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You Excepted—Not.

Last week a gentleman called and left a message on my voicemail.

He said, “I see that your voicemail says that you do not accept phone queries.”

Then he proceeded to query me by phone.

What part of my voicemail message did he not understand? I was sorely tempted to jot down this person’s name so in the event that he did a) figure out he wasn’t excepted and b) figure out how to query me through the proper channel, I could immediately send my “NO” response without even given him due consideration.

Then I remembered. I’m a nice person. Perhaps it was one of those strange brain farts that kidnapped his better sense at that exact moment and he was compelled to leave the message. Now he is filled with remorse. Or better yet, has learned some sense.

I just hit the delete button.

How To Lose a Publisher in 10 Days

I’m thinking of a line from Forrest Gump, “I’m not a smart man.”

To recap:

Smoking Gun reveals that James Frey’s memoir is basically a fabrication.

Frey goes on Larry King Live to “defend” himself and implies that his publisher and editor Nan Talese knew all along that the work was more fiction than memoir.

News to her and appalled by the misrepresentation, Nan Talese contradicts Frey in a public statement. By her account, the work was presented as nonfiction and there was no discussion on how to publish it. (Note: Ms. Talese is a long time editor with a sterling reputation.) Not to mention, the publisher had been unequivocally standing behind Frey up until this point.

Boy, does this guy know how to win friends and influence people or what.

Every day I wake up with a little smile on my face. It’s going to be a good day because Frey isn’t my client.

Would You Like Truth With That?

One of my favorite writers is Allan Sloan, the financial journalist from Newsweek. If you ever want to read compelling writing, pick up a copy. Any person who can make corporate mergers and mutual fund topics fun to read is a writer to watch.

If he’s covering a stock that he owns or an organization owned by the Newsweek parent company, he begins his column with a disclosure.

That’s what I’m doing. Beginning this post with a disclosure.

I’m currently shopping a memoir and that certainly colors how I view James Frey and the whole MILLION LITTLE You-Know-What smoking gun.

Why? Because the memoir I’m shopping is beautifully written, meticulously researched, and we have all the documentation to warm even the most cynical, detailed-oriented fact-checking heart.

We didn’t lie, embellish, or otherwise make up a story that is being circulated as truth.

The trouble we are having is that editors love it, are very complimentary, but are afraid that it won’t be “big” enough for their house so hence, must pass with regret.

Translation: We didn’t lie, embellish or otherwise make up the truth in order to make the story more titillating, controversial, or “big” enough to be worth publishing.

That says a lot about publishing today unfortunately.

It is Much Ado About Something. A memoir is about truth from that one person’s perspective. It’s not about making it up so it will be an over-the-top spectacular victim story that will be “big” enough to sell a lot of copies.

Is there a redemptive quality based on the solidness of the inspirational message (which has been suggested)? If there is, I’m not seeing it. This story didn’t happen so how can triumph over events that didn’t exist be an inspiration for others who really suffer from addiction and are struggling to overcome?

If you really want to read a good, true story of recovery from addiction, I’d boycott Frey and pick up Heather King’s PARCHED.

At least she understands that a memoirist’s reputation is built on integrity. As she says, “It’s every writer’s sacred honor to “get it right,” but perhaps the burden falls heaviest on the memoirist…”

Well said.

Relentlessly Nice

Sometimes I regret growing up in Missouri where I was relentlessly taught to be nice.

It means that when I’m sitting across the table from a would-be writer at a writers’ conference who’s pitching me the most outlandish novel (you name it)/memoir-about-being-abducted-by-aliens/nonfiction-project-I-don’t-even-remotely-represent, I haven’t the heart to say that it stinks or “are you on drugs,” or even politely, “no thank you.”

Stomp on their dream why don’t you.

The nice person in me will take the coward’s way out and do the rejection by letter/email because it’s just easier. (And trust me, I’m not the only agent who falls into this trap.)

Oh to be a brusque New Yorker or to be able to channel Miss Snark for five minutes. (As an aside, I bet she’s a real sweet gal in person; it’s a whole different ball game when you get to remain anonymous). I might actually save the writers some postage.

Which is why I started this blog. I’m finally going to talk about what’s on my mind. Nicely of course! (Some habits are hard to break.)

To indulge in some polite rants so maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up my gumption to say what needs to be said to a writer in person.

And if not, I’ll actually get to say it on my blog. Feel like I’m growing…