I’m a Survivor and You Are Too

Merry Survival!
Merry Survival!

“Your book title tells me nothing about your book,” says the literary agent.

She sits across from me at a table in the far corner of an empty room. She flips through the pages of my book, Five Minutes For France, with nonchalant abandon.

I assume she’s a nice lady in real life. She probably packs her kids’ lunches with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with brightly-colored Post-it notes reading: “You’re awesome!”

But at writers conferences~agents who sit behind tables in far corners can morph into Cruella Devilles.

Not that they’re intentionally mean. But they don’t want you to get your hopes high without equipping yourself with some nice, hard truth. And there’s a lot of hard truth for a writer to swallow.

“What would you call it?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I haven’t read your book.”

She slaps my book on the table indicating she has no plans of reading it either.

 

postcard

I’m not changing the title!

I guess I asked for honesty, but her honesty didn’t make sense. Since when does a title of a book tell the reader what the story is about?  Does the Grapes of Wrath spin a narrative about angry grapes?  Does For Whom the Bell Tolls explain who the bell tolls for? The Avon lady perhaps?

I didn’t approach the agent in the hope of her taking my book on as one of her projects. Actually I didn’t plan on chatting with her at all. She represents children’s books, not memoirs. I changed my mind at the registration desk when a cheerful lady with a full head of curly hair,  the kind of hair that prompts envy feelings for thin-haired types like me, said, “This might be a good chance for you to get some tips on marketing your book. I’ll put you down for an appointment with an agent.”

It seemed like a good idea then.

Little did I realize the agent would tell me right off to change the title of my book. That’s hardly possible. The title is registered with the Library of Congress, it’s copyrighted, it’s on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and other bookselling sites. It’s on my business cards after all. I’m not changing.

I thanked her for her time and she smiled warmly and then flung her head back as she took a gulp from her water bottle. She did seem to want to help me. I think she comes from the school of Blunt Honesty For Your Own Good.

As I headed for the door, she called after me while twisting the cap back on to her water bottle, “Tell your potential audience what your story is about. You’re a survivor!”

She’s right. I didn’t only survive the long traffic commute to get to the conference and the greasy fried chicken sandwich served at lunch, but I survived an anxiety disorder that lasted over thirty years.

And I’m not alone. Anyone who has traversed the dark caverns of anxiety, depression, loss of a loved one, a debilitating illness, or any other painful roadblock thrown in their path and still stands, can count themselves as survivors.

Until that moment, I considered myself a recovered anxious person. Now I knew. It’s not about recovery as much as survival.

The agent may have not realized it, but she made the conference worth the trip.

 ***

 

5 thoughts on “I’m a Survivor and You Are Too

  1. Pat Fitchen

    I just finished your book, Bronwyn. In the time I knew you here, I never guessed about your anxiety. Darleen never said anything either. I admire you for being so honest about everything. I personally like the title. I really enjoyed reading it. Just the right mix of humor with a touch of sadness.
    I’m looking forward to the next book. On a
    personal side, I really miss you & Jerry.

    Reply
    1. Bronwyn Wilson Post author

      Thank you for your supportive comments, Pat. The thing about an anxiety disorder is that the sufferer believes it’s their special way of doing things that other people wouldn’t understand. So it isn’t something that is discussed and, of course, Darleen didn’t know. I’ll come see you when I get up to Washington. Do you have plans to come down here?

      Reply
  2. Kara Zajac

    I never understood other authors when they said that writing the book was easy, getting published is the hard part. Your blog was so funny and accurate. I am in the process of finding an agent but feel like I am being lost in the slush pile . Thank you for your honesty. I am putting your book on my ‘to read’ list.

    Reply
    1. Bronwyn Wilson Post author

      I hope you find a good agent. Let me know when you do. I’d love to know of one who really cares about the work more, or as much, than the money. That’s hard to find. Thank you for your comments, and reminding me I’m not alone. All the best to you.

      Reply

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