Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most trustworthy one of all?

For the last couple of days, I have been yammering on about the dangers of including too much physical description of your characters and/or backstory in your interview scenes, particularly in ones near the opening of the book. (If you have not given a physical description of your protagonist or some insight into her primary relationships by page 182, the manuscript has a different issue.) Within this context, I asserted – perhaps rashly – that conversation where Person A describes Person B’s physical attributes TO Person B are relatively rare.

It hit me in the wee hours, however, that I had neglected to mention the primary real-life situation where speakers ROUTINELY engage in this sort of banter: people in the first throes of being in love. Especially if one or both are in love for the first time, their vocal cords are likely to emit some otherwise pretty unlikely dialogue. As in:

*** “Wow, your eyes are SO blue, Snuggums!” (Giggle.)

“Your nose is adorable, Muffin. I love that little freckle right there especially.” (Smack.)

“Who’s a little snuggle bunny? Is it you? Is it?” ***

I have nothing against love, in principle — truly, I don’t. It has produced some fairly spectacular poetry, and most of the human race. But allow me to suggest that this particular species of conversation, even when spoken live, is properly only interesting to Snuggums and Muffin themselves. Such entirely self-referential dialogue becomes intensely boring to any third-party listener with a rapidity that makes the average roller coaster ride seem languid by comparison.

Don’t believe me? Tag along on a date with two people (or heck, three or four) deep in the grip of the early stages of infatuation with each other, before the quotidian problems of which way to hang the toilet paper roll and not being able to sleep for more than five consecutive minutes before being awakened by a snore that would put Godzilla to shame have reared their ugly heads.

I doubt the conversation will be scintillating.

It can be equally deadly in print — but naturally, as writers, when we write about the enamored, we want to capture that breathless feeling of discovery inherent in infatuation. Nothing wrong with that, if it’s done well. Yet in print, rhapsodies on eyes of blue all too often produce prose of purple:

***”Tiffany, your eyes are the most astonishing color, blue like Lake Tahoe on a cloudless day. Not a cloudless day in midwinter, mind you, when you might drive by the lake on your way to a ski slope, but the blue of midsummer, of long, dreamy days on Grandfather’s boat. Or still later, when you and I were in junior high school, and our parents shipped us off to that Episcopalian summer camp — the one that used the 1929 prayer book, not the modern edition – when we swam beneath skies of azure…” ***

You’d have to be Charles Boyer to pull of a speech like this in real life without prompting gales of laughter in Tiffany and bystander alike. Generally speaking, extensive physical descriptions like this work far, far better in narration than as dialogue.

Most people already have some fair idea what they look like: while it’s always nice to be told that one is pretty, one seldom needs to be told that one is 5’6”, even if that is indeed the case. In fact, mentioning it in real life might actually engender some resentment. Height and weight are the two self-descriptors about which the average person is most likely to –

Well, let’s be generous and not call it lying; how about equivocating?

I find this kind of misrepresentation fascinating, as it so seldom fools anyone. Most people would never dream of perjuring themselves about their eye color on a driver’s license application – but don’t most people subtract a few pounds, or perhaps 30 or 40, on general principle, on the same form? Aren’t personal ads living proof that many people are, at best, rather optimistic about their height? Don’t we all get at least a vague sense that the average movie star’s date of birth is somewhat variable, when she admitted to being five years older than we are when her first movie came out, and yet asserts that she is three years younger now?

Can’t we all live with that? I mean, River Phoenix’s four years at nineteen were good years for all of us, weren’t they?

Ethically, I don’t have much of a problem with these harmless little pieces of self-aggrandizement; for the most part, they’re victimless crimes. (“That’s he, officer – he says he’s six feet tall, but he’s 5’9″ in his stocking feet!”) In fact, being aware of this tendency can add a certain piquancy to an interview scene.

Love scenes in particular. I hate to seem cynical, but is it entirely beyond the bounds of probability the Charles Boyer-wannabe above might have slightly exaggerated the blueness of Tiffany’s eyes?

In other words, what if instead of depicting your infatuated lovers commenting upon the REAL physical attributes of one another, the dialogue made it plain that a certain amount of hyperbole was going on? Or if one professed blindness to a physical defect in the other?

