Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Today I will continue with the series of Author ABCs...

I sat on a panel of writers at a conference recently, and I was really bothered by the information being dished out. Basically there was this idea being tossed about as fact that to get published, manuscripts had to be PERFECT. More specifically, the comments made indicated that agents/editors will read to the first typo, then they'll toss the manuscript.

Okay, first of all, there is a time for perfection, and it sure isn't at the point of submission to an editor or agent. I would be willing to bet that the typo in the scenario was in a manuscript already unloved, and merely ONE reason to toss it. If that manuscript had been raw, but with goodness and potential, I suspect the editor/agent would have overlooked the typo.

As poetry editor at Birmingham Arts Journal, that's what I do. I am way more interested in content, particularly raw emotional content, than I am in spit and polish. I mean, an author can polish the life right out of a piece. I'd much rather read something raw and work with an author to improve it.

Also, in my own experience of pretty much learning on the job with this whole writing business,I can tell you with certainty that the manuscript that sold for LEAVING GEE'S BEND was a mess. A raw mess full of heart. I'm just glad my agent and editor were able to see it shining forth from a million mistakes that were often more than just typos.

Wishing all of you the same good fortune!


  1. i agree. scary sometimes when you hear the advice coming out of panels.

  2. I love this! I'm all for a "raw mess full of heart."

    Sometimes I think people are just looking for something to say when they're on those panels.


  3. Irene, I used to wonder about this very thing . . . exactly HOW perfect must a manuscript be before it hits an agent's desk. The thought just paralyzes me from sending anything out . . . but I'm trying to overcome this. Thanks for those good wishes to us aspiring writers!:)

  4. I felt a panel going that way recently and asked the folks to talk about what they were really excited about right now in children's book publishing. I hate it when we obsess about the nit-picky and the negative. Bravo, Irene.


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