Monday, September 17, 2012

Behaving Badly

Last Thursday, a literary agent in California was assaulted by a writer she had rejected. He broke the side mirror off her car, and hit her head against the steering wheel until her Jack Terrier bit his arm. Her name is Pam van Hylckama. She's a newer agent with the Larsen Pomada Literary Agency.

When I read this article, it made me sick. She was waiting outside her daughter's school. This agent was going about her day, minding her own business, and a disgruntled writer took it upon himself to hurt her.

I want to point out that she thought it was a carjacking. She didn't even want to believe it could be a writer. The police didn't have as much faith. When they took her report, the first place they went was to check her e-mail. They looked through for the angry, violent, threatening responses she'd received from writers. There was one that she said was "the normal I hate you, I want you to die and I'll kill you."

Getting emails like this is apparently "normal" for agents so she didn't report it, and that is just sad.

I know these angry rejection responses happen in our community far too often, and many might be saying, "Well, yeah, I send emails when I'm mad, but I'd never hurt anyone." I have many responses to that, but I'll give two:

1 - It's incredibly unprofessional - Let's say you were applying for a job as a receptionist, and the hiring manager used their own free time to observe your experience and skills in this arena, then decided you weren't the best candidate and informed you they were going to go a different direction. Would you send them nasty emails? Call them names? Threaten them? It's never a good idea. It burns bridges and won't make you feel better. Don't do it.

2 - You become a suspect - Do you really want there to be any situation in which someone is attacked and you are the first person the police look at? No. I don't think you do.

I know saying this to most of my blog readers is like preaching to the choir. You all know this, but I think this is something that writers in our community need to speak out against.

Agents are not perfect. They aren't even all great people (I could say the same for any group), but they devote their time to books. Something we all love. They spend countless unpaid hours every week reading queries and submissions. They take on new clients and spend even more time helping them prepare and taking them on submission--still unpaid. They are not saints, and I can assure you that I've been frustrated by a rejection the same as everyone else.

Here is the point. Agents are people, and whether we choose to work with them in our path to publication or not, they deserve our respect. And they deserve to feel safe in their cars and homes. No one should take that away from them.

So, have you heard about this? What do you think?

15 comments:

  1. Most people just eat chocolate when they get a rejection. I can't believe he did that. I didn't realize it happened outside her daughter's school.

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    1. Yeah, that's probably the part that might make me consider not being an agent anymore if I were her.

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  2. Wow, yeah, that's insane. I heard about it, and just don't understand that kind of mentality.

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  3. I still can't believe this really happened. Totally NOT okay.

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  4. I can't believe that!!! I hadn't heard of it and it just makes me a little sick. That's terrible!

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  5. This story is so upsetting. I've discovered writers are friendliest and most helpful group one could hope to encounter. Knowing that, I'm doubly stunned that this happened. I did read about this last week but I also didn't realize this jerk attacked her outside her daughter's school. As a writer, I'm embarrassed and horrified. As a man, I'm disgusted and a little pissed-off. I'd love to meet this dude.

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  6. I'm so upset, I didn't proof read my comment!

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    1. Haha, no worries, Charlie. And I totally agree. It's horrifying and I'm glad to see so many people feel the same way.

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  7. SO sad. I hope she's doing okay. I'd be scared to go anywhere for a while. :(

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    1. Same here. I think I'd just want to disappear from the world for a little bit.

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  8. This is just an awful thing to happen. Getting an agent is not a right. Being published is not a right. You earn those things through a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and by behaving professionally. At all times.

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    1. Yes. Yes to all of this, Emma. Thanks for the comment!

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