Hi, I’m Barb. I’m new here.
If you read my interview with Janet last month, you learned that I’m the newest literary agent with Books & Such Literary Management. However, I’ve been with the agency as Rachelle Gardner’s client since 2014. As an author, I understand the tensions and triumphs embedded in the publishing process. As an agent, I love helping people succeed and great books. So, my goal is to bring those two together as often as I can!
I see an author’s writing career like riding a wild stallion. It’s beautiful to behold, but never tame enough to be predictable. Like a wild stallion, our words don’t always come like we command. Book contracts can twist around in dizzying circles before both sides agree. Anyone ever get bucked off by the unpredictable and arduous challenge of building a platform? That’s a wild ride all its own!
Yet, like a wild stallion or group of wild stallions galloping free through the hills, writers long to chase that same kind of beauty. Chances are you fell in love with writing because one day, you experienced the thrill of capturing those wild words and corralling them onto a page so that you and others could enjoy their beauty.
Once you’ve felt the thrilling wild world of writing, it’s no wonder that you want to experience more of it.
As an agent, I realize that one of my most vital functions is caring for writers as they hold on tight to the reigns of their bucking, twisting wild writing career as well as care for those same clients when the inevitable bumps and bruises come along.
No one ever gets on a horse and dreams of falling off. But if you ride a horse long enough, it’s going to happen.
When I was nine years old, I rode an old farm horse for the first time. I was too afraid of falling to enjoy the experience. In fact, I spent much of my ride looking at the grass underneath the horse’s feet. Since our bodies follow the direction of our eyes, my little body began to slide sideways off toward same ground that I spent much of my ride staring at in fear. Thankfully, I reached out and grabbed a nearby laundry clothesline. However, half my body hung from the clothesline while the other half stayed on the horse. I screamed until someone came and rescued me.
I wish that I could tell you that I got back on the horse and finished the ride. Nope. After I got off, I never climbed back in the saddle again. Even though I didn’t fall off the horse, the experience felt so much like failure that I never wanted to try again.
Every writer fails. Failure hurts. I’m not going to nuance failure into something that it isn’t. Those failures feel like painful falls that bruise our egos, scrape up our self-esteem and at its worst, break our spirits. It’s failure and even our fear of failure that keeps us from sending out that next query, continuing to build that platform or talks us out of that unique book idea because we assume that it won’t work either.
How do you get back in the saddle again when you’re struggling with your writing career?
That’s where HOPE comes in.
In my first few weeks as an agent, I realized that one of my most important responsibilities is to give voice to hope. Hope can take on all kinds of meanings, but I prefer the definition that I learned while attending a family recovery support group because of a former loved one’s addiction. In those rooms, I heard HOPE defined like this:
Hope means that you hang on until times get better because at some point in the future they will!
Hope is the clear, true voice of your past experience, your wisdom and all of the wild words that you’ve chased down and written on the page in the past.
In fact, Hope looks beyond the problems or other “P” words like the pandemic, our political climate, the pain of social issues or personal problems. Hope sees the future and wants you to climb back on your wild writing horse, even though you’ll have to ride through rough territory while that wild horse is bucking and twisting all the way.
Hope knows that you can do it.
I love that in the unpredictable, volatile and uncertain landscape that defines the year 2020, online outlets are still accepting submissions, editors are still accepting manuscripts, publishers are still printing books, aspiring authors are still submitting queries for all kinds of genres. The world is still turning, so we can keep writing!
Here are a few words of encouragement to you if it’s time for you to get back out there and ride your wild writing career:
- If you’re not writing because you’re nursing some bruised ego, scraped up self-esteem or broken spirit, we see you.
We believe in you.
We’re cheering for you.
It’s okay not to be okay and when you’re ready, you don’t have to stay that way.
- If or when you get back on that wild writing horse, you’re never riding alone.
A few years ago, my agent, Rachelle and I attended the same writing conference. She created space in her busy schedule to have coffee with me. Three weeks prior, my 26-year marriage had fallen apart and my father-in-law passed away suddenly the week before the conference. My writing career seemed far away at that point, but she spoke hope into my life that day and reminded me that she would be there when I was ready to get back in the saddle again.
Here on this blog is one of the ways that we’re always here, walking beside you, whether you’re riding the wild stallion as a serious hobby, as a profession or somewhere in between. A few weeks ago, Rachel Kent wrote a wonderful post on staying motivated that offers some great questions that can get you back in the saddle again.
- Finally, maybe you just need someone to say this to you: Giddy-Up!