Such scene might not provide just-the-facts-ma’am physical descriptions of the characters, but it might conceivably be more character-revealing – and more interesting to the reader – than the transcripts of either sweet nothings or undiluted praise.

Actually, in any interview scene, it’s worth giving some serious thought to having the information-imparter lie, distort, or soften the facts he’s conveying. If the protagonist has to guess what is and is not true, the scene automatically becomes more dynamic than if she’s just nodding and saying, “Oh, that must be so hard for you” or “What do you mean, Uncle George has left me his sheep ranch in Bolivia?”

And after all, logically speaking, in scenes where the protagonist is extracting information from a stranger, why SHOULD the imparter tell the absolute and complete truth? Would you tell your deepest, darkest secret to a complete stranger who showed up on YOUR doorstep demanding answers?

I ask this rhetorically, coming from a family where total strangers regularly show up on our respective doorsteps and demand answers about what a certain well-known deceased writer was REALLY like.

But even among those not used to being trapped into impromptu interviews, I would suspect that compulsive truth-telling to strangers is not the norm. People have been known to equivocate a bit when someone they’ve never seen before abruptly appears and demands to be told intimate life details. Even very nice people.

I know; shocking.

But such a possibility amazingly seldom seems to trouble the daydreams of your garden-variety protagonist. A good 90%, interviewers in novel submissions just accept that they are being told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Yet in an interview scene – again, especially one that opens a book — certainty is almost always less interesting than doubt, just as reading about complete amity is less gripping than interpersonal friction. And in the real world, complete understanding, let alone agreement, between two people is rare enough that I think it should be regarded as remarkable.

There’s a reason that most professional readers will advise against writing much in the first person plural, after all, the success of the Greek chorus narration in Jeffrey Eugenides’ THE VIRGIN SUICIDES aside. Let your characters disagree; let them quibble.

And let them lie to one another occasionally. Both your plot and your characters will thank you for allowing them to be more complex.

Keep up the good work!

The screen goes wavy

In my last installment on self-editing, I went to town on the twin dangers of factual redundancy intended to remind readers of salient points (“As I mentioned back in Ch. 2, Maude, I stand to inherit a hefty chunk of change when my Uncle Mortimer dies.”) and screen clichés that have made their way into real life (“Say ‘ah,’” kindly Dr. Whitehairedman told the child.). As I pointed out, both species are problematic in submissions, because they are so common.

Translation: professional readers get really, really tired of seeing examples of them.

But both types of repetition also tend to be, I am happy to report, some of the easiest lines to cut. Redundant lines can often be trimmed wholesale, with no cost to the text at all. And clichés, like pop culture references and jokes that don’t quite work, are often digressions in a scene or dialogue, rather than integral to it. Much of the time, they can be deleted without adding any additional writing.

Which is a pretty good indicator all by itself that a line should be cut anyway, actually: if you wouldn’t miss it if it were gone, it should probably go.

Take, for instance, the following piece of purple prose, full of sentences just begging to hop into the tumbril and ride to the guillotine. Note just how much trimming could occur without harming the relationships or plot of the scene:

***Marcus Aurelius paced the room, frowning, revisiting in his mind his last encounter with Cardinal Richelieu, two months before, when they had shot those rapids together in the yet-to-be-discovered territory of Colorado. Despite moments of undeniable passion, they had not parted friends. The powerful holy man was known for his cruelty, but surely, this time, he would not hold a grudge. “Can I bum a cigarette?” Marcus asked, to buy more time to recap the plot in his head.

Richelieu laughed brutally, but with an undertone of affection. “Tobacco had not come to Europe in your time.” He shook two out of the pack and stuck both into his mouth. “And barely in mine.”

He lit the pair and handed both to his erstwhile lover. They sat in silence for a moment, the smoke winding its way around the cardinal’s red hat and through the halo of St. Jerome, who was standing nearby.

Finally, Marcus Aurelius decided he could take this brutal wordlessness no longer. “I’ve come for some information, Armand.”

Richelieu’s hand tightened on his sawed-off shotgun. “You’re wasting your time.”

“I’m not leaving until you tell me what I need to know.”

