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This blog is NOT owned by the PNWA (in case you mistakenly got that impression)

April 2nd, 2007

Dear readers –

I have been asked to make an announcement, one that I had previously believed to be self-evident: I own this site, and the opinions expressed here are my own. I pay for the site myself, and my opinions are — as indeed I have always presented them — mine.

I sincerely doubt that anyone seriously needed to be told this, but a board member of the PNWA sent me this extraordinary e-mail today, implying otherwise. I reproduce it here, because, frankly, I find it hard to believe, even though it is sitting in front of me:

“Anne,
It seems that a few agent/editors have found inaccuracies in your blog entries about them, this year and last, and are annoyed. I know you don’t want to piss off agents!

Also, some of your comments about PNWA seem a bit mean spirited (sic) to me, and since the PNWA really, really wants to be inclusive of all writers, is there a way to “make nice” (sic) a bit or not appear to criticize?

Many, including me, love your frank observations. If you are an instructor at PNWA, however, your opinions might appear to speak for the organization, and that is the rub.

For your own reputation, I really {sic) really (again) suggest you get the facts right about these agents, because we all know what a small world theirs is.

In short- {sic) 2 things. Be accurate in your agent (sic) editor bios and know that they are reading them, too.
And
Be (sic) clear that you are expressing your opinion and in no way is this the opinion of anyone but the very wise Ms. Mini.

OK?”

I have to say, I don’t find this okay at all — and that’s DOCTOR Mini, by the way, to strangers — but let me waste a day’s post in making every point raised here clear enough that no one could possibly mistake it in future. (Normally, I would not do this, but my reputation has specifically been threatened.)

For the record, I OWN THIS SITE. No one at the PNWA or any other organization has a right to tell me what I may or may not post on MY website. I hope that no one has ever thought otherwise.

About the accuracy of the profiles, I have done a grand total of ONE this year. Ginger Clark, if you feel I have misrepresented your work, kindly post any corrections on THIS website — you know, the one I own, not the PNWA’s.

But frankly, I doubt that Ms. Clark has so little to do, or that she considers the opinion of someone she has never met so important, that she would have taken the time to find my blog within the last two days, read it, track down the PNWA (who, in case anyone is still confused on this point, DOES NOT OWN THIS SITE), and complain.

Suffice it to say: if there have been ANY complaints so far this year, I have not heard about them. From anyone. However, if I am sent proof that I have been mistaken on some specific point — or, more likely, that the sources I combed extensively to glean this information were somehow tainted — I shall be delighted make changes.

On to last year. I did not receive a SINGLE complaint from ANY agent or editor at last year’s conference — nor did ANYONE affiliated with the PNWA suggest until today that there had been any complaints. In fact, many of agents and editors THANKED me for the profiles.

If the PNWA did indeed receive complaints about my write-ups, it did not pass them along to me in the intervening year, as surely it had an ethical obligation to do. Which implies a certain lack of vim on the part of the insulted, at best.

If there have been any actual complaints, please, anyone who has heard them — even as vague rumors — post them as comments on the appropriate profile. I’m sure anyone researching these agents will like to hear about anything I’ve misreported.

Since I habitually do EXTENSIVE research for each profile, if I have actually posted anything inaccurate, it means that there were inaccuracies in the standard databases, articles, etc. that I read to formulate these profiles — please, if anyone knows of any specific inaccuracies, let me know, so I may inform these other sources. (Which, incidentally, were by and large the same sources that anyone researching agents and editors would have used.)

My impression, based upon what the agents and editors actually said to me, was quite the opposite. At the PNWA conference last year, one of the editors even sought me out at the Pitch Practicing Palace and told me (in front of a witness) that she would not have attended if she had not seen the profile I had done of her on my blog. (Presented, of course, as my opinion.) She had been scheduled for two back-to-back conferences, and was coming down with a cold, so she had intended to cancel her trip to PNWA. Then she saw my post on her, and thought, “Gee, if they’ve gone to all the trouble of tracking down all this information on me, I guess I should go.” She said, in fact, that she had been forwarding the link to other people.

That was 100% MY work, boys and girls. Not the PNWA’s. I’m sorry if anyone was confused about that.

