Sunday, December 2, 2012

Open Letter to Deidre Knight, Literary Agent

What follows is a comment I'd just discovered here at Kindle in the Wind that was written last November 18th by Deidre Knight (I go for months without checking that Gmail account), with whom I'd crossed swords on Twitter last month. Her comment follows in italics and my answer is in regular font:

Hi, Michael:
I sought out your blog, as I wanted to apologize for how badly our interaction went on Twitter the other day. But first…this prologue is beautifully written. You have such a unique voice, filled with verve. Anyway, I know you’re not seeking any praise or whatnot from me, but I figured I’d mention how much I like and respond to the quality of your prose that’s reflected in this opening prologue.
So, about Twitter.  I am sorry I didn’t see your original inquiry, which prompted the issue. Twitter was acting up on Thursday and Friday—and that bled over to tweet deck for me. I was actually locked out during one of our author chats the day before, and it was still being wonky on Friday, not allowing me to post regularly, and also not showing all my mentions. Because of that, when I received your second mention—the one that said I was a typical #RWNJ, out to “fuck the 99 percent”, I hope you can understand how taken aback I was. I realize that you may use that kind of language regularly, but in my daily professional life, to suddenly have it lobbed at me felt like an assault. So I did, in fact, block you (and I saw that you subsequently blocked me?) Which is why I’m here, on your blog, because I wanted to reopen a dialogue and also to apologize for having offended you.
But I did want to set you straight: you misinterpreted my politics. I’m certainly not far left, but I’ve taken a political grid test more than once and I always come out left of center. You wouldn’t agree with my full spectrum of views, obviously, but I’d like to make sure you don’t have a false impression of where I stand. I’m very much a gay rights advocate, and have been extremely vocal to that end on both Twitter and in my own writing. For instance, Publishers Weekly said of my book BUTTERFLY TATTOO: “Making a compelling case for bisexuals who make no gender distinctions…” My Gods of Midnight series (RED FIRE, etc) features a very strong secondary plotline about the painful ramifications of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I am truly an independent. I don’t find any party that fully reflects what I believe right now, and I’m not alone in that fact. Anyway, as for who I follow—if you noticed, I’d only just followed Drudge and Tammy Bruce in the past week. That’s why they were among my most recently followed, along with Oprah and some others. I’d gone through another user’s followings and clicked on people who I thought might be interesting to follow for a while. But I also follow a variety of liberal news sources, as well.
In short, to have suddenly been told I was out to fuck the 99 percent on Friday—when we weren’t even in a conversation at all—felt like an assault to me. So I blocked you, and there it went. You can certainly tweet whatever you want about me, but I really didn’t feel like you gave me any forum for interaction before you pulled the judgment trigger. Which is a shame because you’re a beautiful writer and I would have welcomed being professional associates.
I wish you all the best. I don’t expect you to respond, or if you do, it may well be with derision. Just know I’m wishing you only the best in all of your endeavors. I mean that. Deidre Knight

First off, the name's Robert. It's an honest enough mistake that others have made. You're probably thinking of my alter ego, Mike Flannigan, the narrator of American Zen and erstwhile contributor of my political blog, Welcome Back to Pottersville. Which neatly dovetails into politics:

Secondly: From having been a political blogger for close to eight years, I can smell a right winger a mile away. Some things are just screamingly obvious and anyone who seriously entertains Tammy Bruce (who, I guess, as a lesbian would also advocate for LGBT rights, which certainly doesn't make her a liberal) or Matt Drudge (another gay person yet, once again, hardly a liberal) for even a nanosecond proves right then and there they do not respect or recognize the truth. I also read your comments on the Hostess bankruptcy and closing and your opinion seems to be that the unions and workers are to blame for the closing of the company and the loss of 18,500 jobs. This is certainly not true although it doesn't surprise me that someone who follows right wing nut jobs like Drudge and Bruce would believe that. The union was incensed that Hostess would offer them a reduction in pay and up to a 32% reduction in benefits, including the pensions for which some people had worked for over 34 years. Meanwhile, nothing from you or other right wingers on the executives being allowed by a bankruptcy judge to pay themselves $1.8 million in bonuses during their second bankruptcy in eight years and year-long wind-down. I am blue collar through and through and my loyalties and sympathies will always go to the working man and woman.

Thirdly: It was certainly your right to block me and I guess I did come out of left field (figuratively and politically). But I cannot understand why you would've wanted to engage me in a dialogue and "would've welcomed being professional associates" since you rep a genre of fiction that I loathe and in which I do not write. It's yet another example that contrasts my scrupulousness and sense of professionalism and a literary agent's utter lack of it.

You hold the distinction of rejecting me faster than any other agent in four countries and three continents: In three minutes flat last year, you'd rejected my book, saying you rep only romance fiction. Once again, that is your right (although I think a literary agent that reps only what gets them wet is, once again extremely unprofessional and narrowminded). Yet you railroaded me and made me waste my time because you didn't update your website to inform writers such as myself that you rep only romance.

Fourthly: Your apparent withdrawal of literary representation (and, I reiterate, I do not write romance, read it nor respect it) is fallacious. You assume that I would ever be interested in you or any other agent. I have no mss in the swim at agencies nor am actively soliciting the indifferent attention of those of your ilk and profession. And I stand on firm ground when I say that your so-called profession, made artificially indispensable by cheap and lazy publishing houses, has done more to tank this nation's literary IQ than perhaps any single industry.

You're right about one thing: I do have a beautiful voice, one cultivated over years through ceaseless work, trial and error and doing so mainly in a vacuum. Thanks for being that honest. Yet this same prologue that you'd rightly praised had been passed over, ignored and rejected by every single literary agent that had seen it. I am tired of the blatant disrespect to my work despite my research, appropriate submissions and obeying guidelines to the letter. This is why I am not seeking an agent and have published The Toy Cop and American Zen on Create Space and Kindle. You and other middlemen like you have been completely written out of the equation. I am sick and tired of getting treated like the 98% who DO deserve form rejection letters from flunkies I'd never written because the agent to whom I HAD written didn't think it worth the five seconds it would've taken to disrespect me and my brilliant work.

Having said that, allow me to close by passing on to you something I invariably hear from boilerplate form rejection letters by thanking you for your interest in me and good luck in your future endeavors, yada yada yada...

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