“It might,” St. Jerome suggested gently, “go a little faster if you were more specific.”

“Yes, do come to the point.” Richelieu waved a bejeweled hand toward his wall-sized TV screen. “American Idol is on in an hour.” ***

Tell me, how much cutting did you manage to do? Other than the obvious, that is — as a major Stoic, Marcus Aurelius clearly would not have folded so quickly under the pressure; I give you that. But even ignoring the philosophical problems and the time travel that seems to have happened here, there’s room for some fairly painless trimming that would speed up the scene:

***Marcus Aurelius paced the room, frowning. The powerful holy man before him was known for his cruelty, but surely, he could not still be holding a grudge about how they’d parted in Colorado. “Please tell me, Armand. For old times’ sake.”

Richelieu laughed brutally, but with an undertone of affection. The smoke from his cigarette wound its way around his red hat and through the halo of St. Jerome, who was standing nearby.

“It might,” St. Jerome suggested gently, “be helpful if you were more specific about what you wanted.”

“Yes, do come to the point.” Richelieu lifted a bejeweled hand from his sawed-off shotgun to wave languidly toward his wall-sized TV screen. “American Idol is on in an hour.” ***

That’s 123 words, down from 231, a substantial cut obtained through the simple expedient of removing the movie clichés (the double cigarette bit is straight out of the Bette Davis vehicle NOW, VOYAGER) and unnecessary repetition.

How did I know, within the context of an isolated excerpt, that the references to the Colorado scene probably referred to something that happenedearlier in the book? Call it well-honed editorial instinct: this kind of micro-flashback almost invariably recaps a scene told more fully elsewhere – and when it isn’t shown at some point in the book, it probably should be.

Seem paradoxical? It isn’t.

A micro-flashback usually provides one or more characters’ motivation(s) in the scene occurring at the moment: here, the earlier romantic interlude has set the stage for Marcus’ belief that Richelieu would do him a favor, as well as Richelieu’s current attitude toward Marcus. Clearly, then, this past episode is important enough to the development of both characters that the reader would benefit from seeing it in its entirety.

Which makes removing the micro-flashback from this scene an easy editorial call. To work as character development – as explanatory asides that deal with motivation must, right? – the reader really should have this information prior to the scene.

So if the Colorado rapids scene did happen earlier in the book, the micro-flashback would be redundant; if it did not, the micro-flashback is not memorable enough in itself to make a lasting impression upon the reader.

In other words: snip, snip.

Long-time readers of this blog, chant it with me now: emotionally important scenes are almost always more powerful if they are SHOWN as fully-realized scenes, rather than merely summarized. (Oh, come on – you DON’T want to know what happened on those rapids?)

Keep an eye out for those micro-flashbacks, my friends: they’re often flares telling the editor what needs to be done to improve the manuscript.

In this case, the cut can only help: by removing the explanatory summary here, the author will need to make sure that the earlier scene made enough of an impression upon the reader that she will remember it by the time Marcus Aurelius comes looking for information.

Yes, even if that means going back and writing the earlier scene from scratch. Sometimes, adding a fresh scene is actually a quicker and easier fix for a manuscript that drags than merely trimming the existing text.

The metaphor that I like to use for this kind of revision comes from flower arranging, believe it or not. Listen:

Think of your draft as a wonderful bouquet, stocked with flowers you have been gathering over the last couple of years. It’s lovely, but after it has been rejected a few dozen times, you’ve come to realize that maybe it’s too big for the room in which the agent of your dreams wants to place it; it does not fit comfortably into the only vase she has.

So you need to trim it – but how? A good place to start would be to pull out half of the daisies; a few are nice, but handfuls make the daisy point a bit more often than necessary.

Then you could start searching for the flowers that have wilted a little, or are not opening as well as others. Pulling out the wilted flowers renders the bouquet both smaller and prettier – and the ones that wilt the fastest are the ones that are borrowed from other sources, like movie tropes, which tend to date a book, anyway.

Already, your bouquet is looking lighter, more vibrant, but you liked the color that some of the discarded flowers added. Rather than pulling the cast-off blooms out of the compost bin and putting them back into the vase (as most self-editors will do), adding a fresh flower here and there is often more beneficial to the overall beauty of the bouquet.

