Eighteen Years Ago Today...
...my fabulous editor, Gail Chasan, bought my first Harlequin, a women’s fiction novel, OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW, and made my dream come true. Last month, she bought my 39th book for Harlequin. Not only is she an amazing editor, but she is also a cherished friend and a truly good person with the biggest heart. She is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.
I love to tell this story about Gail because it perfectly showcases her warm, generous spirit: Years ago -- maybe twenty?? -- I attended a writing conference. I hadn't sold my first book yet and I was starry-eyed and full of hope. One of the best things about events like that is you have the opportunity to meet editors who might be interested in publishing your work.
While writers are encouraged to introduce themselves to industry professionals, there are common-sense rules – be polite, feel free to make small talk if you see an editor out in the wild (as long as she or he is not otherwise engaged), but NEVER make an unsolicited project pitch – especially not in the restroom (there’s an urban legend about a clueless author pitching a project to an editor while she was in the bathroom stall).
I was on my way down to the hotel lobby to meet friends for dinner. When I stepped into the elevator, there was one person inside (not Gail, but another publishing professional). I said, “Hello.” The woman mumbled a greeting. If I'd read the room I would’ve stopped there, but I didn't. I asked, “Are you having a good conference?”
This time she didn’t answer. She scowled at me as if I had committed an unpardonable sin and turned her back on me. I couldn’t imagine I had broken a cardinal rule by trying to make polite conversation, but it didn’t matter because she got off on the next floor. In her defense, conferences can be stressful. I can imagine that editors and agents might feel like everyone wants a piece of them. You never know what someone is going through – she might’ve had a crappy day or she could’ve received some bad news. Who knows? Clearly, she didn’t want to talk to me.
Even though I tried not to take it personally, at the moment, it felt awful to get the cold shoulder. She made me feel as if I’d committed the biggest faux pas a writer could commit and I would dethrone the bathroom project-pitcher as the most clueless, boorish noob in the industry.
As grumpy professional exited the elevator, warm, lovely Gail stepped inside. I knew who she was, but she didn’t know me. I vowed that I would smile, but I would only speak if spoken to because I do not make the same mistake twice.
As the elevator doors closed, it was just Gail and me. Not only did she smile back, but she engaged me in conversation. We exchanged compliments about our dresses. She asked me where I was from and if I was having a good conference. She was so nice and I was so grateful I wanted to hug her – BUT I DIDN’T. As we exited the elevator into the lobby and went our separate ways, little did I know that one day – maybe two years later? - she would buy my first Harlequin.
Happy "bookiversary," Gail! Here's to many, many more years.