Furthermore, the agency that represents ME sends an agent to PNWA every year. Last year, I profiled this agent, along with the rest. After the conference, I specifically checked in with my agency to find out if there had been even a BREATH of discontent amongst the pros about ANYTHING I had written about the attending agents or editors. No one had heard anything.

And, as my correspondent above points out, agenting is a small world.

On the subject of accuracy. As I have said in each and every blog on the subject, my information has always come from the standard industry databases, books, and asking people in the know. I do as thorough a search of all the publicly-available information as I can find. I have literally NEVER reported anything for which I did not have solid evidence. When I cannot find information, I say so.

In both EVERY blog on the subject this year and EVERY blog on the subject last year, I SAID that what I was giving was only my opinion; frankly, I think that no one who actually read the blogs in their entirety could think anything else. I’m an opinionated gal — which is, correct me if I am wrong, considered DESIRABLE in a blogger. I do not, therefore, believe that this critique is being leveled by anyone familiar with my writings on the subject.

Although of course, that’s only my opinion. I could be wrong.

Also, for the record, I am NOT scheduled to be a presenter at PNWA this year; as I have already mentioned here, I am in negotiations to reprise my PRE-conference pitching class from last year (although I was not paid for last year’s class), as well as to bring a sharply scaled-down version of the Pitch Practicing Palace back to the conference.

You know, that service that so many of you said on your evaluation forms was the best thing about last year’s conference.

Therefore, I don’t think any sane person would take my opinions — which, as I have said, I have been very careful to present all along as MY OPINIONS — as those of the spokeswoman of an organization with which I am only marginally affiliated at this point.

Everybody clear on that? Did any of my regular readers think otherwise, even for a second? Do I actually have to cancel my membership in the PNWA in order not to confuse anyone?

On to the issue of whether I have been mean-spirited, I was honestly surprised by this. For the moment, let’s leave aside the issue that anything I have said has been ON MY OWN BLOG, which exists solely to express MY opinion. (Clear on that yet?) But, by that same token, this blog does not exist to promote the PNWA, nor is it reasonable for that organization to expect that it should.

I have tried to be impartial, in fact, which means I call ‘em as I see ‘em. Given my relationship with the PNWA last summer, not coloring those opinions with my personal experience has required something very close to saintliness to pull off. (Or was that a too mean-spirited thing to say, because it’s true?)

As some of you know, I was formerly the Resident Writer of the PNWA, blogging (as a volunteer activity) for their website and providing virtually all of its content for 11 months in 2004-2005. My blog there was very popular, by everyone’s admission. During that time, no one on the PNWA board ever commented to me about my blog, even once; I had no reason to believe that any of them had ever read it. But I had tangible proof that it was helping the membership, so I continued to write it.

On the day following last year’s PNWA conference, I logged to their blog and found that my password had been cancelled and all of my content had disappeared. With no warning, and with no explanation. Since this happened immediately after I had organized the HUGELY successful Pitch Practicing Palace, which heard more than 350 pitches over three days — again, for free; none of the PPP staff were paid — I was, to say the least, surprised.

I am mentioning this now because, as those of you who were reading the blog at the time already know, I did not talk about ANY of this on my blog at the time — nor, indeed, about any of the other rudenesses to which I was subjected.

Why? Because I didn’t want to trash the PNWA, that’s why. Because it’s an organization that has helped many writers over the years, and I have respect for that.

Since I believed the blog to be helpful to many aspiring writers, I scrambled, with the very generous assistance of webmaster Brian Tanaka and Suzanne Brahm, to get a new blog — UNDER MY OWN NAME, and AT MY OWN EXPENSE — up and running within a week, so as not to leave my readers in the lurch immediately after a conference, when they might conceivably be sending out requested materials. It seemed a better use of my time and energy than responding to how I had been treated.

When contest time approached this year, knowing that many of my readers were planning to enter the PNWA contest, I spent A MONTH of blog time prepping people for it. As I have heard from many far-flung readers since, they would not have entered that particular contest had I not being discussing it here. Thus, far from harming the PNWA, I have every reason to believe that my website has been promoting it.