So be open to the possibility that trimming your manuscript may well mean writing a fresh scene or two, for clarification or character development. Search your manuscript for micro-flashbacks that may be telling you what needs further elucidation. If you apply a truly diligent eye, you may well find that a single, well-developed scene inserted early on will replace scores of micro-flashbacks down the line.

It happens. All the time, in fact. Like a good joke, motivation goes over better with the reader if it can be presented cleanly, without excess in-the-moment explanation. Bear that in mind, and keep up the good work!

Okay, I’m flattered

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What is this shiny logo floating above today’s post, you ask? The excellent blogger Sean Ferrell has tagged my site for a Thinking Blogger Award, and I must say, I am extremely flattered. It’s a prize given to bloggers by other bloggers – specifically, by those who have won it before – writers who know from personal experience the joys and tribulations of opening oneself up in this unique way.

What makes me particularly happy about this is that the award is not merely given to well-written blogs willy-nilly: the rules specify that it should be bestowed upon blogs that made the nominator THINK. I couldn’t be more tickled, really, because I try very hard to make my posts thought-provoking, and it’s nice to know that a writer of Sean’s caliber recognized that.

Part of the award certainly belongs to the readers who have written in with comments – which I encourage everyone to do. You have helped expand this space from one person’s spouting off into a community for writers; thank you. Especially those of you who have suggested topics for posts or who have challenged me. I believe – and I hope the blog consistently illustrates this – that one of the primary gifts of the Internet is its ability to bring people together to share opinions.

Okay, enough of the Oscarsâ„¢ speech; on to the nominations. In addition to getting to display this nifty little virtual plaque, recipients of the Thinking Blog Award are allowed to select 5 future winners. Only five! Where to begin?

I have been agonizing over the choice for the past week.

Seriously, it’s hard – there are a LOT of great blogs out there. First, I thought I would stick entirely to bloggers who, like myself, write on writing. But part of the purpose of this process is to introduce my readers to other blogs, and I know (via that most reliable of sources, a little bird) that many of those of you kind enough to visit here also visit other writing sites. Time to set my sites wider.

So I sat down and made a list of blogs that gave great practical advice, and another list of those whose writers made the mouth water with great writing packed with sensual details, and another of ones that stood out to me as being especially good at generating reader response…

97 nominees later, I decided I needed to simplify my criteria just a bit.

The list below represents a cross-section of blogs that I think deserve a wider readership. Thought-provoking and well-written, they cover a broad array of subject matter, from the ultra-practical matter of feeding oneself to the philosophical questions of everyday life. Best of all, each has changed my mind about something, big or small, through a post. Here they are:

Jordan’s Muse: those of you who were reading Author! Author! last summer probably remember Jordan Rosenfeld’s guest blogs; she’s the upbeat writer, editor, and writing teacher who cheers us up when the road to publication gets long, urging us to concentrate upon what we want to achieve, rather than the slings and arrows of rejection. We could all use more cheerleaders for the art like this.

Orangette: I’m a HUGE fan of good food writing; having done it (under a nom de plume), I know from experience how difficult it is to convey the sensations of taste, aroma, and texture well on the page. Orangette’s writing is delightful, of course, but for me, what makes her blog stand above the many other excellent food blogs out there is how well she writes about the recipes that DON’T work out – this is definitely not a blog written by someone pretending to be the perfect chef. She makes me laugh, cook, AND think, a potent combination.

Greentime: technically, Rhett Aultman and Amy Hale’s provocative (and relatively new) site is a vlog, but it includes enough good writing that I feel justified in including it. Concentrating upon practical environmentalism, Greentime combines great discussions with solid research. I can honestly say that this site has made a difference in how I live my life on a day-to-day basis.

Dude, Why Do You Have a Winnowing Fork? After my save-the-world last choice, I wanted my next nominee to be pure joy — and given my comic predilections, I could hardly not have included a funny blog, could I? Polly Tropia’s site is in many ways the Platonic blog: it ranges all over the place; it’s thoughtful, and it’s often laugh-out-loud funny. (Her post “No Atheists in Bed” is a particular favorite of mine.)

