EDIT: apparently the perpetrator of the email shaming came forward, apologized profusely, and all has been forgiven. Good for them for doing the truly hard thing and admitting their mistakes, owning up to it. That bodes very well for their future as a human being. I’m going to delete the tweet which this post spawned, but I’m leaving the post as a reminder to others AND to myself that patience is important in this industry, especially when you’re first starting out.


Professional is an interesting word. Derived from Middle English, profes, which is to vow. Which, itself, is derived from the Latin, professionem, a public declaration. Literally the word is derived from words meaning to give your word, to attest and pledge to the truth of something. Similar to confessional, but that involves Priests and, I presume, small dark rooms, and I’m not a fan of confined spacies (see? I avoided any priest sex jokes!).

Today, being professional implies putting forth a standard of conduct that is… well… I think it’s a pretty nebulous standard. But in my opinion it involves not only a certain type of attire (suit, nice shoes, a tie), but a certain way of acting among others of your chosen career. Or the career you might wish to have and are working towards achieving. AKA, writing. Those ways of acting involve showing respect, patience, courtesy, confidence, competent, dignified… lots of words that imply you have good manners.

“Okay,” you say, “but we are writers, Jeff! We have zero confidence!” Yes, that is true. Even Neal Gaiman reminds us that, from time to time, he wonders why they are going to show up at his door and tell him the gig is up, it’s over, he’s been revealed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome is real for most writers, no matter their level of success. But, we need to ACT as though we are above such things, act like we are not the whiny, needy, tortured, desperate for one single shred of affirmation, introverts that we are. Well most of us. Not you over there… no, you… yes, you, the one with that romance book in your hand. Don’t try to fool us, we know you’re a type A personality.

Today I’ve seen no less than four #Pitchwars mentors go off on something that occurred. It started with the following Tweet from Brenda Drake, one of our hard working and much suffering organizers (and thank you for all these wonderful contests, Brenda, from the bottom of my heart… you folks are amazing): https://twitter.com/brendadrake/status/896009498820657152

For those who don’t want to click on it, the link points back to a forwarded email which linked a Huffpost article titled “August 9: A Day of Repentance” with the following text sent from mentee: “I know you mean well but I have gotten 0 requests on my Pitch Wars submission while everyone else is already passing around requests. I am very disappointed. Can the mentors just share the spreadsheet?”

First, you babbling buffoon, no… no, not EVERYONE else has gotten requests. In fact, I’d hazard a guess and say less than a quarter got or are ever going to get requests. There are what… 144 mentors? Even if they all request more pages from ten hopefuls, that’s 1,440 out of well over 3,000 entries. The mentors have about two weeks to read all the people who submitted to them (100 to 200 entries, times ten pages each), PLUS the additional pages they requested (50, 100, sometimes the full manuscript), PLUS meet their own writing deadlines, PLUS day jobs for those who still need them, PLUS family, and on and on. There is simply not enough time for every single person to get a request. If they wanted to do that, they’d simply make that a requirement at the start. “Send us the whole thing, we promise we’ll read it!”

Second, my noxious nobody, learn some fucking patience. I have literally waited EIGHT FUCKING MONTHS for a magazine to get back to me on one of my short stories. My best one in fact. I’d LOVE to submit it elsewhere, but until they rejected it, I’m stuck. It is what it fucking is, and you know what… so fucking what? I’m writing and submitting, and until some agent jumps at a chance to represent me, I’ve got a good day job and supportive wife to keep me going. So figure out someway, somehow, to do what I did and grow a thicker skin and learn how to wait… wait… fucking wait. Because if you can’t do that, you’re going to be toast pretty fast in this business. It’s ALL about waiting for responses, these folks are busy. You are but one of millions submitting stuff, Obi Wannabe.

Third, oh snotty snarkmaster, stop reading the goddamned #PWTeaser feed. You clearly can’t handle it. We are lucky that the mentors are giving us a peek into their world of decision making. But I personally can take it or leave it, I don’t really want to know. I’d rather get to the 25th and be surprised by an acceptance, not be moping around wondering why I’m not one of the cool kids who are getting requests for more pages. And if there’s no acceptance? Well, let me tell you: right now, in my email, there are three draft query letters to agents. If I’m not accepted, guess what I’m doing? That’s right, fucking querying some more. Because so what? Do you REALLY think that you have a 1 in 300 chance of being picked? The odds, my friend, are not in your favor. Better than the lottery, but a sure thing it ain’t because there are some seriously fucking good writers out there who are dying for this chance just as much as we are. So you better hoist your belt, or buckle up, or whatever it is that you do to gird your hefty loins, because you’re likely to be even more disappointed come August 26th.

When I was a young man, rejection hurt. It hurt enough that I quit writing for twenty plus years. I didn’t whine and cry that I was being overlooked. That takes a hell of a lot of ego, more than I could give myself. You’ve got giant brass balls knocking together in your oversized Levi’s to think that you deserve anything at any time in your life. You deserve to be treated with respect and fairly, that’s it, but you’re only going to get that if you give it in return. I made a choice for myself: I can’t deal with this process, so I took myself out of the equation, I didn’t try to shame folks into giving me a chance. Now I can handle it, and I’m back, and I’m positive that one day I WILL be published. I’m also sure that if I act like an unprofessional asshole, the only way I’ll get published is if I do it myself.

And that brings us back to professional, my dear darling dope. Your little note was the opposite of professional. If you want to get ANYWHERE in life, you’re going to need to change that attitude, because ain’t no one got time for a person who can’t treat them with the same courtesy.

Seafoam out. Leave your business card on my desk, I’ll have my people call yours.

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