Thursday, August 29, 2013

Professional relationships Or: Always tell someone she has manure on her face

In vet med, we have what's called the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (or VCPR for short).  This is exactly what its long-winded name describes - the bubble that contains your vet, your pet, and you and it is necessary in order for your vet to properly assess your pet, make a diagnosis, and start treatment.  It exists a lot in part to prevent folks from diagnosing disease over the phone (or over the internet) for an animal he/she has never ever seen.  It helps ensure your vet is familiar with your pet's medical history and in many states, a VCPR is legally required for a veterinarian to diagnose and dispense medication. 

What this VCPR looks like differs between vets and between clients. There's a different bubble for everyone. For many small animal practitioners, the bubble exists in the exam room while he/she flips through your pet's records, asks you questions about medical history, and then proceeds with the physical exam.  For large animal practitioners, the bubble exists on the farm while he/she asks the farmer about how he manages his herd, looks at the herd and facilities, and, if lucky, drinks some lemonade or has a cookie that's been brought out by a family member.

Take note: the best clients are those who serve food and drink
These are professional relationships that exist to benefit and protect the animal.  But it's true that some clients become good friends with their vets.  And that's totally fine.  We should enjoy our jobs and be friendly with people when we can.  This got me thinking about professional relationships in the writing world and that naturally led me down the path of the writer-literary agent relationship.

Now, reader be warned, the rest of what you are about to read is pure speculation.  I do not currently have an agent (if you know of one who'd like to represent an awesome, brilliant, creative, hilarious, insightful, industrious, beautiful, and humble aspiring novel writer, please send them my way....).  I'm just imaging what I'd like my working relationship with an agent to be like, and this vision is probably WAY off because, for starters, it's based on what I've seen on TV.

Basically, I'd like an agent-writer relationship similar to the one in Showtime's Californication: Hank Moody (writer) and Charlie Runkle (agent).  Both characters of course have faults, actually numerous nasty faults, but their relationship is fun and self-deprecating.  They are best friends and through the trials and tribulations of everything that is the show, they work together.

Yup, just me and my agent, BFFs
However, I am aware that this is not usually how the whole writer-lit agent thing goes.  Numerous blogs tell me so.  And Twitter.  And magazine articles.  Something tells me most literary agents don't have the time to be a writer's best friend (so, you see it's merely a time thing, not a personal thing, right?).  I understand.  No really, I do.  Just like I don't have time to be BFFs with every single client of mine, right?

So....ok.  When I get one of my various writing projects to a point where I'm ready for representation I'll try to keep the VCPR in mind.  I won't expect anything above what I would normally provide in a VCPR.  But I will say this: there are clients out there who will tell you you have manure on your face and there are clients who won't.  I'm friends with most of the clients who tell me like it is and won't let me drive off their farm with a brown splat of who-knows-what (ok, we usually know what it is in my line of work) on my cheek or in my hair.  Some even help get it off.  I guess that's what I'd really like in a writer-literary agent relationship too.  Someone to call you on your shit and help you with it.  Is that too much to ask?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Update on the Book Club

I hinted in a blog a couple months ago that I was starting a book club at work.  Since then, I've held two meetings (we meet once a month) and am pleased to announce SUCCESS!
First let me say that I had purely selfish reasons for starting this club.  I've never been a member at any other book club and that's for the following reasons:

1. book clubs were never reading books I wanted to read
2. they seemed filled with old ladies with nothing better to do than psychoanalyze the many possible reasons why Charlotte Bronte chose to kill Mr. Rochester's crazy wife in a house fire.  Ug.

I'm sure I'm totally off base here, but this is pretty much what I envisioned a book club to be
And yet I really wanted to join a book club.  One of my most favorite-est things to do is discuss a book I've read with someone else (preferably who has also read the book).  So, in the spirit of "my way or the highway" I started my own club so I can secretly (or not so secretly) have control over the books we read.  Is that a little creepy?  No, don't tell me.

Creepiness aside, our first book was The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  It was great.  Most everyone in the group is a veterinarian or associated with vet med, so a book narrated by a dog was a big hit.  We laughed, we cried, we had a rollicking good time. 

Then onto the next month.  I sung the praises of Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell, which I read this past February.  Folks thought the premise of this novel sounded interesting (and who wouldn't: set in the Everglades in Florida in a failing gator-wrestling tourist attraction) and thus it was decided: Book #2.

I began hearing murmurings of dissent soon afterward.  Swamplandia! is a heavy read and putting it right after the fairly quick read of Stein's novel, it feels even more toilsome.  Even I'll admit that.  People were complaining.  They said they couldn't finish it in time.  They didn't like it.  It was too depressing.  I was fearing rebellion.

This is where I learned Book Club Lesson #1: not everyone has to like every book all the time. 

As a colleague who is not in the Book Club but was listening to my concerns of burning pitchforks said: "They'll get over it.  It'll be good for them."  And she was right.

The second meeting went just as well as the first.  Sure, there were people who didn't like the book.  But it added to the discussion.  People brought up points that I, in my blinded love for everything that is Karen Russell (MY GOD have you read Vampires in the Lemon Grove yet???), had not considered.  Some points I didn't agree with but that's the point - we TALKED.  We DISCUSSED.  We had a rollicking good time.

Next month (actually now in a few weeks here - time flies, and all that), we're reading George Orwell's 1984.  We all agreed we didn't remember a thing about that book when we were forced to read it in high school, so a revisit seemed like a good idea. 

And this is where I've come to learn Book Club Lesson #2: there is no "I" in "book club".  Notice the previous paragraph where I said "we"?  By golly, I've got myself a little democracy going on - we voted and everything!  I mean, surely I guide selections from which to choose, but still - it's the group choice at the end.  My totalitarian hand will only crack down in two instances: if someone suggests the Twilight series or 50 Shades of Grey.  Only then will Anna's Iron Curtain fall down.