Associate Agent by Day, Writer by Night (Sometimes)

Like many of you, I had grandiose dreams of seeing my name on the front cover of a book in Barnes and Noble. I think it started when I was five, and my mom would post copies of my poems all over the fridge. Instead of drawing pictures of kittens or rainbows, I would write. Mostly about my Grandma Mason’s apple pie.

However, somewhere along the way, the dream of writing became a bit more fine tuned, and I realized that I really wanted to help others along their writing journey more than I wanted to write my own novel. I thought today might be a good one for looking at exactly what shaped my desire to become an associate agent over my desire to become a writer

I failed kindergarten cutting. As a left-handed cutter in a right-handed-at-everything-else body, I was doomed from the beginning. My teachers didn’t believe that I was really a left-handed cutter because everything else came naturally to me as a right hander. There were only a limited amount of left-handed scissors after all. As early as age five, I knew that only certain people could use the left-handed scissors. I was not one of them.

I used to memorize publishing houses. Not only did I read my favorite authors or genres as a child, but there was a time when I would only read from my favorite publishing houses. I would dream of the day when I could be a part of that particular team. My writing dreams were never really of me being a shining star—they were always of me creating something spectacular with others.

My story arc never expands beyond 15 pages. Have any of you ever read Moby Dick? No, let me ask that again. Have any of you ever read Moby Dick and liked it? To this day, I can only make it through the first 100 pages. About the time the crew leaves for sea, I give up. I love Melville as a short story writer but not so much as a novelist. And I like to compare myself to Melville, although I know I am not nearly as good. I am best with short forms of storytelling or even poems. I am just not a fan of writing 70,000+ words about the same people and place. I give up after about 5,600 words and want to move on to something else.

I do, however, love working with other people’s words. I like to think through how I can make someone else’s story even stronger. The words have already been written; now I get to go in and play. I am like a decorator on Extreme Home Makeover. (Anyone else sob during the last episode?) I am thrilled to let someone else build the frame and put up the drywall. I want to go in and build a pirate ship into a child’s room or create a sanctuary for Mom and Dad.

Even though I am not a novelist, I do still like to write. Writing is a hobby now—something that I do for fun now and then. And, sometimes, I like to share my words with others. So, if you can promise me that you won’t come after me with pitchforks and tar and feathers if you don’t like my words, here is my is my Saturday gift to you:

FEBRUARY 28

They say you will reach me at a time when the

Impassable becomes the necessary.

Like conscientious birds refusing to fly,

Mine is a tombless marriage.

Cotton-candied windows reflect

Pastel letters, “A”, “B”, “C”

The soft skull of books is no longer a comfort

Crushing frozen syllables,

My city is ineffective.

* Line 8 of this poem is taken from Neruda’s poem, “Heights of Macchu Picchu: VIII, Clime up with Me”

Since I shared my creativity with you, would you be willing to share some of your writing with me? I would love to read something that is outside of your normal genre. Pull your poems out from under your bed. Let me see the songs that you wrote (but didn’t send to) the winners of American Idol. Or, if you’re in a creative mood, write me something new.

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About sarahjoyliteraryagent

Sarah Joy Freese is an associate literary agent with WordServe Literary. She loves reading through queries and attending writing conferences to meet new excellent writers. Sarah especially enjoys working with authors make their manuscripts even stronger. Sarah received her bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also has an MA (emphasis in creative writing) and an MLIS degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sarah is married and is enjoying life with her husband and two birds, Brewster and Simon. When she is not working, Sarah enjoys crocheting, watching NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy, and playing Euchre.

29 thoughts on “Associate Agent by Day, Writer by Night (Sometimes)

  1. I don’t really write outside my comfort zone…probably because, while I appreciate pthers’ work, I don’t care for doing it myself. My husband is great at poetry. Me? Everything ends up sounding like Mary Had A Little Lamb or something. Blaahhh!

