Tag s | Karen

The Tell-All You Can’t Live Without

Karen Ball

Okay, okay, I admit it, the title of this blog is hyperbolic. Kind of. But let me explain why it’s not that far off the mark to say you really can’t—or at the very least, shouldn’t–live without it. Also, let me explain why I’m addressing something that Tamela addressed a mere 3 months ago.

So far this week, I’ve had no fewer than seven conversations with writers, agents, and editors, all of which hit on the same topic: finding out important information long after they should have. The conversations covered a broad range of information:

  • An author calling to say s/he was going to miss a deadline—a week before the deadline.
  • A client receiving an extension on a deadline from an editor
  • A publishing house moving a pub date without letting the author know
  • A book arriving with a cover that was completely different from what the author approved

My response in every case was utterly profound:

“Are you KIDDING me??”

So though Tamela addressed the following in March, let’s talk about it again. Because friends, this is important stuff. (And because you know who will address it next: Mr. Steve. And he won’t be as nice as Tamela and I are! <insert evil grin here>)

First, it’s easy to look at that list and see why numbers 1, 3, & 4 are bad. But what’s so bad about the second one? Well, let me ‘splain (as Ricky Ricardo loved to say to Lucy). Suppose you’re an agent. You know what your client’s deadlines are, which means you not only know when the manuscript is due to the editor/publisher, but when the money will be coming in. So you have these dates marked on your calendar. Now supposed it’s several weeks past the date when the money was supposed to arrive. Guess what you’re inclined to do? Yup, call the editor and find out what the problem is. Imagine your surprise—and chagrin—when you discover said editor gave your client a two month extension, but said client didn’t say boo to you!

Friends, your agents are there to protect you, to ensure you’re taken care of, and to go to the mat for you when needed. We’re not there to interfere in your relationship with an editor, but we are the ones who step in when there are issues. Far better to have us deal with the hard things than to have you enter an adversarial role with your editor. Especially when it has to do with money. Which means, plain and simple, agents need to know what’s going on.

So here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind:

If you’re going to miss a deadline: TELL ALL. Yes, tell your agent, but do it as soon as you even think you’ll miss it. Don’t wait, thinking you can get caught up. Don’t be afraid to say something because your agent will angry or disappointed or whatever else you think may be the agent’s reaction. When you give your agent the information as soon as it’s a possibility, as you equip him or her to work on your behalf and minimize the negative impact should it come to pass.

If you work out an extension with your editor: TELL ALL! Tell you agent as soon as that happens. Too many things ride on deadlines being met, and the agent needs to know what’s happening to track them all and make sure you’re covered.

If (or to be more realistic, when) the title on your book changes: TELL ALL! Why does your agent need to know that? Because they have to match the title up with the checks! And the title your agent has is the one on the contract, which, let’s be honest, is seldom the title that ends up on the book. Which can play havoc with accounting.

Other agent TELL ALLS to share, as soon as possible, include if you:

