Funny how some things transcend age. The world might look at grey hair or a lined
face and judge that here is a person who is a completed being, or at least
someone who has all her stuff together. Not necessarily.
Last weekend I attended a local writer's conference. There were
panel discussions and sessions that I was looking forward to, but my driving
motivation was ambition. I was scheduled to meet with an agent to discuss my
second book, a mystery, and even though the realistic half of my brain was
industriously throwing water on this thought, the other half of my brain had
dreams of representation. I would walk in to a beaming agent who would be
breathless after reading the description of my book. She would lunge across the
table to shake my hand and immediately whip out a contract.
before I had been given the time for my appointment - a parsimonious ten
- I prepared by printing out a fresh copy of
the letter I had already submitted.
- I struggled to compose a summary of my
mystery into one sentence.
- I wrote and practiced my "elevator
speech", a two minute summary of my book.
- To show
how knowledgeable I was of my genre, I made a list of mystery writers I read
What to wear? Nothing
dowdy - the goal was to look like the dynamic individual with the unflagging
energy needed for all those bookstore signings and library readings that were
certainly in my future.
The big day came. First I attended two workshops, but my attention
was a bit patchy. I was silently
practicing my elevator speech like a personal mantra. Then it was time for my
appointment. I joined all the other aspiring authors with their sweat-beaded
foreheads who kept sorting through their papers and checking to ensure that
they were there at the correct time. We all stared intently at the room where
our dreams would be realized or destroyed. As those before us exited, we
strained for any snatches of conversation about their experience, hoping to
gain some insight before it was our turn.
I had seen a photograph of the agent I'd been assigned. It had
surely been taken when she had just joined the firm, before she grew older and
regretted her decision to sport a nose-ring and doff a felt hat that looked
like a small brown lampshade.
I heard my name called and my stomach immediately went to the
place it goes before really ugly dental work. I marched across the room with my
phony smile and quivering knees. The table I was directed to held a slight
young woman - nose ring intact - of 14 1/2 years old. So what if her bio had
said she was a graduate of this selective college hosting the conference?
This was the person who would be representing my book to the
But she had the power and I was just one more author.
Suddenly I was no longer the mother of two, (both of whom were
over a decade older than this person across the table) grandmother of three. No
longer was I the educator who had held sway over classrooms of rowdy 17 year-olds.
I was also no longer a woman with a professional life that had included working
at the CIA or
directing three-camera television productions. I had become a powerless
The meeting was clinical, nothing more than a discussion of the
composition of my letter. I’ve had warmer exchanges over my former 11th
graders’ essays. No enthusiasm, no interest, no exchange of emails.
At least now I won’t have to
worry whether my nose-ringed representative can get her mom to drive her to my publishing meetings.