The Seymour Agency’s Second Winter Writer’s Escape

I went to a conference, a winter escape into a writer’s paradise of classes, introductions, and learning to pitch a novel to agents and publishers. The Seymour Agency sponsored it, providing excellent speakers on topics of forensics, crafting a novel, fiction, nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy, romance and mystery. Tor Publishing and Sourcebook spent time working to focus writers so that their books might make that great award in the sky of publishing a novel.

Can you imagine the opportunity to take an ocean cruise, see Nassau and Cozumel, meet exotic people, and spend time working on completing a dream? That’s what this agency did for me. While I was learning the foundations of forensics through the eyes of a woman who was raised by two medical examiners and now consulted with Hollywood to make shows believable, my husband read books, sat in the sun, and took a lot of naps. I think I mentioned that he worked nights and slept days, so we are always at crossed schedules.

I met a lovely young woman named Leslie who is a professional editor. She wanted to show us exactly what a copy editor does. Presenting using an overhead projector, she could have taught any school in Virginia that one third of the Standards of Learning that includes grammar, spelling, cohesiveness, and proper word choice. I think she felt a bit strange, what with most of us being over thirty-five, sitting poised on the edge of our chairs to catch every bullet point. She’s a great example of a woman who knows her craft and loves it. She blushed and smiled at us. She reminds me of a sparrow, always busy, always working, always available to listen. I love sparrows. They are a workforce of correctness with a chirp of encouragement. (Please don’t take offense, Leslie, if you don’t like birds. I mean well.)

The agency was started by Mary Sue Seymour, who died last year from cancer. My friend Andy had submitted to her last summer, and the response she gave him was clear advice, helpful tips, and a push to keep working on his book. He said she was the best refusal he ever received. She was a marathoner, a motivational powerhouse, and a believer in the power of the written world. She was also approachable. I’ve added her to the list of people that we walk for cancer to raise awareness and funding for. Before hearing about her, my list was mostly family. But she deserves to be remembered for her effort, indeed her fight, to care for others to the very end. Writers can be difficult, like herding earthworms who surface and then dive for the depths of the earth to get their quiet writing done.

I met Nicole, a senior agent, via email when I was registering. I told her I was related to Murphy, and boy has this been a year for Murphy. Since September, the family has had three totaled cars, one new baby, one thief, one hospitalization, one set of messed up paperwork, several temper tantrums, sixty hour work weeks for my husband, an angry daughter-in-law, a misplaced Christmas spirit and more. Yes, Murphy and I are more than friends, we must be related. There were bumps and bruises in my registration, and Nicole elevated me to human status and solved everything in less than five minutes. She’s one of those women who see you when you speak, listen to your meaning as well as your words, and gently pushes you in the right direction without your knowing it. On top of that, she’s a mother, wife, powerhouse of knowledge and a compassionate human being. It was my honor to meet her. Because of her, I walked away from the conference confident that I’m on the right path.

I met with Diane from Tor Books over a bottle of water in the champagne bar. I pitched my second book, the one science fiction with a naive but determined group of young women, and she gave me guidance on what genre it was, a space opera, a list of authors to read, and a good push to finish the one I’m halfway through. She was a gracious listener and I was her very last pitch. Publishers don’t usually meet with you face to face. She gave Tor books a gracious personality.

Deb from Sourcebooks, who handles a lot of romances, was hosting Stitch and Pitch sessions at odd times and scheduled times throughout the week. She sat and knitted, or unwound tangled yarn with the assistance of an extra pair of hands from one of the participants, as we learned how to talk about our novels. I don’t think she realizes that her honesty is unusual into todays age. Where things were lacking, she was quick to point them out. Her questions were pointed and she listened to the first words out of your mouth, then refocused you on what you were trying to say. You need to know your genres, your sub-genres, plot, characters and put it into one to three sentences because publishers don’t have a lot of time. Neither do agents. They can receive hundreds of manuscripts in a week and you need to catch the eye quickly. She also said to follow the directions on every agent and publisher’s submission guide. For writers, apparently we aren’t always good at communicating.