I considered not doing agent and editor profiles this year, and if you will recall, I posted it as a question last month. Those who responded did want me to do them, so I have. Believe me, they are no fun to do, because of the EXTENSIVE research involved, and I only took on the task again because I believed them to be helping people.

And why did I think that? Because literally all the feedback I received last year told me so.

In fact, many readers told me that my helping to demystify the agent- and editor-selection process was part of the reason they chose to attend the PNWA conference, as opposed to any other. Which, correct me if I’m wrong, was helpful to the organization.

However, I now think I’ve been too generous — or perhaps misguided — to gloss over what happened last summer. And maybe, just maybe, it was not a good idea to promote one conference over any other on this site, even if I was planning to be available to my readers at that conference this year, as I was last.

So: I’m not going to finish the agent/editor series this year, except to profile the agent coming from my own agency. Because that way, I can get permission directly from the source, and no one can come to me a year from now and imply otherwise.

I am going to leave the category at the right up for a while, though, to make it easier for people to find THIS post. Because I wouldn’t want anyone to get confused.

My deepest apologies to those of you who were looking forward to these profiles. But I’m extremely busy, and I’m tired of being unappreciated by people for whom I have done great big favors in the past. I would much rather expend my volunteer energies helping my readers — and if I can do that best by never mentioning the PNWA here again, that is what I shall do.

For the record, I don’t actually believe that anything I have ever written about any of these agents or editors could possibly harm YOUR chances with these people — that, after all, would be really, really passive-aggressive, not to say childish. But if there is even the slightest chance of any aspiring writer’s being harmed by indirect aggression at me, as the message above implies, it’s just not worth it. (Especially since doing the EXTENSIVE research underlying the agent/editor profiles is a TREMENDOUS amount of work for me — in part because I took the time to verify with independent sources that everything I was saying was true.)

Thanks for your patience with this announcement. I’m very, very sorry if anyone was skimming my posts so quickly that they became confused about who was speaking. It shan’t happen again. But if someone’s ever in doubt, all she has to do is to raise her eyes a couple of inches to the masthead.

19 Responses to “This blog is NOT owned by the PNWA (in case you mistakenly got that impression)”

  1. comment number 1 by: misterkel

    I recently joined the PNWA because of your blog (I will be moving to Idaho in a few months). I can understand being pissed off about this. But, don’t let the actions of what may be one or two people affect your relation to the whole.
    Get the best revenge – put the asshole in your next book.
    As a side comment, this blog post makes me realize that my own troubles – the simple, but agonizing day after day reality of being unpublished will not miraculously turn into great bliss when I get published. I think of the Buddha’s first noble truth – ‘Existence is suffering.’ (The good news comes later.)
    Anyway, I appreciate your blog and read it every day. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

  2. comment number 2 by: Rebeca Morales

    Anne,
    I wouldn’t give this type of low blow attempt at censorship the time of day. Or, I would ask this person for the names of which agents/editors were “annoyed” by your profiles. If this person sends you even one name of a “pissed off” agent/editor I will eat my first draft.

    The fact is that in this small world of ours some folks choose to operate in the realm of hearsay and innuendo for reasons known only to the Creator of the Universe. Your blog helps many, many writers every day. I know this for a fact, I am one.

    My daddy, the evangelical preacher (gone but not forgotten) used to say “the truth hurts and lies doom”. We’re writers for pete’s sake, we’re not afraid of the truth, we’re not even afraid of opinions. Thank you for all you do and keep up the good work.

    Rebeca

  3. comment number 3 by: Cerredwyn

    Thank you for all of your hard work. It has been tremendously helpful. Kudos for your retort to PNWA.

  4. comment number 4 by: Jen

    I eagerly opened my home page — your blog — this morning to read more about deciphering agent/editor bios. Instead, I read about something I’ve (regrettably) come to know well: Some people thrive on, no DELIGHT in creating a mess out of minutia. And isn’t is usually the least involved or anonymous who do? (JUST MY OPINION, BASED ON EXPERIENCE.)

    I try to expect it; but still feel blindsided when it happens. Sorry to read you took a hit here.

