Double Agent

agent10-somberg.jpgSo, last weekend I attended the Writers’ League of Texas 2008 Agent Conference. This was my fourth one in ten years.

I really intended to only take photographs. I was volunteering for the League, running around in cheerleader mode, hugging writers I’d met over the years, listening to nervous pitches before they were presented one-on-one to agents, and gathering information to spread virally–this agent is really building her list, or hey, don’t feel bad, that one isn’t asking for pages from hardly anyone.

I knew I could query agents later when I felt up to it. Because, frankly, I was very down on the process. As a member of Verla Kay’s amazing and supportive writers’ forum, I’d watched so many writers pendulate from thrill to burn-out, and I didn’t want to wreck my creative streak, where I’ve been writing nonstop novels and even working on screenplays.

But then, I met some amazing agents. One I had the good fortune to have lunch with. Another I was photographing in the “pitch lounge” and was so impressed by how she handled herself, so friendly and full of advice, I had to sit down. A third happened to have an empty seat next to her during the final pitching roundtable, so I just plunked down with nothing but my camera in hand and listened in.

contest05.jpgWhen each of these remarkable women turned to me and said, “So what is your story about?” I had to answer. If success truly is the intersection of preparation and luck, I would not let three years of hard work miss its chance to collide.

As photographer, I get a unique view of the conference. Agents will pull me aside when they need a break from pitches. I never abuse this by pitching myself. Attendees are honest with me about their fears, their successes, and their setbacks during the day. I hear the complaints they are too shy to voice; I get the exuberance of those first few moments of high after an agent expresses interest. I’m there when they win contests, lose contests, ever snapping the images that mark the many emotions of writers, of artists, breaking away from their creative solitude to tentatively, with fragile hope, present their work to the publishing world.


What I see through my lens is that the business is hard, but the people are not. Yes, these agents say yes or no. The editors take digital red pens to your heart and soul. But they are regular people. I saw no egos this weekend, nobody touting their power over we lowly writers. Just regret that the world can handle a finite number of books, that the shelves are only so wide, and the public’s attention span is only so long.

For those of you who attended, I have a gallery of images up. It starts with the agents, then moves to the panels, then the contest awards, then fun images of people. Feel free to right-click and save images you want to use for your blogs or sites, and if you’d like a printable-sized file, just email me.

To the many friends I made this weekend–keep in touch! I can’t wait to read your books.

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