Strength in Numbers

Wendy Lawton

Blogger: Wendy Lawton

We often talk about how important it is to have writing cohorts, a faith community and even a strong friendship base as a writer. Too often our work is solitary. We need people around us, even if it is a social media circle. Love and support can come through many different channels.

We, at Books & Such, definitely practice what we preach. We have deep friendships and relationships within the professional publishing community. We have the very best circle of clients any agency could boast– and not just based on sales and standing. Our clients make an effort to stay connected to each other and to us. The strength of our agency comes in large part from them. But we are connected to each other– the six of us– five agents and Michelle, our office guru.

Every Friday we gather together via video conferencing and spend a couple of hours talking about our wins, our concerns and our questions. We talk about us, about you, about our clients and about editors and publishing. We also hold each other accountable for the work. We report sales and where we are in relation to our goals. We also talk about how many proposals went out that week.

In addition, Janet, our august leader, calls each agent every week for a one-on-one intensive. In the beginning it is a deep mentoring call that gradually morphs into time of brainstorming and, sometimes, just a mutual gripe session. The result is a team that is close and all pulling in the same direction. A team of agents who are also friends and sisters. We’ve experienced strength in numbers.

Take this weekend. We had our almost-annual get-together in Santa Rosa. I drove to Oakland to pick up Cynthia Ruchti at the airport, coming with mounds of luggage from a writing conference and the Christy Awards (where she was a finalist and a presenter). Rachelle flew into San Jose where she is now at the Leverage Conference. She rented a car and drove up to Santa Rosa. Rachel, Janet and Michelle all live in Santa Rosa and work out of the Santa Rosa office.

We got there in time for a wonderful dinner at a great Italian restaurant housed in a nineteenth-century Victorian. Because of our weekly meetings we feel as if we are together often but it was great to get hugs and share stories. We had decided on a slumber party this gathering so some went to sleep at Michelle’s and some to Janet’s. We had a California breakfast at Michelle’s (that means fruit so beautiful it looks like a magazine shoot, fresh yogurt and everything else).

We met at a picturesque winery/lavender farm for our new photo shoot. The vines were turning color, the olive trees were filled with ripening olives and the acres of lavender plants scented the air. That was part of the picture. It was sobering to see the blackened hills behind the winery reaching within feet of the tasting room and lavender barns. The sommelier told us that the closest burns were backfires, carefully lit by the firefighters to save the winery. Our photo shoot was nothing less than fun. Could it have something to do with the tasting room? Not really. It’s just that we were looking at beauty against the heartbreaking scar of devastation and being together we again experienced strength in numbers. We even took our first agency selfie.

We spent the day in meetings– talking about the new website, some potentially exciting plans *wink, wink,* our blog, our clients and our dreams and goals. The day was punctuated by lunch, not to mention afternoon tea and shortbread. (We do know how to enjoy life, don’t we?) That night we ended with a fabulous dinner at an amazing restaurant. The food was memorable from the amuse bouche all the way through dessert and the champagne to toast Rachel and Rachelle’s ten-year anniversary as agents and Cynthia’s Christy finalist award. It was again sobering to have to drive through the once stunning Fountaingrove neighborhood on the way home. Piles of ash where families should have been enjoying their Saturday night dinners.

Janet wrote about the fires yesterday. Don’t miss her blog. We sensed the fragile state of residents in the wine country and were glad we were there to experience it first hand and add generously to the economy through our food adventures. Every street corner is peppered with hand written signs thanking the first responders. We watched a community displaying strength in numbers.

It was a wonderful weekend. As we travel back to our offices we are thankful for each other. This long hugs, prayers and “I love you”s will last a long time. And, of course, we’ll be seeing each other this Friday.

How about you? Do you experience strength in numbers? Who are your “people?”