03 October 2013

What I Learned From Dinner With Kristin Nelson

Hi, my name is M, and I'm an introvert who likes to make things up.

Hi, M, whispers the support team.

Large groups of people make me nervous unless I'm showing off in front of them.  One-on-one conversations with strangers cause so much sweating and conversation-rehearsing that I'm amazed no one notices that my responses sometimes sound crafted (because they are).

So picture this.  An introvert (*coughcough* me) sits with her writer friends at a banquet.  Half of the table is empty, and they have no idea if the seats will be filled with other writers, by editors, or by agents.  The writers joke and laugh and talk about the conference and the workshops they've attended, and then all of a sudden they all talk quieter and look surprised and eager and oh-so-nervous. 


Kristin Nelson, Sally Harding, and Hannah Bowman.  Grabbing. Chairs. At. Our. Table.

I'm fairly certain that my heartbeat, instead of sticking to the regular thump-thunk thump-thunk, went thunka-thonka-thoinka-plunk.  Because, let's be honest, if you want one of the best and coolest agents of young adult novels to represent you, you want Kristin Nelson.  She is really nice, unfailingly honest, and personable.  Oh, and she sells novels to publishers.  Lots of them.

Of course, I was 100% terrified. I managed to break the silence with a very breathy, high-pitched "Ohofcourseyoucansithere."

Before I go on, perhaps I should mention that Kristin's agency, which is based in Denver, has rejected my manuscript.  Twice.  Currently I am in denial that these rejections ever happened, and I'll probably query them again with my next project.  Anyway... Kristin sat next to me, and the time that followed was fantastic.  Sitting next to Kristian was like having an ex you still have feelings for wink at you from across a crowded room (with the added exception that they have absolutely no idea who you are). 

A few minutes of small talk made the wobbly feelings in my stomach subside, and I actually got to have intelligent conversation with Kristin and Sally (Hannah was a bit too far away to join in).  After an author appeared out of nowhere to hand Kristin his card and join our table, I felt like I joined the agent club.  I viewed the secret aftermath of the author's invasive approach, laughed with them about it, and forgot my nerves so quickly I was able to enjoy the dinner, my friends, and the agents.  Even when the new author ruined my chances to pitch to any of them (it's a simple matter of timing and the secret code of When To Pitch And When To Pretend They Don't Represent Your Genre), I didn't feel like a moment had been wasted. 

Other people might look at the night and think, "Well, she should have at least tried to pitch" or "How could it possibly not have been wasted if she didn't talk business with at least one of them?"  Good question.  The short answer?  I'll take any encouragement I can get.  And when Kristin Nelson tells me that writers are crazy (duh) and I get to hear about her niece, who is 16 and taller than me (I'm 5'10"), I feel encouraged.  I believe that as a crazy person, I have the unique right to try the same thing over and over again, with the electrifying, thrilling confidence that one day I will get a different result. 

I pull magic, heroes, psychopaths, guts, and glory out of my head and hope other people like it.  I spend years working on novels that may never sit on a shelf at Barnes and Noble.  I send letters to agents and editors, trying to find just one who, like me, is in love with the world in my head. Those letters don't just go out once.  They go out over and over and over again.  Just try and tell me that the banquet was a waste, or that I'm crazy.  Because having dinner with Kristin Nelson taught me that if I can get her to laugh, other agents will read my words, get the jokes, and fall in love with them.  And gaining that optimism can't possibly be a waste.

1 comment:

Giles Hash said...

It was a great evening! I was as surprised as you when she sat down with us.