    My blog is me. A bit of news, a bit of review, a bit of personal essay, a bit of editorial. Sort of a mixture, almost always nonfiction. Fiction drives me nuts too. I can never tell if I’m doing it right, although I sure love reading it. Literature, mystery, romance, “chick lit”, biography, history, travelogue, young adult, kid, middle grade…you name it. I used to work as a bookseller for Borders as a spare time job, and that was heaven. Borders was my library. Ah, the bliss! 🙂

    • It took me two years in graduate school before I figured out how to do fiction “right”, and I’m still not sure. I have always been a rather slow learner–took me the entire year of AP English before I understood any of the literary terms, and then it just kind of clicked. I think it’s important to remember that there are conventions in any genre. You aim for fulfilling as many conventions as possible during the first draft and the first few edits. Then you start focusing on the writing (at least that is how I work).

      • Wow. You’re a lot more detailed about it. I just write and then revise, revise, revise. I have a certain flow that I look for, the language needs to feel right. It’s instinctive. I have always written that way.

        I’m afraid to get too focused on fulfilling anything because then it becomes formulaic and stilted, at least for me!

  2. My genre is usually urban fantasy and i’ve written a love story before, though it was destroyed the moment I had to reativate my blackberry. Note to all, never drink tea around your new phone. I also do poetry so here is one of the shorter ones as of late(most are too long)

    As Opposes To

    The rain sounds like my heartbeat

    Steady, slow, trickling like tear drops on dry eyes

    A flow from a leaky sink begging for mending

    Steady, slow, trickling

    How come?

    • I love the alliteration in “trickling like tear drops on dry eyes”. You’ve got the “t” sound and the “d” sound to make it literally feel as though someone’s eyes are dry, despite their sadness.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. My new song…I sing to the Lord:

    Lord, let my thoughts be your thoughts’
    Let my mind behold your glory.
    Show me life and peace,
    Life and peace,
    Through your spirit, hallelujah!

    Lord, let my eyes see your ways.
    Help me understand your wisdom.
    Show me truth and light,
    Truth and light,
    Through your spirit, hallelujah!

  4. Ok, I’m going to press the send button before I change my mind. I still occasionally write poetry, but it’s more traditional (like the kind you find in “A Friend in the Storm”) than the oldie you’re about to read; so I think this qualifies. : )

    Be encouraged by this “note”. We’re “in Christ.” He’s coming soon. As suddenly as birth pains…

    “Song of the New You-in-a-verse”

    So you feel like a note,
    out of place,
    solo sound, not
    inching out.

    Rivers break,
    heading you close
    to the door of
    time’s tight tomb.

    Rupture
    split-unlocks the seal,
    slipping you through a veil
    of breathless crowning.

    A cross
    a plethora
    of flesh
    with a gush.

    Eyes absorb
    Perfection’s face,
    an open book
    of Love Notes.

    A welcomed embrace
    pours warmth,
    a lasting feast
    into peace….

    • I love that–this is something I have been dealing with our (in Christ-ness) this week, so this really ministers to me. Plus, you have some beautiful language here, too. My favorite: “Rupture / split-unlocks the seal”. That’s one of those lines that you need to read aloud to really feel it. So powerful and rhythmic.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Thanks Sarah! I loved your whole blog post! I’m so thankful my little piece of a poem ministered to you today! (I actually chopped off a good portion of it so it would better fit here.)

        I love the parallels revolving around our “in-Christ-ness”. We live in a womb-world. When the pressure “bears down” on us, Christ feels it too. On the Day we finally see Him, we’ll see His scars… They’ll remind us whose we are and who stretched out His arms to carry us there…

        Until then, we’re safe in our home away from home…

  5. I failed kindergarten cutting too! (I also love it when I find fellow lefties.) 😀

    I usually write Urban fantasy/paranormal, but . . . this happened:

    I once wrote a book about a girl and her fears, who traveled far and battled tears. With mouse-brown hairs and curls galore, she spent most of her time asleep on the floor. A book under one arm, and pen in the other, she took notes on truths that were too hard to swallow.
    Hard night after night, day after day, she toiled with her dreams, hoping they’d stay. Years later she looks back and wonders why fight the battle? Why take the hard road? Why bother at all — she could just go raise cattle.

    So she set her down pen, and walked away. Her dreams became distant, her thoughts grew dull. And after a while, she felt very small. The world was so large, so vast, and so vile. With all the wickedness she’d never seen as a child.