    I hope you’re not deterred! I know it’s not just people like me in the hinterlands who look forward to reading your well-written (I, PERSONALLY THINK, ON MY OWN BEHALF) and entertaining posts (IN MY VIEW) centering around a subject I (we) love. (COMPLETELY SUBJECTIVE )

    I’m looking forward to your final bio dissection as a learning tool for myself when I am ready to approach an agent/editor. And, then (I hope) “pitching tips.” And then…I’m ready for anything — I hate to say it but I suspect you might be now too.

    Thanks for your work here — I’ve been reading for awhile without comment but thought this would be a good time to step up and say THANKS!*

    Jen J

    * THIS COMMENT IS NOT ON BEHALF OF ANY ORGANIZATION, COMPANY OR GROUP AND REPRESENTS THE SOLE OPIINION OF THE WRITER WHO HAS NOT BEEN PAID OR OTHERWISE COMPENSATED IN ANY WAY.

  5. comment number 5 by: Janet

    In my opinion you are helping writers every day face the real world of writing and publishing and not only giving them tools to get out there and just do it, but with a great sense of wit and hopeful energy.

  6. comment number 6 by: Gordon G.

    Wow, what a great vent. I would say you have left no axes unground, or something to that effect. Unfortuneately, we your readers, will be the ones losing the most. I respect the opinion expressed by anon. from PNWA as much as I respect their ability to convey their thoughts by using the words ‘pissed off”. I believe you are slightly (?) annoyed at PNWA and from what you say, rightfully so. I’m sorry that we lose out because some cretin . . . I’d better stop before I also begin to vent. I sincerely enjoy your writing, on your blog, using your words, expressing your opinion. Please don’t stop. GG

  7. comment number 7 by: Anne

    Thanks, everybody — I appreciate the support, and believe me, I am genuinely concerned about the effect of all this on my readers. I’ve been busy trying to find a way to bring you information that I honestly believe that you need (and that I happen to think is appropriate to provide) without making it impossible for me to help local authors — at this point, it’s still in the planning stages, but the organization-that-shall-not-be-mentioned had asked me to teach the ONLY class on pitching that it is planning to offer this year, and the Pitch Practicing Palace’s services on the first day of the conference were going to be the ONLY assistance on the subject available there.

    See the problem? If it had just been about my relationship to them, I would have walked away several weeks ago. But it isn’t. (Although it is fair to say that there is a history — your comment about not having left any axes unground made me laugh very hard, Gordon, and I’m grateful for that. Believe me, there’s a whole shedful of dull axes still left; I was actually pretty restrained here. I’m trying really, really hard get my mindset upbeat again.)

    I HAVE asked for tangible proof of any complaints, and let’s just say that I sincerely doubt that Rebeca is going to have to eat even a page of her manuscript. And I’m scheduled to have a big talk with my agent about it, because I want to make sure that this is all as silly as I think it is…

    But I’m going to try very hard not to dwell upon it here. We’ve all got work to do!

  8. comment number 8 by: Dave McChesney

    Yes Anne, (and your other readers) I am still here, and reading this blog on a regular basis. I just haven’t had the impetous to respond or comment to every post.
    As a member(hopefully in good standing; my dues are paid up through the fall) of an organization that we now can not name, I’ve got to say that I’m somewhat ashamed of that membership. First of all, Anne, as a **** member, I’m embarrassed at the organization’s complete turn about in regards to your many and varied contributions last year. I am also ashamed to tell my writer friends about the group and it’s web site, knowing that the individual who replaced you as group blogger has not posted since December of last year. And, near as I can recall, what was posted in total by that individual would not equate to more than a couple days of your postings.

    Anne, just know that you have my support! As a beginning writer, one still looking for that “big break,” I really do thank you for all you have done (are doing) for all of us.

    (Sorry to wade in a day late and a dollar short, but yesterday was one of the few in which I never even sat in front of the computer. Planted it in front of the tely and watched the Mariners!)
    Dave

  9. comment number 9 by: Anne

    Thanks, Dave. I appreciate your support, and none of this, but none of it, is the fault of ****\’s membership, which I know from long and grateful experience are a terrific bunch of people, by and large. Who I would like to keep helping!

  10. comment number 10 by: Judy

    I would think that if someone thinks there are inaccuracies on your blog that they would be specific in stating what they believe is false information. There is no way in hell you can fix something if they don’t tell you what it is.