First line manuscripts were subjected to panels of participants and agents and evaluated on their originality, quality, and foreshadowing. No one is harder to please that a writer evaluating other writers. There was a panel on what happens when real life occurs and you are trying to write (I qualified for this lecture by more than a handful of life experiences getting in the way.) There was a panel about what genres are selling, one about diversity in literature, another about keywords and social media platforms, and I ran from one to the next with notes on my laptop and scribbled into a green notebook they had given all of us.

I had a good time and learned a lot of new information. It helped heal the pain of losing my mentor ten days before the trip. My husband was impressed that I had so much energy. We were both ready for my collapse when we got off the ship and started the second part of our trip. It took me four days to recover, but when I did I was still really excited. In fact, I hope they are going to sponsor a trip next February. I’m going to go again.


Win or Go Home


Game Five
Washington…one-run lead
Max Scherzer posting strike after strike

Risky send…out

Four-Run Rally

Chris Heisy’s two-run
Within one run

Half of the seventh…Jensen
But Kershaw – yes, Kershaw,
Slammed the door on the ninth.

It would have been
Game 1 against the Cubs

Now for Baseball

We spent over 5 hours and 56 minutes watching the Minnesota Twins and the Washington Nationals spare on Sunday. In what Dusty Baker called the absolute weirdest game ever he ever managed, the Nationals managed to come out on top. Both teams were running low on players. The ninth inning save goes to Bryce Harper who said he’d hit a homer and tie the game, which he did. The first seven innings go to Steven Strasberg, for incredible pitching. Then Petit came into the game and held on for more pitches than he had pitched for many years. The out fielding was outstanding. Werth, denDecker, Heisey, Taylor all made significant catches. Add a glorious actor named Perez and and his acting and dancing ability, two catchers named Ramos and Lobaton, speed demon and shortstop Espinosa, Murphy, Drew, Papalbon, Rendon, Zimmerman, and a partridge in a pear tree and you have us sitting on the sofa. Yup, me the eternal optimist and my husband, king of gloom and doom. It’s good to believe in a team when they win. It’s good to believe in a team even if they lose. But it is priceless to have such a good competition between two tough teams and yours wins by a squeak. I was exhausted at the end.

There was some savvy decision making. I am pretty sure that Dusty didn’t know that Perez hadn’t hit a ball since 2010. I’m pretty sure he was afraid that he would have to use Trienen who had played two days before. He was wise to switch out the catchers. How do those guys keep from having knee cramps all night long after a game? Dusty picked and chose who did what carefully, and having put our all on the table, created a memory that will be on MASN TV all next winter. I won’t forget the game.

May I add that Dusty Baker’s philosophy of life is making baseball “fun again.”  His way of enthusiastically pumping up the players, of believing in them, and of keeping his word are new to Washington. I hope he stays for many years. We need someone like him. Oh, the keeping the word, in case you hadn’t heard, was telling Bryce that he could since hit, but because he had the day off, that was ALL he would be allowed to do. Barry Bond had gone into a game with 16 innings in the ninth, and he played until the win was secured. So much for his day off. Funny he had mentioned that to Bryce. I hope he buys a lottery ticket. His words, “If man can move a mountain, surely man can move a baseball.”

Oh, we saw you Ben Revere and your gnome outfit. You keep coming. You are our lucky gnome of the year. I can hardly wait to see you as a bobble head. The hat, the hoodie, the scarf, the hope that you kept going with your being willing to be silly and support your team even when injured. Nice going. Effort noted and best wishes to getting 100% well.

I was glad the Twins won their game by a squeak in the ninth last night. They deserved a good win too.

Fifty-eight years old, and somehow over the last four years, I changed my spots. I love baseball and I understand why we need it. We need something to believe in. We need the normalcy of a tradition that started somewhere around 1890. As long as we can step away from our problems and be part of a great effort, things have to get better.

Sports reporter, Ann White, heading back into the real world.