  • Are moving (kind of important to know where to send the advance/royalty money!)
  • Are going out of town for any length of time
  • Are facing any kind of crisis, be it family, health, financial, or spiritual (no, we’re not your “Father confessors,” but we are your champions, and we need to know if you’re facing serious issues because of a troubled child or your spouse has lost a job, or you’ve gone into a clinical depression…whatever. When we know what’s happening, we can help you—and your editors/publishers—deal with the situation as well as possible)
  • Have been injured. I fell off a ladder several years ago and broke two ribs. Little did I know breaking ribs meant you couldn’t breathe without excruciating pain. As for working at a computer? Yeah. Not for several weeks.
  • Are frustrated with your editor or publishing house. Don’t rant at them, rant to your agent. It’s our job to help you sift through the emotions and find a viable solution.
  • Have received cover comps from your editor, and your agent hasn’t been copied on the email (unless your agent has told you s/he doesn’t want to be involved in that process)
  • Are going through marital struggles, especially if you’re facing impending separation or divorce. Yes, these things are personal. But friends, they can’t help but affect your writing. Agents need to know about such things.
  • Suffer a computer crash. Take it from someone who just had her iMac, MacBook Pro, and iPhone all die in a space of three weeks, these events can be nightmares! (Happily, thanks to AppleCare, my situation was resolved easily and quickly—and without cost to me. Thank you, Apple!) But nothing can bring your writing to a screeching halt like a computer crash.
  • Change your phone number or email. Yes, seriously. I’ve had it happen twice now that I’ve called a client, only to get that hateful recorded message that the number is no longer in service. Aside from the fact that it’s unsettling, it makes doing business with someone hard when you don’t have their phone number.
  • Experienced a loss, such as a death in the family. Grief is one of the most powerful emotions we ever face, and it can utterly kill creativity. When my mom died 10 years ago, I was in the middle of writing a novel. The grief incapacitated me for nearly 6 months. And even when I did start writing again, it was far harder than before she died. It took me several years until I was back on target. (One note: I know people who have been devastated by the loss of a pet, too. Don’t be afraid to let your agent know if a beloved pet has died and you’re not recovering well. We understand!)

Obviously, that’s not an inclusive list, but I hope it convinces you to think about what’s happening in your life and in your career, and take a hard look at what you need to share with your agent. Always remember, the more informed your agent is on the things that affect your writing and career, the better equipped s/he is to help you navigate—and even circumvent–what could become terribly turbulent waters.

So help us help you!

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A Gathering of Twitches

This blog is from one twitch to another. Let me explain…

My husband loves that I’m a writer. He loves my creativity and passion. And he loves how happy I am when I’m writing. He knows when I’m writing because I get “twitchy.” Translation: Distracted. Otherwise occupied. Caught up in scenes and conversations no one but I—and that multitude in my mind–can see or hear. He knows that when the twitchies hit, he’s only wasting breath to ask me things like, “Did you pick up milk today?” or, more true-to-life, “Why is the milk in the oven?” He knows when I’m lost in twitchiness that I don’t realize what’s happening in the here and now. And so he just sighs, checks to see if the milk is still cold, then puts it away. Or goes to the store for a new gallon.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Five)

As promised last week, when all else fails to spark your creativity, give one of these a try. They almost always work!

1. Do something relaxing. Take a pad and pencil or a mini-recorder along to capture ideas when they spark. Some relaxation ideas:

A nice, long bath Play with your pet. If you don’t have one, go to the dog park and borrow one! Go to a movie Cook something you love garden look through old family photo albums take a nap
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Let Creativity Flow (Part Four)

Great discussions on creativity, everyone. Just reading your comments is sparking my creativity! So here are the last of my thoughts on what you can do when that well of ideas seems to have run dry:

Take a Time Out. Remember how that works? Time outs? When you were a kid and got a little out of control, Mom sent you to the Time Out chair to cool off. Well, this is a similar principle. Too often we try too hard, which only makes creativity that much harder to find. So take a time-out. Give yourself time to play, to move, to get out of the house, away from your everyday life. Get out in nature. The woods, the ocean, a local park. Go to the library. Go to a museum and let the beauty of other people’s creativity wash over you. Go to the gun range and, as my hubby calls it, “plink.” Take a break from being an adult. Getting away from “it all,” at least once in a while, is restorative.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Three)

We all know how elusive creative can be at times. You’ve shared some great ways to get those juices flowing. Here are a few more ideas.

Keep an Evidence Journal. Write down your God Stories. The times you saw God act. The times you felt His touch and presence. Do it with story or just key words. But get it down on paper. When God moves in your day, write it down. When someone speaks truth to your heart, write it down. When you struggle, write it down. Remember the children of Israel were told to write these truths on the doorposts that they might not forget all God had done for them. Then, when you’ve done that for awhile, go back and read what you wrote. It’s so easy to forget God’s faithfulness. What a blessing to have solid, firm evidence of His action, His presence in our lives, in our passion.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part Two)

I love the ideas you all shared about finding and sparking creavity. It’s fascinating to see how we’re all wired different. My next few blogs will share some additional things you can do to refill the wells of creavity. Have fun!