    It took her years to go back to her fears, to travel far and battle tears. To sit down on the floor. A book in one hand, a pen in the other. The book sat empty, the pen dark and full. And word by word she started to make life a little less dull. She wove tales of knights, of honest kings and deviled queens. Patching the wounds, and healing the burns. And slowly she managed to handle the truths she never saw as a child. Ever so slowly, she managed to swallow.

    • I love that. I can never rhyme in my poems. I mean, I sound stupid when I do. This is great, so playful, and it makes a good point to. I like, “she could just go raise cattle”.

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. Sarah, this is a lovely post, so sweetly shared. I’m sorry you “failed” kindergarten cutting. However, your insights into cutting unnecessary words in manuscripts show that you haven’t “failed” cutting at all. 🙂 I love your poetic offering. However, I shouldn’t have read it right before I went to bed last night, because I lay there a long while, sorting it out in mind as I considered it. Deep thoughts. Can you offer the story behind the writing?

    Here’s my meager poetic attempt, something I wrote earlier, now crafted into the form of a poem. I hope the formatting I’ve imposed on it transfers when I (nervously) hit comment:

    Sharpening this particular instrument,
    recalcitrant and hard-hearted sinner that I am,
    requires him to scrape me on flint,
    iron sharpening iron,
    rough edges sanded off,
    cutting edge honed with repetitive, stropping strokes.
    I must yield.
    It is essential that I have a fine point.
    I am a pen,
    one of a cluster of writing utensils within his arsenal of implements—
    pens, pencils, and paintbrushes.
    Tools of his trade.

    • Melinda, thanks. 🙂

      I won’t offer the full story, but I can tell you that it is about a woman who can’t conceive.

      I love, “It is essential that I have a fine point. / I am a pen,” I never would have made that connection. Normally people would think “sword” or “weapon”, but it plays on the concept of “the pen is mightier than the sword”.

      Thanks for sharing!

      • Wow! Knowing that bit of background makes your poem even more rich. There are so many possibilities to which it can be applied in varied and personal ways. Great word choices. Of course.

  7. I’m a freelance business marketing writer, lover of poetry and short fiction, avid music writer, and aspiring speculative fiction author. I also like to practice flash fiction to help me rein in those pesky paragraphs in my longer manuscripts. (I tend to ramble.) Here’s some short fiction I wrote awhile back that’s been a good discussion piece:

    Safe!

    It was sometime in the middle of August. The sun was angry that day, and the late summer humidity soaked right through the deepest parts of my body. My brother and I had been playing baseball at the local diamond. At least that’s what we called it. It was really a dirt patch worn out by countless ground balls and dirty sneakers. Those of us who played there always talked about how we were going to scrap together some money and buy a backstop so that Lenny, our catcher, wouldn’t have to risk his life for wild pitches. Not many got by him, but when they did they usually rolled down main street- which started about ten feet behind home plate. Lenny is playing in the big leagues now.

    On this particular afternoon, my brother and I had been taking some extra fielding practice like we often did on lazy summer days. We would switch on and off; hitting to each other with my dad’s pride and joy that had seen several neighborhood championships. After our normal few hours of sweat-filled curses, we started walking home so we could get cleaned up in time for a delicious home-cooked meal. Suddenly, we heard a strange growling noise behind us. At first I thought it was old Mrs. Yetter out on another one of her walks, but it was deeper than anything human vocal chords could have produced, even Mrs. Yetter’s. We both turned around at the same time and found ourselves standing face-to-face with a genuine grizzly. The first thing I noticed was its teeth, which, in area, were probably as big as our cat Harry. My whole body stiffened, and my glove fell out of my hand and hit the pavement. I never found the ball that rolled out of it, onto the sidewalk, through the bear’s legs, and down the street.

    Mike took off. The boy could run. He was known for stretching doubles into triples and sometimes home runs. His stolen base record highlights the top of the list we carved into the lone tree standing behind left field at that dusty old diamond.

    I froze.

    The bear didn’t.

    It took off after my brother, a strange carnivorous growl leaving itself imprinted on my brain. I don’t know how long I stood there, but, when I finally came out of my paralyzed stupor, I shook out legs of concrete and started sprinting toward my house. When I finally got there, Mike was in the process of downing a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a large glass of cold milk.

    “Whaaaa… whaaaat happened?” I managed to get out.

