The Exceptional Writer 1 2 - Page 5

On Being a Late Bloomer AKA “I finally got a literary agent” Written by Sharon Van Epps This summer, one of my writing dreams came true — I signed with a literary agent! I’ve been writing my entire adult life, so this wasn’t my first attempt at attracting representation, but this time, I succeeded. I thought I’d share some reflections on the process that might help other aspiring writers out there. How do you know when you’re really ready to pursue and work with an agent? The Early Years AKA “Maybe I’m just not good enough.” The first time I ever met a literary agent in person, I was a 22-year-old MFA student studying fiction writing. One of my professors brought his agent to campus to introduce her to students. The prof made a big deal about the fact that only the BEST students would be offered this opportunity. The chosen ones would get a private, written invitation to a dinner; we weren’t to tell the other students if we received a note. It was a nasty mind game that had me shaking with anxiety as I entered the restaurant. This agent represented Nobel Prize and National Book Award winners. I was just a girl who’d written for her high school paper who wasn’t sure how I’d gotten into grad school with such a crappy GRE score in math, let alone invited to this important gathering. I ended up seated next to the agent, a quiet older woman who asked if she could finish the apple pie I’d left on my dessert plate. (I said yes.) But our professor wasn’t done with power plays: at the end of the meal, one of the men in my class, widely acknowledged as the faculty favorite, reached across the table with a fat manuscript in a manila envelope — a hand off the prof had clearly arranged in advance and wanted everyone to see. The rest of us sat there in awkward silence, sick with the realization that we’d been good enough to score the dinner invitation, but not amazing enough to be anointed for representation. Then one of my other male classmates piped up. “So, Agent X,” he said, “can the rest of us send you our novels when we’re ready?” “Of course,” she replied. But even though I could have opened a query to her with the best line ever — i.e. “Perhaps you remember that time I gave you the rest of my apple pie?” — I took what I perceived as the professor’s lack of confidence in me too deeply to heart and never contacted her. I wasn’t ready. Finding My Voice AKA “Maybe I shoul