    I’ve never read your blog before but I came here from Miss Snark’s blog, and it seems that there was nothing specific that you’ve been asked to change.

    If there were inaccuracies on my blog, I would sure want to know so that I could fix them. And I would fix them. The note you received was kind of vague. Have you asked them to be specific about what is false information so that you can make changes?

  11. comment number 11 by: Anne

    Glad to have you here, Judy! Your question is a fine one, and thank you for calling my attention to the fact that this situation was being discussed on Miss Snark. It is very interesting to hear what an agent who does not represent me thinks of the situation.

    To answer your question, I HAVE asked for specifics, in almost exactly the terms you have used here: if there are inaccuracies, I DEFINITELY want to know about them, because these profiles are intended for the benefit of my readers. Obviously, I would like them to be dead-on right.

    The only response I have gotten is that my correspondent had heard RUMORS that an agent (now only one) was upset about something I had written. No specifics — and no idea which agent it was.

    In other words: nothing I could possibly correct. So apparently inaccuracies are not the real issue.

    I have been sincerely trying to track down the actual facts, though, so I can correct any mistakes. I have been doing some asking around, and I did find someone else who had heard a similar rumor at the conference last year. That rumor, too, was non-specific, so I have no idea if it related to anything I had actually written, or was just someone venting spite at the popularity of the blog. Or someone who just does not like me.

    The possibilities are endless — but none of the major possibilities seem relevant to the blog, or whether the profiles in question (which were not particularly harsh) were helpful to the writers who attended the conference. What I gather was offensive (to some mystery person) is that someone on the writing side of the equation — who is not looking for an agent (have one, thanks), and thus could derive no personal benefit from producing these inordinately time-consuming profiles — would think that writers have a right to know something about the professional preferences of the agents to whom they are planning to pitch.

    I stand by that information being helpful to writers; I\’m here to help people, not win any popularity contests. I am surprised, though, to hear that the issue has been taken up elsewhere on the net.

    A blogger who never offends anyone strikes me as unlikely to produce much worth reading, however, in the long term. As my learned father used to say, never trust someone whom EVERYONE likes. Individual tastes are too dissimilar; a universally-liked person must be lying to someone.

  12. comment number 12 by: Judy

    Well, Anne, you’re right that you can’t please everyone.

    I don’t know anything about PNWA or their leadership, but I would think that they would speak to you personally about any complaints and come to some kind of agreement with you as to how to handle it.

    But not knowing anything about your relationship with PNWA, I can only guess what lurks beneath the surface of this email you received.

    Another thought. If an agent felt you misrepresented her on your webpage, I would think she might email you and clear up any questions. These people are NOT helpless. Or victims. They are fully capable of contacting you in a business like manner and clearing things up.

    Well, good luck.

  13. comment number 13 by: Anne

    Thanks, Judy!

    If anyone is curious, 100% of the specific criticism on the Ginger Clark profile that I have received (albeit from an anonymous source) is now posted as a comment at the end of that profile. I would urge anyone who read that post when it was first written(the one before this, chronologically) to go back and read those comments, to be sure that they got an accurate impression.

  14. comment number 14 by: Joy

    Like Judy, I’m a new reader who followed a link from Miss Snark’s blog. I don’t see one thing wrong with your profiles of industry professionals, and I think you’re doing fellow writers a service in that you’re giving them examples on dissecting bios and interviews to get a better idea of an agent’s or editor’s preferences, experience, and abilities.

    I strongly suspect that no specifics will be forthcoming. As you’ve said, the information you gathered was from public sources and the agents’ and editors’ own interviews and profiles, and any conclusions you drew were clearly identified, if I recall correctly, as your opinion only.

    I think the problem this one agent (and a very few others, perhaps) had with the profile was that it wasn’t sufficiently fawning. Some people on the editor/agent side of the biz have this belief that writers should kiss their asses, and anyone who doesn’t treat them like minor deities automatically gets cautionary speeches on what a small world publishing is.

    Screw that. ;-)

  15. comment number 15 by: Anne

    Welcome, Joy! If this brouhaha continues to bring such thoughtful commenters to my site, I am almost glad it happened.