Lifehack: is a reliably thought-provoking blog devoted to the practicalities of organizing one’s life and time, always a big issue for every writer. While it is a trifle visually busy, if you have ever found yourself procrastinating for more than a day or two on a big writing project, you should run, not walk, to this helpful Australian site. Although Lifehack does regularly take on the big self-help books’ myths on productivity, it primarily concentrates upon pointed, hands-on particulars that actually can help you clear time and desk space to work on your next book.

Congratulations, all 5: you have been tagged for a Thinking Blogger Award. If you find your site on this list, here’s what you should do:

1. If (and ONLY) if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think. Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits (i.e., relative content) and above all – blogs that really get you thinking!

2. In that post, link the award site so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the Thinking Blogger Award. It’s also nice if you post a comment on the Thinking Blog’s site with a link to the post that you wrote, so its list of winners can remain current.

To all of these bloggers, to all of my readers, and especially to Sean Ferrell, keep up the good work!

The end of the line

A brief announcement for those of you who were planning on seeing me at the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association conference this summer or taking my Seattle-area pitching class prior to it: the Pitch Practicing Palace’s staff has decided that we will not be operating at PNWA this year, and I have already informed the PNWA that I will not be teaching the class for them again. I have, in fact, resigned from the organization after many years’ membership.

Struggling through negotiations to provide these services for conference attendees was taking up far too much of my time, energy, and patience. I believe I can do more good here than by fighting with people who apparently do not understand that pitching is both stressful and a learned skill. I won’t bore everyone recapping the events of April 2 and thereafter, or dealing with the personalities involved. Suffice it to say that my mission here is to be upbeat and supportive of my readers, and I believe I can do a better job of that if I sever all ties to an organization that has made it quite clear that it now wishes it had never asked me to be its Resident Writer for 11 months in 2005-2006.

There’s no accounting for taste, eh?

My deepest apologies to any of you who made plans in the expectation that the PPP would be available or who were looking forward to the class. I shall try to find another venue for the latter, but rest assured, I shall be writing EXTENSIVELY about pitching between now and then.

Enough of all this unpleasantness. Let’s all get back to work.

This blog is NOT owned by the PNWA (in case you mistakenly got that impression)

Dear readers –

I have been asked to make an announcement, one that I had previously believed to be self-evident: I own this site, and the opinions expressed here are my own. I pay for the site myself, and my opinions are — as indeed I have always presented them — mine.

I sincerely doubt that anyone seriously needed to be told this, but a board member of the PNWA sent me this extraordinary e-mail today, implying otherwise. I reproduce it here, because, frankly, I find it hard to believe, even though it is sitting in front of me:

“Anne,
It seems that a few agent/editors have found inaccuracies in your blog entries about them, this year and last, and are annoyed. I know you don’t want to piss off agents!

Also, some of your comments about PNWA seem a bit mean spirited (sic) to me, and since the PNWA really, really wants to be inclusive of all writers, is there a way to “make nice” (sic) a bit or not appear to criticize?

Many, including me, love your frank observations. If you are an instructor at PNWA, however, your opinions might appear to speak for the organization, and that is the rub.

For your own reputation, I really {sic) really (again) suggest you get the facts right about these agents, because we all know what a small world theirs is.

In short- {sic) 2 things. Be accurate in your agent (sic) editor bios and know that they are reading them, too.
And
Be (sic) clear that you are expressing your opinion and in no way is this the opinion of anyone but the very wise Ms. Mini.

OK?”

I have to say, I don’t find this okay at all — and that’s DOCTOR Mini, by the way, to strangers — but let me waste a day’s post in making every point raised here clear enough that no one could possibly mistake it in future. (Normally, I would not do this, but my reputation has specifically been threatened.)

For the record, I OWN THIS SITE. No one at the PNWA or any other organization has a right to tell me what I may or may not post on MY website. I hope that no one has ever thought otherwise.

About the accuracy of the profiles, I have done a grand total of ONE this year. Ginger Clark, if you feel I have misrepresented your work, kindly post any corrections on THIS website — you know, the one I own, not the PNWA’s.

