A Thousand People

It’s July in Seattle, which means it’s getting close to conference time. Every year the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association holds a conference. Agents and editors from New York, Los Angeles and a few points in between descend on our city and the pitching begins. Oh, the look on those poor writers’ faces as they sit in the prescribed waiting area for their turn in front of an agent. If we could bottle the anxiety we could probably run our cars on it.

I always want to hug all the writers and assure them that no matter what happens they will live to see their loved ones again. But I feel for the agents as well. They know what’s going through the writers’ heads. Imagine having one nervous wreck after another sit before you with their self-esteem throbbing on their sleeve. The good ones are prospective salesmen and therapists all at once. The bad ones . . . well, I will just say that compassion is meaningless unless it is tested.

At times like this, I try to remember the wise words of Byron Katie: “You can have anything you want if you’re willing to ask a thousand people.” That is, somewhere out there is someone of a like mind. Writer’s conferences are fantastic opportunities. You get to kibitz with other writers, learn from workshops, and meet flesh and blood agents and editors. But there are lot of agents and editors out there, and all their tastes vary widely, and those you meet at conferences are but a small percentage. Have perspective. Your pitch is not do-or-die; it is one opportunity. There are always more coming.

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