly be missed. I'm glad you shared this. It gives me a greater view of where you are coming from. Thank you.

Tracy said...

Dang it, your post got me all teary-eyed. I was beyond shocked on Friday when I heard the news and, believe it or not, I thought of you. I knew how much you, in particular, looked up to Nathan and were hoping you'd be able to query him proper some day. So many of the writers that I'm closest to on the internet now, I got to know through Nathan's forums in some way or another. It feels weird to know he's moved on to other endeavors.

I try to remind myself this is just the closing of a chapter...albeit a bittersweet closing.

Matthew Rush said...

Thanks Tracy, I totally agree. It was a beautiful dream, but there's no reason not to let it go and grow up. This is just another evolution in the process, and how can we not be happy for Nathan, after he has given us so much and brought so many of us together?

BTW, I would respond to you via email, if you associate your address with your blogger account. It's up to you though. Thanks!

Jen Daiker said...

This was such an awesome post Matthew! What a great dedication to such an awesome dude!

I'm glad to see he'll still be blogging, even if we'll miss all his awesome advice!

Emily White said...

I must admit when I saw Nathan's post, I was in shock. Nathan's was the first blog I ever followed. He's kind of the reason I started blogging in the first place.

At least he'll still be there. Great post, Matt!

Christine Danek said...

This was very shocking. I couldn't believe it. Your post is wonderful. It does put the whole thing in perspective. I've been following Nathan's blog since I started and he is a great person.
Thanks for sharing this.

Jessica Bell said...

Man, I'm all teary now. What a beautiful post. I didn't get involved in Nathan's forums etc, but I imagine he meant a lot to many people. EVERYONE talks about him and his kindness. Don't be sad. You'll find an agent one day who will live up to your standards I'm sure! ;o)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I will never start a query with a rhetorical question, just in honor of all Nathan's done. He truly has helped thousands of writers, and served as a beacon (as you say) that there is a way to be professional and kind in this business. My story isn't as dramatic as yours, but Nathan gave me heart that I could fit into this publishing world - that there were friends here, and people like me. He made it welcoming, and there really are no words, no price, you can put on that.

My heart is hurting for Bryan (and K. Marie, and his other clients). I know they'll go on and prosper, but I also know Nathan is unique.

Thanks for the great post! :)

Kelly said...

I was shocked too, that he was leaving the publishing business. He is one of the most well known and respected agents!
That is awesome that you have an online friendship with him. Be glad for that instead of sad that you won't have a chance for him to be your agent. He'll still be your friend!

Bish Denham said...

A wonderful tribute Matt. So long Nathan and Godspeed in your new endeavors.

Christina Lee said...

Aww Matt, this kind of made me sniffle a bit!
This is really a lovely post and it just me realize that you are really a lovely human being!

Lola Sharp said...

I too was shocked last week. Losing Nathan's sunshine in the agenting/publishing world is a great loss. I wish a lot more agents had his warmth.

I've never been on his forums, but I've followed his blog for a long time because I enjoyed reading his posts.

This was a lovely tribute, Matt. I hope he reads it.

Amie B said...

what a very nice "tribute" matt. thanks for sharing your passion with us - and expressing how much Nathan's influence has helped you. I'm glad you learned so much from him and that you were able to connect with other writers as well.

all the best!

Em-Musing said...

Right on/write on Matt! I hope Nathan reads your blog and all the responses to it. He has helped so many writers, I for one, and it would be nice for him to see the impact he's had. He will be missed. Just make sure you don't ever go away too.

Lisa and Laura said...

AMAZING post, Matt! And what's funny is that our story is so similar to yours. We wrote a book (it was awful) and had no idea what to do with it. When we started googling we found Nathan's blog and we learned so much from him. He has been an incredible resource to so many writers and he'll be missed in the publishing world! Lucky for us we all get to read his books!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Great tribute, Matt. I believe you're right that thousands of writers got a hand up from Nathan's blog. I was amazed that he held so many contests and could read through all those entries and be so kind and accessible. He was Super Agent in so many ways. I wish him well. (and you, too!)

Carolyn Abiad said...

We'll all miss Nathan. Very nice tribute...thanks for expressing what so many of us wanted to say.

Falen (Sarah Ahiers) said...

yeah i was bummed that i'll never get the chance to query him. I felt the same way about Colleen Lindsey too. Le sigh.

Joanne Brothwell said...

Wow. I'm speechless. I had no idea!