1. Disconnect from technology. Okay, don’t hyperventilate. But think about it. We have to be the most connected, available, interruptable people ever! Give yourself a break–literally. Shut off the phone, the computer, and anything else with an on/off switch. Focus on the silence. And what God has to tell you in the midst of it.

2. Regain Perspective. Remember, it’s not about you. Sure, it feels like it is, but it’s really not. It’s about what God wants to accomplish. So step away from yourself. Got mountains close by? The ocean? Anything bigger than you? Look at it. Let the sight of something truly huge and majestic remind you of your place in the world. And then remember that the God who created ALL of that beauty and majesty, not only created you, but CHOSE you as his child. And breathed into you His Spirit. And His creativity.

3. Go the other direction. Study something smaller than you (on a physical plane, that is). To to a playground and watch the kids. Take closeup photos of flowers, insects, leaves…whatever is around you. Look at the intricate way they’re made.

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Let Creativity Flow (Part One)


There are days when it flows as free as the Rogue River (and anyone who’s ever been to Oregon knows that’s free indeed!) When ideas come so hard and fast you can scarcely keep up. When the words fly from your fingers, through the keyboard, and onto the page. When creativity happens, it’s electric, exciting, energizing.

And then there are other days.

Days when you sit at the keyboard, staring at a blank screen. When you type…delete…type…delete…and on and on. Every word is a struggle, every character wooden, every plot point contrived. And you ask yourself, for the 110th time, “Why?”

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Ready, Set…WAIT!

Ah, New Year’s. When hearts soar with best intentions and resolutions tumble around us like snow-melt waterfalls. Our hearts and minds surge with all we want to be, all we hope to accomplish, all we regret and want to change…

Okay, now, show of hands: How many of you make New Year’s Resolutions?

Again, show of hands: How many of you KEEP them??

If you were here, watching me, you’d notice my hand is down. I’ve made hundreds of resolutions over the years, and I’ve broken almost every one. It took me a lot of years to understand that this fact doesn’t make me bad or weak-willed or a failure. It took me several more years to realize that the new year isn’t, for me, about resolutions. It isn’t about saying what I will and won’t do.

It’s about listening.

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Before You Say “I Do”

Thirty-two years ago today I said those very words to my darling hubby, Don, in a candlelit service, surrounded by friends and family. Ours was a whirlwind courtship and marriage. From the time we met to the wedding was a total of 8 months—and we were apart for 3 of those months. Yes, we were young. And yes, in many ways, we were incredibly foolish. But now, 32 years later, I can tell you that though our journey has not been smooth or easy, it’s taught us more than I ever thought possible about love, about faith, about obedience, about grace. God has used two imperfect people to forge a strong, lasting bond, and He’s knit our hearts and spirits together as I once thought impossible.

As I thought about all this today, and about all it’s taken for us to not just survive as a couple but to thrive, it confirmed something I’ve heard and experienced: the author/agent relationship is very much like a marriage. There’s the wooing and courting, often on both parts. There’s trying to figure out how to win the heart of the desired. There’s that flush of excitement when you discover your interest is reciprocal. There’s the proposal, and the happy “I do.”

And then there’s the freakin’ hard work of the relationship.

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Threads in the Fabric (Part three)

Wednesday again! The days go by so fast this time of year! Well, my office Corgi, Mr. Kirby, and I are happy to welcome you inside once again.

Last week we visited the kitchen. Today, let’s meander into the main office, where, no surprise, you’ll see bookcase after bookcase, all overflowing. Oh, I try to decorate and straighten, but more and more I’m embracing the chaos. I’m persuaded true bibliophiles are seldom organized because there are always more books than shelves! And when you consider that I’ve been in publishing for more than 30 years, you KNOW I’ve got an abundance of books. And what a happy abundance that is!

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