But frankly, I doubt that Ms. Clark has so little to do, or that she considers the opinion of someone she has never met so important, that she would have taken the time to find my blog within the last two days, read it, track down the PNWA (who, in case anyone is still confused on this point, DOES NOT OWN THIS SITE), and complain.

Suffice it to say: if there have been ANY complaints so far this year, I have not heard about them. From anyone. However, if I am sent proof that I have been mistaken on some specific point — or, more likely, that the sources I combed extensively to glean this information were somehow tainted — I shall be delighted make changes.

On to last year. I did not receive a SINGLE complaint from ANY agent or editor at last year’s conference — nor did ANYONE affiliated with the PNWA suggest until today that there had been any complaints. In fact, many of agents and editors THANKED me for the profiles.

If the PNWA did indeed receive complaints about my write-ups, it did not pass them along to me in the intervening year, as surely it had an ethical obligation to do. Which implies a certain lack of vim on the part of the insulted, at best.

If there have been any actual complaints, please, anyone who has heard them — even as vague rumors — post them as comments on the appropriate profile. I’m sure anyone researching these agents will like to hear about anything I’ve misreported.

Since I habitually do EXTENSIVE research for each profile, if I have actually posted anything inaccurate, it means that there were inaccuracies in the standard databases, articles, etc. that I read to formulate these profiles — please, if anyone knows of any specific inaccuracies, let me know, so I may inform these other sources. (Which, incidentally, were by and large the same sources that anyone researching agents and editors would have used.)

My impression, based upon what the agents and editors actually said to me, was quite the opposite. At the PNWA conference last year, one of the editors even sought me out at the Pitch Practicing Palace and told me (in front of a witness) that she would not have attended if she had not seen the profile I had done of her on my blog. (Presented, of course, as my opinion.) She had been scheduled for two back-to-back conferences, and was coming down with a cold, so she had intended to cancel her trip to PNWA. Then she saw my post on her, and thought, “Gee, if they’ve gone to all the trouble of tracking down all this information on me, I guess I should go.” She said, in fact, that she had been forwarding the link to other people.

That was 100% MY work, boys and girls. Not the PNWA’s. I’m sorry if anyone was confused about that.

Furthermore, the agency that represents ME sends an agent to PNWA every year. Last year, I profiled this agent, along with the rest. After the conference, I specifically checked in with my agency to find out if there had been even a BREATH of discontent amongst the pros about ANYTHING I had written about the attending agents or editors. No one had heard anything.

And, as my correspondent above points out, agenting is a small world.

On the subject of accuracy. As I have said in each and every blog on the subject, my information has always come from the standard industry databases, books, and asking people in the know. I do as thorough a search of all the publicly-available information as I can find. I have literally NEVER reported anything for which I did not have solid evidence. When I cannot find information, I say so.

In both EVERY blog on the subject this year and EVERY blog on the subject last year, I SAID that what I was giving was only my opinion; frankly, I think that no one who actually read the blogs in their entirety could think anything else. I’m an opinionated gal — which is, correct me if I am wrong, considered DESIRABLE in a blogger. I do not, therefore, believe that this critique is being leveled by anyone familiar with my writings on the subject.

Although of course, that’s only my opinion. I could be wrong.

Also, for the record, I am NOT scheduled to be a presenter at PNWA this year; as I have already mentioned here, I am in negotiations to reprise my PRE-conference pitching class from last year (although I was not paid for last year’s class), as well as to bring a sharply scaled-down version of the Pitch Practicing Palace back to the conference.

You know, that service that so many of you said on your evaluation forms was the best thing about last year’s conference.

Therefore, I don’t think any sane person would take my opinions — which, as I have said, I have been very careful to present all along as MY OPINIONS — as those of the spokeswoman of an organization with which I am only marginally affiliated at this point.

Everybody clear on that? Did any of my regular readers think otherwise, even for a second? Do I actually have to cancel my membership in the PNWA in order not to confuse anyone?

On to the issue of whether I have been mean-spirited, I was honestly surprised by this. For the moment, let’s leave aside the issue that anything I have said has been ON MY OWN BLOG, which exists solely to express MY opinion. (Clear on that yet?) But, by that same token, this blog does not exist to promote the PNWA, nor is it reasonable for that organization to expect that it should.