Carol Riggs said...

Nice tribute! Yes (sob) we will miss Nathan as Agent Orange. BUT his blog will still be around, with his normal Nathan self doing his normal Nathan things (minus the direct agent slant). I can proudly say I've queried him--and gotten the fastest rejections ever, within 2 hours. LOL

LTM said...

I have many thoughts about NB's announcement... All of which I will keep to myself. :D lol!

I wish him well and naturally, he's making the best decision for himself and his family, which is the correct thing to do.

YOU don't let that set you back in the least. As you know, there are so many amazing agents out there who are committed to what they do and to the writers they represent, and who are in it for the long haul~

you're awesome. Onward & upward! :o) ((hugs))

Colene Murphy said...

Awe...wow.
Nathan is amazingly awesome. SO sad to see him go but glad he will still be around the blogging/forum world.
Awesome post. Love it.

Arlee Bird said...

Nathan was someone I heard about soon after I began blogging. He definitely has quite the reputation. Your tribute to him is well spoken. I don't have any direct experience and don't think I have even ever visited his blog, but now I think I should start checking it out. Sounds like he provides a wealth of helpful advice.

Lee
Tossing It Out

Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful post, Matt. I read Nathan's blog since my beginning days as a writer, and it shone like a beacon in the darkness of my ignorance, too! I'm sure he helped so many writers with such geneosity and good humour.

Tahereh said...

what a beautiful post, Matt. i couldn't possibly agree more. Nathan is a kindred spirit and an incredible person who has managed to touch the lives of so many writers, across so many different continents. i've no doubt he'll go on to do even more amazing things.

thank you for taking the time to recognize him.

Matthew Rush said...

Thanks for stopping by Tahereh! I like Nathan for many of the same reasons I like you: So funny, so kind, so real, so human.

K. M. Walton said...

I applaud your openness and sincerity - it shines through every word in this post. Nathan will be missed by many!

Melissa said...

This post is amazing. I'm going to read it again.

And to be honest. I'm probably going to read it once more after that.

Josin L. McQuein said...

That was an amazing post.

You're right. It's great to find a professional with the time (even if they have to invent it) and inclination to answer questions. I've found a couple like this, and their input and answers have helped me immensely.

I think most of the people who frequent Nathan's blog had him on their "to query" list, so we're all a little (selfishly) bummed that querying's not an option anymore.

The advice and confidence you reaped from contact with Nathan and those on his forums still maintains its value, and will come in handy no matter who you choose to submit to.

YAY for finding your love of writing again. I know how hard it can be to summon a muse or even the want for one when life gets dark. It takes a lot to realize that part of that darkness comes because we've shut off our own light by distancing ourselves from what we love most, which is writing.

Writers are lucky that way. Yes, we're weird and eccentric and routinely talk to people who don't exist, but we can create our own happiness. When the world doesn't provide it, we have the option of creating a new world to hide in for a little while.

(And I'm totally jealous that it's Machu Picchu in the background of that pictures. That's one of my all time "places to see before I die".)

Old Kitty said...

Awww but NB is still gonna blog and keep up with his forums and be a really nice super sweet guy so all is good!! And he'll be writing books too - so that's great!!! And his knowledge and expertise that he has kindly shared with everyone is enshrined digitally so that to is all good!

Thanks for sharing a little bit of history about yourself Matthew Rush!!!

Take care
x

Nicole Zoltack said...

Awesome post. Nathan is still a legend in my mind.

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

Thanks for the kind words, Matt. Much appreciated.

And maybe you'll just have to start wearing orange shirts everywhere. Problem solved.

M.A.Leslie said...

I can't tell you how much I feel the same as you. He has taught me more through his blog than I thought I would ever know. It is like having a mentor and never knowing them.

DEZMOND said...

this world need more people like Nathan!

Jemi Fraser said...

I was a total & complete newbie when I stumbled onto first Agent Query & second Nathan's blog. Heaven sent, both of them. I totally agree with everything you said. Nathan's kindness, humanity, and willingness to help have given us all so much. I wish him the best - he so deserves it!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like he's following his calling.

Quill said...

Nice post, Matt. I join others feeling emotional about the transition -- yeah, I know Nathan's going to still be around!! -- and your post makes it all go down a little better. Feel for Bryan and others who have worked closer with him than I. All I can say is that when I stumbled onto Nathan's forums, I had a profound feeling of coming home. I'm sure it will remain my writing home and that the writing community Nathan attracted around himself will continue, and for that I am glad. An amazing bunch of people, not the least of which is you, Matthew. I enjoy popping in here, too, and seeing what you're doing. Thanks for all the honesty you put out and the networking you do, too.

