My Bleeping Birth Story

For my first turning point, I’m taking us back a couple of years (812 days, to be exact). I’d been writing “in the drawer” for some time. I was a Hobbyist, though a serious one. I dabbled a few hours a week until I eventually "finished" a “book”. In fact, I had local kids read it and give me feedback. I’d done market research and identified my top agents. All the advice demanded that I attend a conference, which was *terrifying* (seriously, I, The Conference Junkie, was beyond nervous). But I signed up for one because writing was my dream.

That faithful day came. I packed up my stuff, kissed the wife and dogs bye, and made it to the hotel plenty early. And, there it was, sitting in my registration packet: a schedule with a slot – only an hour later – with My Perfect Agent. That was it. The fates had aligned. It was going to be my big break. Yep! The New York Times Best Seller List, here I come. Which vacation home was I going to buy first?

Later that night, as My Perfect Agent read my pages, I prepared for him to bow down to me or for the excitement to rattle his hands when he realized what he held. Except that, instead, his face iced over and at the same moment, the room turned very, very stuffy.

“Honestly,” he passed me my pages as if they were cow pies,  “This made me want to shoot myself in the bleeping head.”

Only he didn’t say bleeping.

Nope. He did not.

I never knew that dreams make a noise as they die, but they do. And, for everyone’s information, it sounds a lot like “made me want to shoot myself in the bleeping head.”

Afterward, I wanted to cry myself to sleep or throw my laptop off the roof, maniacally laughing as the transistors scattered on the parking lot below. I wanted to return to the safety of my wife and dogs and warm bed. I wanted to give up. But I didn’t. Instead, I pulled myself together, bought a venti Americano, turned on the computer, and worked all night. I was going to show My Perfect Agent exactly how bleeping good I could be.

And that, Dear Readers, was my first turning point –

The day everything changed –

The disturbance that sent me on my quest, my never-ending quest –

That was my birth as a Writer. 

Obviously, My Perfect Agent should’ve been more P.C. since he could crush more fragile souls (actually, it isn’t that I’m tough, it’s that I was too dumb back then to know any better – if My Perfect Agent said the same thing to me today…well, it would not be pretty). But I owe him a lot. I’d been gestating as a Hobbyist for long enough, it was only the pain inflicted upon me by My Perfect Agent that launched me, head-first, out of the womb (yes, yes, you can totally tell I’ve got a baby on the way – sue me).

The next morning, My Perfect Agent read my revision and loved it. Impressed, he encouraged me to continue. And, continue, I did. Since then I haven’t stopped. I’ve grown as a writer like a newborn developing. With every blink I feel so much more mature than a moment before. I eagerly accept critique, savor every drop of information offered, and push myself beyond my perceived capabilities. I prioritize writing just below family. I write for a few hours almost every day and I get up at 5am to do it (even on weekends). Most of all, I try to make sure my writing never, ever makes anyone want to shoot themselves in the bleeping head again.

And, folks, if I can live through something like that...if I thrived from that horrible moment, then I know you can take all those fears or bad reviews or mean comments and spin them into your own gold.


I swear the authors of this blog are reading my mind. My sister and I just had this conversation last night. She was lamenting over a profession who keeps nitpicking her essays and giving her B's. I told her my daughter (7th grade) is going through the same thing and that they have both finally run into that person who is NOT as impressed with their writing as others have been in the past.
I have had two of those turning point moments myself. The first was freshman English. With a near-perfect score on the English portion of the ACT and straight A's in English all through high school, imagine my shock at the professor who gave me a C on my first essay. She was not impressed and told me that my writing was boring. By the third essay, I had figured out how to impress her. Fast forward many years later to when I started seriously querying agents. I had a couple of agents tell me they didn't care for the plot, but they were impressed with the quality of my writing (yay!). Then comes the third agent. She frankly told me I had a good idea, but the quality of my writing sucked. She was NOT impressed. I revised and sent it back to her four months later. She was impressed...but not enough to represent me. But, hey, my writing improved, so I can't complain.

Thanks for the encouragement, Bret.

Talk about tough love! I work in publishing and never could understand why some publishing folks don't soften the blow at least. The upside is that it gave you more motivation to keep on trekking.

You'll get there!

This is great, Bret. It may even motivate me to start getting up at 5 so I can "finish" a "book."


Also, my new favorite line you've written: "I never knew that dreams make a noise as they die, but they do."

I love that, instead of hurling your laptop off the hotel balcony, you got right back to work. Bravo!

Okay, so I'm not a literary agent, but if I were that agent, gave you the tough love gutcheck that would've crushed others then had you come back to me showing that you could really stick it to your work, I would have offered you representation then and there. Not a lot of writers can handle the bad news that their writing needs an improvement or something needs an edit, but when an agent finds one willing to buckle down like you did, well, they're just passing up on repping a hard working writer.

I'm glad you took that gutcheck and kept going. Can't wait to see what brilliant writing you've got up your sleeves.

Thanks for the encouragement, everybody! We all gotta learn to roll with the punches in this industry. It's a biz that's made for kids, but not for cry babies.

And, Angela, with an attitude like that, you should TOTALLY become an agent! Sign me up.

I love this story! Rejection is the highest form of flattery. Or something.

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