Earlier this year, I went to Norwescon and found myself at a Tor party. Now in a party situation like this, where I don’t know another living soul, me and that trout on the counter gasping for air have a lot in common. But this was a TOR party, with TOR people. I realize that people out there, namely all of you, may not know that I have no idea what I’m doing. On the outside, I probably appear perfectly calm and even a little collected. So I reminded myself of that and decided to mingle. My stomach lurches even at the mention of that word. But how often do you get invited to a Tor party?
Yeah, my point exactly.
I started talking to a friendly-looking woman whose name I have completely forgotten. Friendly Lady was a writer who has written many, many books that I’m sure are wonderful, but which I have never read. Still, Friendly Lady was, well, friendly. I told her I was an unpublished fantasy writer. I imagine an unpublished fantasy writer at a Tor party is very similar to a starving man at a banquet when the guests have just taken the last morsel of food.
Friendly Lady told me I shouldn’t even bother with an agent, that I should skip right to acquiring editors and guess what? There’s more than one at this party. Oh, yeah, my ears picked up as my stomach sunk to the floor. She might have told me Jared Leto was there and I should just go talk to him and I would have had a similar reaction.
She pointed out a woman standing near the bar way across the room and said: See that blonde in the glasses? Now, here I should have ‘fessed up because, no, I didn’t see the blonde in the glasses. Or rather I saw fuzzy blonde and what might have been glasses but everything else looked like a Monet painting. Instead, I nodded my head because you see, my inner recluse had woken up with a vengeance and was informing me, quite loudly, that there was no way she was going to walk up to a total stranger with some variation of ‘Hi, how are you. Would you publish my book?” Just as I was inclined to agree, Ambition walked up to Recluse and poked her very hard in the chest, reminding her of the hours of work and painstaking editing, and hello? Publication is the goal.
Meanwhile, Friendly Lady smiled and excused herself to, no doubt, speak to someone who wasn’t already having a conversation in her head.
And now I’m alone.
Alone at a Tor party.
I went to the bar and grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler. Yeah, adding alcohol to that mess would have been a big mistake. I could almost see myself pushing aside the books and book jackets decorating the large coffee table, stepping on top of it, weaving and waving my glass of whiskey around to announce that yes, I am an unpublished writer looking to be published, who would like to bid first?
I’m holding my bottle of water like a lifeline because it’s giving me something to do and to keep Ambition happy, I’m squinting at all the blondes with glasses in the room. I really should remember to take my glasses to these things. Who knew Tor employed so many blondes with glasses?
And then I see one walking toward me. A blonde in glasses who looks very literary and oh my god, I think she might be the one Friendly Lady pointed out. Ambition shoves Recluse in a closet and leans against it. “Go for it!” she yells and I take a tentative step forward and then another, my mouth opens… and Literary Blonde walks on by without a glance in my direction. Aside from tackling her, I’m not sure exactly how I could have stopped her. But Recluse is still in the closet and damn it, I’m at a Tor party and no one yet knows how insane I truly am. So I decide to do something wild and out of character.
I see a woman all alone, leaning against the wall. Maybe she feels as much like that blasted fish as I do. Maybe she’s another unpublished writer… Damn it, maybe I’ll just go talk to her. I take a sip of water and start walking across the room: 6 feet. 4 feet. 3 feet. 1 foot and Recluse storms out of the closet. I froze in place. Fortunately there are book jackets tacked up all over the walls. So I turn and start reading the back cover copy of a book that is hanging about 6 inches away from All Alone Woman who I notice, out the corner of my eye, really looks very nice. In fact, I don’t think she’d bite. She probably won’t even run away. So this time I push Recluse in the closet and say. “This book sounds interesting.” I mean it did.
She turns to me and smiles. She asks me if I’m a writer… and I tell her yes—Don’t look now folks, but we have conversation—I tell her a little about my work. She turns to the book mentioned and says it’s one of hers. I assume she’s a writer and she says no, I’m an editor, then she looks at me again and says, did ‘friendly lady’ tell you to come see me?
This is when I realize this woman is a blonde in glasses… THE blonde in glasses. And come on, what do I say? Either way I sound like an idiot. ‘You see I thought that other blonde woman in glasses was you only I chickened out. I’m only talking to you because I thought maybe you shared the same fish affliction as I do, plus you weren’t already talking to someone else?’
That would be craziness.
Yup. I told her the truth, well most of it. She now knows that I’m nearsighted and agrees there are quite a few blondes wearing glasses at Tor… And then she asked for my MS… just like that. I think I was stunned. I must have been stunned because when she leaves to get her card, she turns to me and assures me she’ll be back.
I spent the rest of the evening by her side soaking in the wonder that is the publishing industry, falling in love with Tor publishing–because with people like that working for them, you can’t help but put out good quality books–and enjoying myself.
So wonderful blonde editor woman in glasses did read my MS and sent me a nice email telling me she was passing it on to another editor because it had a little too much romance in it for straight fantasy. (Go figure) So now another editor at Tor has it, one I’ve never met, but hope to… someday.
Next time I’ll bring my glasses.
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