A Moment of Jen
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Thursday, April 18, 2002
posted by Jen at 4/18/2002 06:39:00 PM

There comes a time on every vacation, road trip, and every book tour, when it's time to go home. And, dear readers, for me that time is now. I miss my husband. I miss my dog. I'm down to my last pair of clean underwear, and I am so ready to just crawl into my own bed and sleep for about a week.

So what's been going on? Well, first we had the Bitter Writer at the reading in Phoenix.

There are versions of the Bitter Writer everywhere, at just about every reading I've done. Bitter Writer is usually a guy, which is why the lady Bitter Writer threw me off the scent a little bit. Bitter Writer does not care who you are or what you've written. Bitter Writer is most assuredly not going to buy a copy of your book. All Bitter Writer wants to do is hear, in-depth, the story of how you got published, and compare it (unfavorably, angrily, and often at length) to his or her own spate of rejection from the elitist scumbag pigs in New York City.

Things last night started off just fine. It was a joint event with John Searles. I chatted, and read, and he chatted, and read, and then it was time to take questions. The first one was a lead-in to our Bitter Writer. "Both of you write for magazines," said an audience member. "Do you have to be well-connected to find an agent?"

Short answer: no, you don't. The way I found my agent was by getting a book called Literary Agents: A Writer's Introduction and basically going through it alphabetically, sending query letters to likely-sounding agencies until I had some nibbles (and about twenty thanks-but-no-thanks rejection letters).

Bitter Writer raised her hand. "So your agent read your whole book?"

I was puzzled. "Yes, of course," I said. "Agents don't really take fiction writers on until they've seen the whole manuscript."

"Well, you were lucky," she spat. "You were lucky someone wanted to read your whole book, and not just a query letter."

"No, no," I said, "I wrote the query letters first, and then they wanted to see the book...."

Bitter Writer was not interested. Bitter Writer was, in fact, staring at me with cold, flat disbelief. Lucky, her gaze said. You were just plain lucky, and I am not.

Which was slightly painful because, in my sleep-deprived and occasionally deluded state, I like to think that I wrote a half-decent book, and that's how I got an agent, and got published, and that while luck may have had something to do with it, skill and lots of hard work did, too.

I figured the night couldn't get any worse until a woman in the back row raised her hand. "You keep talking about babies, and staying home, and thinking about names," she said. "What I want to know is, are you pregnant?"

Okay, what are you, my Mom? And, good God, do I look pregnant? Wait, don't answer that. Don't even go there!


After the reading, I was signing books when a guy who hadn't even been at the reading walked up. "Can you tell me how you got your agent?" he asked.

Well, I thought, I just spent five minutes discussing it. But instead, I plastered a pleasasnt smile on my face and told him. "Well, I got this book called A Writer's Guide to Literary Agents..."

"Yeah, yeah, I've got that, too," said the guy, obviously expecting more in-depth detail. Or maybe just my agent's phone number. So I did the only decent, respectable thing. I sent him over to John Searles.

And then there was Thursday. The wakeup call! The mad dash to the crowded airport! The two-hour flight to Houston spent with half of Mr. Businessman's USA Today waving in my face!

First stop: a B&N. I go over to the Bestseller aisle, where GOOD IN BED has been happily reposing this past week. No copies. I look at Escort Lady, who shrugs. One of the store workers was running around looking for it, checking upstairs, checking in back, finally, after ten minutes of thumb-twiddling, checking in with her manager. "GOOD AND BAD? Is that like "When Bad things Happen to Good People?" he asks.

No, I say, it's GOOD IN BED. B-E-D. BED.

"GOOD AND BAD," he says.

It's "GOOD IN BED," I say, loudly, pointing to the bestseller chart. "This book. Right here."

"Oh," he says, completely unconcerned. "We're out of it."


Okay. Must breathe deeply. Think happy thoughts. Get ready to do a reading in an hour and a half.

I finished IN HER SHOES, so I got that going for me. And GOOD IN BED continues to inch its way up the USA TODAY bestseller list (I'm number 60. Right behind THE ADVENTURES OF SUPER DIAPER BABY. Look out, Super Diaper Baby, 'cause I'm gaining on ya!
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