    Your comment about insufficient fawning made me giggle. I’ve never been good at that — and I’m not convinced that it ever helps writers much. But that, of course, is only my opinion. (I’ll have to come up with a code for that, if I’m going to have to keep saying it so much.)

  16. comment number 16 by: Anne

    To put a coda on this depressing little episode: since I originally posted this, the situation deteriorated, and I felt that I could not in good conscience remain a member of the organization at all. After much consideration, the Pitch Practicing Palace’s staff has decided that we would not be offering our volunteer services again at the PNWA conferencethis year, and I declined the PNWA\’s offer to teach a pre-conference teaching class for them.

    I will not bore you with the details, except to say that struggling through negotiations to provide these services for conference attendees was taking up far too much of my time, energy, and patience. I believe I can do better work here if I am not subjected to the efforts of an organization to which I happened to belong (I no longer do; I resigned today) to dictate my blog\’s content. I think I owe it to my readers to give my honest opinions, not to support an institutional agenda.

    My deepest apologies to any of you who made plans in the expectation that the PPP would be available or who were looking forward to the class. I shall try to find another venue for the latter, but rest assured, I shall be writing EXTENSIVELY about pitching between now and then.

    Enough of all this unpleasantness. Let’s all get back to work.

  17. comment number 17 by: Anne

    A final coda on this silly episode: one of the agents who attended the conference in 2006 did eventually contact me, 382 days after I originally posted an extremely flattering review of his work here, asking me to remove the page.

    I immediately did one better: I removed every reference to him in ANY post. Since he would not tell me what he found inaccurate — what I posted here was based solely upon already published information, handouts available on his website, and words from his own mouth (in front of conference rooms full of witnesses, no less), I could not take the risk that any publicly-available information about him was not true.

    Interestingly, when I originally posted the info on him last year (on May 10, 2007), two of his clients wrote to thank me for doing it; I also asked a third client of his, who happens to be a friend of mine, to review it for accuracy. None of them spotted any problem.

    To date, this is the only complaint I have ever received, and I suspect that this one has more to do with a change in policy than misquotation. However, the last thing I want to do is to mislead anyone, so I shall neither make reference to nor recommend writers to this particular agent again.

    As always, if there is an inaccurate statement here, I definitely want to know about it, so I may correct it right away. I don’t think it unreasonable, though, to ask that the complainer give specifics — and not wait over a year to mention it.

  18. comment number 18 by: George Matthew Cole

    Hi Anne
    I am a new author with 1 self-published YA novel. I am interested in learning more about traditional publishing, agents, etc. I thought PNWA might be a good way for me to become more educated about writing and the business of writing. I was about to sign up and thought it might be good to get an unbiased opinion of the organization. After a search I found your blog. I read most of you wrote. Would you recommend PNWA to a new writer like myself. If so, please state why. Thanks

  19. comment number 19 by: Anne

    I have not had any connection to the PNWA in years, George, so I could not comment on what either the organization or conference are like now. You’d be better off asking someone who had attended the conference recently: you might want to go to one of the larger writers’ forums and ask what people’s experiences were. Typically, past attendees are not shy about whether they thought a conference was a good value for the cost.

    The best way to assess any conference’s worth to you, though, is to check out what it is offering this year; not all writers’ conferences cover the same subjects, and some are quite a bit better than others for the price. What seminars are being offered, and do they speak directly to your interests? Who is teaching them? Do those people have a reasonable claim to expertise on the subject, or do they appear to be there primarily to promote their own books?

    If you are looking for an agent — and it does not sound as though you are — do the ones scheduled to attend habitually sell books like yours? Is there more than one YA agent scheduled to attend, and if so, will there be a panel on the changing YA market?

    It’s especially vital for a self-published writer to double-check the offerings. It’s not at all uncommon for a writers’ conference to be focused exclusively upon traditional publishing to the point of virtually ignoring self-publishing. Also, not every conference offers a general overview of the industry: often, speakers will assume that their audience is already well-versed in how the business operates and are merely looking for the most recent updates.

    Best of luck finding the right conference for you! It is a major investment of both time and money, so it’s a smart move to do your homework first.

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