Friday, March 25, 2011

Speed dating a literary agent

I was in the library a few weeks ago and put my name on a waiting list for a chance to brainstorm my novel idea. I was told there was a waiting list, so I put my name down and forgot about it.  A day before the event I got a call from a librarian telling me all the others had dropped out and they had a slot open. This meant that I now had to describe my idea, then create three-pages of excellent writing.  The idea had been germinating for months. It was not the product of a well planned effort created in the bowels of a literature course from an esteemed instructor in a prestigious writing program. It was an idea based on old notes I had written on a beach in Rio, the writing blurred from the seawater and sand still in the pages. To prepare for my session I got up extra early to correct any spelling mistakes. When I signed up for this I had no idea I would be talking to the only literary agent of some repute in the room. Yet, I persisted. The odds of actually meeting a literary agent are about the same as having an encounter with aliens, being struck by lightning twice or winning the lottery. For the record, I have written two unpublished novels, neither of which has been seen by an agent.

The room is spacious with tables set around the room. Various PUBLISHED AUTHORS talk to nervous NEOPHYTE WRITERS.

CUT TO: MICHAEL sits down on a metal chair. The agent looks at a one-pager describing the story. She looks confused.


No. I am Michael.

I don't have a Michael.

Twelve-ten. I was on a wait list. The others dropped out.

She taps her pencil on the paper. 

Soft focus as POV centers on the agent. She is attractive, wears a black sweater over a black blouse and every accent supports the look of a literary agent sent by Central Casting. She has black hair and penetrating dark eyes, behind glasses half way down her nose.

Do you know that you have the eyes of a Falcon?

I wasn't aware of that. And what kind of eyes are those?

A falcon's eyes are capable of seeing a small animal from a mile away. The animal scurries to its hole but the falcon pounces on the furry creature at 200 miles an hour. The bird picks it up by the neck with its talons.

Oh, I see. Metaphor.

The agent writes something on a piece of paper.

SFX: Sound of Michael's heartbeat THUMPING wildly.
Is it biographical fiction?

Michael watches as she marks out a word on the paper with a pencil. And writes something.

It's a novel.
A BELL rings.

What is that noise?

UP CLOSE on clock on the wall, the second hand moves quickly.

We have two minutes left.

Her eyes look across the paper and she looks at the three-pager Michael has given her. She folds her arms on the desk as if she were getting ready to pray.

I don't know what draft this is.


It needs work.

The agent does all the talking. 
Michael writes down her words.

UP CLOSE on author's lips.
Read the back cover a book similar to what you propose to write. Study the author's voice. Make us care in the first two chapters, and give the reader questions they want answered throughout the book. All readers want really is fabulous writing.
Bell Rings.


The agent’s eyes move on to the next writer. Her eyes have washed over thousands of hopefuls  Each sat across from her with an idea of getting a story published. The agent is but one step in years of personal exploration for a story before the novel takes shape. Now I find myself taking smaller steps until the story is mastered. Then I get to do this all over again. I will be ready.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hockey Mom Stuns Crowd

 Christy Clark Becomes B.C's New Premier

I stood among well heeled superbly coiffed Liberal Party members wearing flash turbans and downtown Harry Rosen suits. We were waiting in the middle of Vancouver’s new convention centre for the third ballot to be read. Several media crews roamed the hall like seagulls after chum. The convention comprised a portion of the 95,000 registered Liberal voters, many of whom were at home watching on television. Then the winner of the leadership election was announced on the big screens. There were some scattered cheers but mostly it was a sound of stunned gasps. A divorced hockey mom had just become the Premier of the province.  

No one from the Cabinet had backed her candidacy, and only a backbencher from the inside caucus had crossed the line for her. The new Premier had Pamela Martin, a former television news anchorwoman, as the lone public figure endorsement.

A tony Liberal stood in front of me and spoke to no one in particular. “Now watch their faces. All these people will have to pretend they are pleased.”

Indeed, the losers in the election put on a happy face at centre stage, checking their anguish at the door. The hockey mom who ran on a ticket of making life better for families will move to Victoria with her young son. She’ll be only the second female who has served as Premier.

The Liberal Party and the province is in the hands of someone whose previous government experience as an MLA was her biggest weakness. After she left government under a cloud, she lost a bid for mayor of Vancouver and her most recent job was working as a radio talk host. Going into the race for Liberal Party leader her advantage was that she was not tainted by Victoria.

She replaces a Premier who was sent packing after the insiders decided he had crossed a bridge too far. He ran the government from a cloister then barricaded himself inside a vault from which to rule by secret authority. His minions ran errands and did the dirty work while the former real estate developer posed as an environmentalist running a transparent government. Then he began creating policy from press releases and a palace revolt broke out.

As one gentleman in his 80s told me, the previous Premier was enabled by all his cohorts in government and should have left government after he was caught driving drunk. “You can blame everything on the people who surrounded the former premier, because he was delusional. Drink does that to a person, yet these people made it all happen for him. Some of the people running for Party leader were little more than errand boys for a man who was out of his mind. Christy doesn’t carry any of that baggage.”

With the vacancy in the Premier’s office four men and a woman put their names in the hat as candidates in what was to be a brief wink-wink campaign. But when the hockey mom decided to run for the job the election turned into a horse race she won by a nose.

At the convention and again at the victory party at the Wall Centre she gave everyone the speech they came to hear: “Change Begins Tonight”. Then she turned toward a long line of people who would remind her that they had helped turn certain defeat into a narrow victory. Some had been volunteers and others lent their sizable reputations to turn heads and open doors to the candidate. Now everybody wanted their pound of flesh. A guy next to me watched the faithful lining up for a handshake.  “All Opportunists.”

This week Christy Clark will be among the first to open the books and witness what went on in Victoria over the past decade. After she gets a few briefings on house cleaning she will be a different person by the end of the day.