Matthew Rush said...

Anytime Quill. I hope you know that you are one of my very favorites from the forums, even if you don't blog!

Michelle McLean said...

wonderful post, Matt :) I let out an audible gasp when I read he was leaving agenting :) I read several agents' blogs but his is the only one I have delivered to my mail box every day and I am very grateful he has decided to keep that going. :) this is an awesome tribute to a truly awesome agent :)

Angela Ackerman said...

Great post. Nathan leaves a big hole in the publishing side of business, but at the same time I'm happy to see him move forward in a direction that makes him happy. Too, now that he's no longer an agent, I think he'll be able to really enjoy the aspect of being an author when his children's book comes out soon.

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Awesome post Matt. I know Nathan's announcement rocked many when they read it, and I think the publishing industry will miss him deeply. Fabulous, fabulous way of honoring all of his contributions, and even though I knew a lot of your story, it was nice to learn even more. Thanks for sharing!

Ishta Mercurio said...

You said this beautifully. I wish Nathan all the best in his future endeavors - and I am grateful for all that he has done, and continues to do, for the writing community.

Odd that in one sense I feel like some major shift has happened, but at the same time, Nathan's blog is still there, and it is still as good as it ever was. It's just a writer's blog now, instead of an agent's blog. Nothing has really changed for me, even though it feels like it has. I'm sure that will wear off, though, as time marches on and the blog continues to be as brilliant as it has always been.

I never knew your story before now - thanks for sharing it.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

The poignancy of your post has left me in awe. You're absolutely right in the one underlying message you implied without ever really saying. "You never know what you have until it's gone."

And I too have at times given up on my writing. It never gave up on me, though, and I will never make the mistake of giving up on it ever again.

Shannon said...

This is a great post, Matt. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I like learning more about you. =)

Nathan has made a profound impact on the writing community. I'll miss his presence, too, but in the same vein, I'm really excited for him!

Nathan Bransford said...

Wow, thank you so much for this post Matt, and to everyone for the comments. I am so touched. So so so touched. I don't really know what to say to everyone, except thanks for being a part of my life! I'm lucky to be a part of such a supportive writing community.

Luckily we aren't saying goodbye, and I know we'll continue to see each other around the Internet and hopefully in person! But really, everyone, thank you so much it means so much to me.

Roni Loren said...

What a great story and tribute to what Nathan has done for the writing community. He was definitely one of the first agent blogs I found when I jumped into this whole writing thing too and learned so much. I wish him all the best in his new position.

And Matt, don't despair. Yes, you don't necessarily need to have a "friend" relationship with your agent to get your book sold, but you definitely can have that. There are a lot of very friendly and personable agents out there. My agent (Sara Megibow) is so easy to talk to and laid back. Our interaction is definitely more casual and friendly than anything else. And I know my friend Julie who's with Suzie Townsend has said the same about her agent relationship.

I think there's something to say for someone who "gets" your book will probably "get" you. I personally would hate to have an agent who was uber formal and all business all the time. That would totally stress me out, lol.

Lisa_Gibson said...

Wow,wonderful post Matt. I think Nathan will be very missed. I think I'm still in shock that he's leaving agenting entirely. I wish him success in all his future endeavors.

Elana Johnson said...

Aw, Matt, *hugs*! Great post, and it's evident that it comes straight from the heart. You (and Nathan) are awesome.

Simon C. Larter said...

So you know, I didn't write a damn thing after high school either. Don't know why, just didn't. Life got in the way.

Then I rediscovered writing, and by hell, it turns out this is what I'm meant to do.

I do believe I understand you, good sir.

Also, best of luck to Nathan. :)

maine character said...

Wonderful tribute, Matt. And thanks for sharing your story.

I know how it is - it's like when CBGB's closed, or Kirkus Reviews was said to be closing. You get that feeling of, "I'll never play there now, never get a review from them." Definitely depressing.

But fortunately, it's just a change of course for Nathan, and I wouldn't wish to hold anyone back from sailing into new waters.

And he's already given you the best thing he could - shown you how to build a community with goodwill and how to pass along what you've learned.

Myrna Foster said...

I lost two or three hours the first time I visited his blog, but I learned so much. His posts are just as fantastic as they ever were.