Grab the reigns, wrap them around your arms tight and twice.
Get some people to walk beside you and cheer you on.
Get riding again.
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS BELOW: What helps you get back into the writing saddle when you experience hard times in your life or writing career?
Thought writin’ was a kind of thing
with danger ever-hidin’,
a cross between bare-knuckles ring
and helmetless bull-ridin’.
But paradigms got readjusted, so
my life today is neither
like boxin’ or the rodeo,
for I ride cancer’s tiger.
All I do is hold real tight,
and just try to hang on,
for if I tumble in the night
all hope will then be gone
and I will be quickly eaten
by the foe that I’m still beatin’.
Well done, Andrew! Thank you for adding your creative voice to today’s conversation.
Really loved your post, Barb. The wild horse analogy is perect.
Thank you, DiAnn! This is my first agent post and your words of encouragement bless my heart today.
Kristen Joy Wilks
When I was a girl, we had a tiny Shetland pony and a not so tiny Arab/Quarter horse mix. The horse loved to prance around, snort, jump, and in general see if he could unseat you … just to make the ride interesting. But it was the tiny pony who was harder to ride. She bit, bucked, reared up on her adorable hind legs, jumped logs, and scraped you against the sides of trees. Not every time, but enough to make a rider watch her close. Once, my mom and I were moving them from their winter paddock to their summer space. It was only a mile long ride, but as any horse person knows, the first ride of the spring is extra exciting. The horse started snorting and prancing and my mom had her hands full. Well, she figured that all would go well and so she had brought along her large knitting bag on the ride. We were riding western, so reins in left hand, knitting bag in her right hand. But he was too feisty that day and she had to drop the knitting bag. Wanting to help, I hopped off the pony, grabbed the knitting bag, and got about halfway back on before she bolted. I woke up about half a mile down the road. I had been walking for half a mile and didn’t know it. My face was one huge scrap on one side (yes, the kids at Sunday school called me Frankenstein) and my thumb was sprained. I had no doubt that I would ride again, no doubt at all. It made my heart pound. But once I could use my thumb properly, I jumped back on and had many happy years riding both the horse and the pony. Barb, your story made me wonder why on earth my writing failures make me consider giving up when getting knocked out and getting half my face scraped raw didn’t? I need to remember that day and press forward with all the determination of that little girl giving her pony a smack on the rump and telling her to knock it off and get going down the trail! Thank you!!!
Kristen, your story and final observation about yourself brought tears to my eyes! Thank you for sharing that story and inspiring us today!
Barb, thank you for this. It’s been a hard season for me and my family. We’ve had health issues that had nothing to do with Covid. My mother passed away. But during all this time, I had my writing to lean into, to take refuge in, that little world away from the real one, and it was a wonderful distraction for me. Since spring, on the days I was able to be home, away from the hospital or rehab with my mom, I wrote just one scene. Just one. And I wrote The End just days ago. I thank God that in the midst of hard times, He’s still doing something new and good in our lives, something to spring up hope for tomorrow.
Hi Shelli, thank you for stopping by the B&S blog today! I’m so glad that this post encouraged you! As you’ve written, there’s a lot happening in our lives that has nothing to do with the pandemic. You inspired me today by sharing about writing that one scene in the midst of so many difficult moments. I’m celebrating “The End” with you! Ride on!
Love the HOPE acronym! Thank you for such an encouraging post. (I also have been on a horse only once in my life, and I was terrified the entire time. But I was a bit older than you—I was in my 50s!)
Diane, thank you for letting me know that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t love her first time on a horse – yikes! Thank you for sharing your comment and I’m glad that today’s post was an encouragement to you.
Hi Barb. Thank you for the encouraging post. I’m looking forward to more words of wisdom from you.
Hi David, thank you for stopping by the blog today. I’m glad that my post encouraged you. Keep riding – keep writing!
I am quite thankful for the pandemic because it gave me time to read and write, two things that sometimes get pushed aside when I am focused on family and running my business. The funny thing is, at the eleventh hour of releasing my recent book, I got into a bike accident! It would have been a legitimate reason to stop, but I kept thinking about my audience and the thought of not being there for them made me press on. Thank you for sharing this blog post! It is wonderful to know that there are literary agents out there who care about their clients in this way. All the best!!
Catrina, good for you! An accident right before a book release sounds stressful, yet I love how you remembered that your audience needs your words and whatever you’re communicating from your heart. That’s all so good! Thank you for sharing that with us.