I have tried to be impartial, in fact, which means I call ‘em as I see ‘em. Given my relationship with the PNWA last summer, not coloring those opinions with my personal experience has required something very close to saintliness to pull off. (Or was that a too mean-spirited thing to say, because it’s true?)

As some of you know, I was formerly the Resident Writer of the PNWA, blogging (as a volunteer activity) for their website and providing virtually all of its content for 11 months in 2004-2005. My blog there was very popular, by everyone’s admission. During that time, no one on the PNWA board ever commented to me about my blog, even once; I had no reason to believe that any of them had ever read it. But I had tangible proof that it was helping the membership, so I continued to write it.

On the day following last year’s PNWA conference, I logged to their blog and found that my password had been cancelled and all of my content had disappeared. With no warning, and with no explanation. Since this happened immediately after I had organized the HUGELY successful Pitch Practicing Palace, which heard more than 350 pitches over three days — again, for free; none of the PPP staff were paid — I was, to say the least, surprised.

I am mentioning this now because, as those of you who were reading the blog at the time already know, I did not talk about ANY of this on my blog at the time — nor, indeed, about any of the other rudenesses to which I was subjected.

Why? Because I didn’t want to trash the PNWA, that’s why. Because it’s an organization that has helped many writers over the years, and I have respect for that.

Since I believed the blog to be helpful to many aspiring writers, I scrambled, with the very generous assistance of webmaster Brian Tanaka and Suzanne Brahm, to get a new blog — UNDER MY OWN NAME, and AT MY OWN EXPENSE — up and running within a week, so as not to leave my readers in the lurch immediately after a conference, when they might conceivably be sending out requested materials. It seemed a better use of my time and energy than responding to how I had been treated.

When contest time approached this year, knowing that many of my readers were planning to enter the PNWA contest, I spent A MONTH of blog time prepping people for it. As I have heard from many far-flung readers since, they would not have entered that particular contest had I not being discussing it here. Thus, far from harming the PNWA, I have every reason to believe that my website has been promoting it.

I considered not doing agent and editor profiles this year, and if you will recall, I posted it as a question last month. Those who responded did want me to do them, so I have. Believe me, they are no fun to do, because of the EXTENSIVE research involved, and I only took on the task again because I believed them to be helping people.

And why did I think that? Because literally all the feedback I received last year told me so.

In fact, many readers told me that my helping to demystify the agent- and editor-selection process was part of the reason they chose to attend the PNWA conference, as opposed to any other. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, was helpful to the organization.

However, I now think I’ve been too generous — or perhaps misguided — to gloss over what happened last summer. And maybe, just maybe, it was not a good idea to promote one conference over any other on this site, even if I was planning to be available to my readers at that conference this year, as I was last.

So: I’m not going to finish the agent/editor series this year, except to profile the agent coming from my own agency. Because that way, I can get permission directly from the source, and no one can come to me a year from now and imply otherwise.

I am going to leave the category at the right up for a while, though, to make it easier for people to find THIS post. Because I wouldn’t want anyone to get confused.

My deepest apologies to those of you who were looking forward to these profiles. But I’m extremely busy, and I’m tired of being unappreciated by people for whom I have done great big favors in the past. I would much rather expend my volunteer energies helping my readers — and if I can do that best by never mentioning the PNWA here again, that is what I shall do.

For the record, I don’t actually believe that anything I have ever written about any of these agents or editors could possibly harm YOUR chances with these people — that, after all, would be really, really passive-aggressive, not to say childish. But if there is even the slightest chance of any aspiring writer’s being harmed by indirect aggression at me, as the message above implies, it’s just not worth it. (Especially since doing the EXTENSIVE research underlying the agent/editor profiles is a TREMENDOUS amount of work for me — in part because I took the time to verify with independent sources that everything I was saying was true.)

Thanks for your patience with this announcement. I’m very, very sorry if anyone was skimming my posts so quickly that they became confused about who was speaking. It shan’t happen again. But if someone’s ever in doubt, all she has to do is to raise her eyes a couple of inches to the masthead.