    My mother, calm and cool as always, proceeded to tell the whole story of how the bear had wandered too far from its home in the woods east of town and then chased Mike back to the house. She said the local police and some of the men in the neighborhood, including my father, were out tracking it with .22s. It was expected to be armed with rabies and dangerous. I looked at Mike.

    “But how…..?”

    “I’m always safe,” he grinned.

    I just shook my head.

  8. Concept of a Statistician: A man who believes figures don’t lie, but admits than under analysis many of them won’t remain true either.
    Don’t trust people. They are capable of greatness.

  9. Why Here?

    By Mary Lou (Sutton) Blackert

    I like Oroville, though some might say
    It’s not where I’d live at all, no way.
    Why do I like it? I’ll try to explain.
    The setting is perfect where mountain meets plain.
    The quaint Victorians on Montgomery Street
    Feature the Lot house, their centerpiece,
    And others became new B & B places
    For guest to stay behind painted faces.

    The river riches, the gold it washed down,
    Is reason enough for a city to be found.
    The Feather ripples west through the old swimming hole
    Then curves to the south to continue its flow.
    Much gold has been dug for many a year
    But some’s left for you so shed no tear,
    Though your riches may come in some other manner.
    It might even by nails and a hammer.

    The Chinese Temple is more than it seems
    Built by the Emperor for Chinese of means,
    Confucius, Buddha, & Lao Tzu stand,
    On hand carved altar to lend a hand,
    Look silently about with cross-eyed stares
    So they don’t get accused of uppity airs.
    Chinese trees frame a pond full of carp
    As a black cat stalks with eyes open sharp.

    Fresh veggies and fruits hawked from the street
    On Thursday evening as shopper, discrete,
    Pick out produce with discerning glances.
    While farmers stack peaches fresh from ranches
    Saucy young teen-agers lick their sweet ices
    Which are offered for sale next to flowers and spices.
    New friend or old gather and stand,
    To hear Sousa played by the Community Band.

    The hills of the city present a surprise
    When you round a corner and find houses the size
    Of those you might find in a big city clime,
    Instead of a town with a 12,000 pop sign.
    Each neighborhood craves its own little niche
    With houses to fit whatever your itch.
    Facades all differ whether brand new or old;
    No track houses to fit a fixed mold.

    Goldtown charms you with stories of mines,
    Of gold and diamonds and Indian times.
    It takes a while to sort it all out
    And find that it is you’d like to tout
    But histories alone don’t endear you to places.
    It’s the friendly smiles on the people’s faces.
    Regardless of what you’ve read or been told,
    Oroville has people you’ll love to know.

  10. Sarah, thanks for a look into your life. I’m sorry you had that bad experience in kindergarten. I enjoyed your poem. I, too, am a hobby poet. Here’s an offering:

    MIST SONG
    Gossamer threads snag
    In branches bare
    And shimmer there.
    A wild pulse beats
    Beneath a cloak of gauze
    As winter greets
    Its reflection.
    **********************
    © Janalyn Voigt

  11. Careful what you wish for, Sarah! 😉 I’m going to spare you my early poetry attempts, but I’m glad you shared yours. Very nice!

  12. I tried to go back to sleep after I read your post, but I failed. Here’s what ran through my mind. Maybe I can sleep now!

    Three a.m.
    I can’t sleep.
    Words and phrases,
    Thoughts way too deep.
    Vivid images,
    Scenes and characters.
    Dreams of going places,
    Another great chapter.
    Why can’t I just sleep?
    Silence the voices?
    Technology?
    Theology?
    I must rest.
    Too sleepy.

  13. I’m a lefty too. About a week before starting 1st grade I broke my left arm in two places, and had a cast from my wrist almost to my shoulder. But my left hand was so dominant that I couldn’t cut right handed. So that first week in school I did the best I could with those right-handed scissors in my barely movable left hand. This was 1958, and I don’t think the school had any left-handed scissors. Dear Mrs. Manning sent a note home to my parents saying I was doing well considering I was handicapped. Mom had a fit, not realizing the teacher mean my tempory, physical handicap.

  14. oh this was FUN! thanks Sarah for such an inspirational post. i love seeing folks dare to step out of their comfort zones…something we should all do every single day. Bravo!!!

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