Kansas City, Natural Selection, and Literary Agents

don't look for commonalities

This will likely keep going out on Sundays. Feel free to reply if you wish.

Some things I spent a ridiculous amount of productive time thinking about this week:

Kansas City, MO: I was not in Kansas City this week, though I was at a conference that was supposed to be in Kansas City. The events were all listed in Central Time Zone, even though the organization is on the East Coast. I wonder if I decided to function on, say, Costa Rican time, if I would feel like I was working while on vacation.

AWP had 6000 attendees this year. I hosted an open Writer-Parent Discussion Room and I quickly learned how to create breakout rooms in real time. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I sat on an open Zoom “at” the virtual Bookfair to answer Pen Parentis questions—this is not a method of meeting strangers that I recommend! Much better to send a Calend.ly (or some other signup). That said, if anyone is looking for a good example of how to run a conference online, the Pathable platform that AWP used was fantastic from a user point of view. It was easy to navigate, allowed for a great deal of interaction and if you have to hold a conference, give it a look. Panels were prerecorded and the panelists came to watch and chat in real-time. It was fun to reconnect with writers I’d hosted at Pen Parentis, if only in chat.

Natural Selection - Do you ever wish you had better choices? Check out this actual multiple choice survey that my brother from Texas sent me. Would you choose D or F?

Agents: So I’m in the process of sending out the manuscript to a novel that is timely and I am discovering that the writing world has shifted while I was publishing short stories. Now, literary agents are as difficult to access as theatrical agents used to be when I was in my 20s. Like the latter, literary agents have proliferated—there are 1693 currently listed on this software called Query Tracker. If you consider that each agent probably has a minimum of 5 clients (and many have upwards of 20)….

Darwinian Fish: with such heavy numbers giving me pause, it was a delight to watch the new life in our little 10 gallon tank. Over the pandemic, we had a calamity as one of the fish took up serial pescacide - and harassed all the other fish in the tank until they died, without directly attacking them. A plant we bought to clean the extra nitrates contained a tiny snail which grew into the only creature that Charlie Manson wouldn’t destroy. Baby Snail passed on about six months later, leaving Charlie alone. We bought two new fish and lo: a little red fish was born a few days later! Charlie has been put into permanent solitary confinement where he seems placid, and the red fish has grown past the tiny stage—and this week I discovered two new little black fish (fry) hiding among the rocks now. See? A bit of good news in the world.

Finally, a word to the wise: if you are Zooming in from a luscious villa in Hawaii, instructing every stranger to look out your window is not going to make you any friends, particularly if you immediately follow up by complaining that your co-workers with kids are not keeping up with the workload.

Yeah. So those are my random, ridiculous thoughts from this week. If you liked this email, you might want to share it with some other people and maybe, who knows, actually start discussing something other than the usual things.

Author stuff:

FROM BEFORE: If you need to catch up, here’s a recent print (with old photos!) interview that discusses one facet of my ridiculously busy life. If you like that and want to see me on video, I did this Facebook Live interview with Katherine R. Lewis who founded a Parenting Journalist Conference which is open to any writer professional or aspiring, whose nonfiction subject is parenting-related. (Coming up March 13-14.)


Of course, you’re all invited to watch the next Pen Parentis Literary Salon online this Tuesday March 9th- I co-host it once per month with my friend and colleague Christina Chiu. You can get tickets here. Feel free to come as my guest if you can’t swing the $10 donation: just click “friend.” The theme is Identity.

I’m excited that this Friday, March 12, I’ll be featured in one of the coolest blogs that exist: largehearted boy - give it a look on that day, I made a playlist to go with my nonfiction book — here’s the link to find out more about my book if you’re curious.

Thanks for reading & have a great week.