The Agent Part II

        The phone rang in my Nashville hotel room.  “O.K., Bibey.  It’s time for serious discussion.”

        Dang, it was The Agent.  The voice, seasoned by years of whiskey and cigar smoke, sounded like a man who gargled hickory nuts as he spoke.  I’d recognize it anywhere.  I met him once before.  It was late at night at the Galax Old Time Fiddler’s Convention.  It had been over a year since he looked at my first rough draft and agreed to take me on if I followed certain guidelines.  Since then we had communicated by e-mail or a messenger at times.  He agreed to a second meeting- I saw it as a good sign.

        “Sure boss.  Where do we meet?”

        “Train Station, dark-thirty.”

        “Not the airport?  You ain’t gonna fly in?”

         “Good Lord son, ain’t no Agent ever represented any Southern writer and flew around on airplanes.  Don’t forget that.  If a man tells you he can sell a story about the South and travels by air he’s an impostor.  Think about it.  Didja ever hear any writer try to wax poetic about a tarmac?  Hell no.  Train whistles, now that’s different.  I can work with that.”

        “Hm, I hadn’t thought about it I guess.”

        “Well it’s true.  No hobo ever hopped a U.S. Air, either.  There ain’t one ounce of Southern literature about commercial aircraft so it you’ve got any of that in the Mandolin Case, better get it out.

        “Well, no sir.  Matter of fact we ain’t got an airport in Harvey County, so not to worry.”

        “Good.  Now listen here.  I’m gonna look different.  After you posted that picture I had women from all over the country chasing me, so I had to shave.”

       “That one that got after you with the tennis shoe find you, boss?”

        “Shut up Bibey.  No pictures, ya hear me?!”

        “Yes sir.”  I hung up and headed for the train station.

        Dark thirty.  I was right on time.  I went back to the Club Car as instructed.

        The Agent stood up to shake hands.  “Have a seat Bibey.”  He poured up an OBAN.  

        “So what did they say in New York?”  I asked.

        “They said you were so country they couldn’t understand some of what you said.  You have no credentials.  They couldn’t figure out how you wrote it.  It has it’s flaws, but at the same time they thought it was a hell of a story.”

        “You think it’ll sell?”

        “It has a chance, at least with me as your Agent.  You gotta know the big city, and I’ve got it wired.  Here are your instructions.”

        I opened the envelope and unfolded the notes.  “Back story?  I think I understand.”  A year ago back story was a herniated nucleus pulposis.  Man, had my life changed.  “Tell me about that.”

        “As you do your last revision, I want you to flesh out the characters on the blog.  Your readers may recognize some of them or know some of the Mandolin Case and remember a detail you forgot.  I want this story to stand the test of time.  You can’t get a single detail wrong.  You need to know what kinda smokes these people like, their shoe size, what movies they prefer- everything.

        “I know ‘em better than anyone, Boss.”

        “I’m sure you do, but you need to down-load brain to blog to where everyone else will too.  If you’re gonna immortalize ‘em then you better get it right.  The fiction history book demands no less.” 

        “The fiction history book?”

         “Yeah, I’m writing it.  And whatever you do, don’t give up my address.  I’m gonna winter in New York anyway, but I don’t need every nut in the country chasing me.”

        “I guess one of me is enough.”

        “Mercy, Bibey.  I think so.”

        “You know Boss, all I ever wanted was a chance to show what I believe to be true with my story.”

        “You’ve shown me that, Bibey.  I believe in you.  Now I want the rest of the world to see it too.  If you get the revision right, I’ll do my best.  No promises, though.”

         “I”ll do my best.”

        “See me in three months.  Atlanta.  I have to meet there there with Charles Thombley.  He’s a negotiator.  He’ll monitor your blog along with me for the next quarter.”

        “Hey I think I know him.  His people made a fortune down there in real estate futures right after Sherman came through.”

        “That’s the one, Bibey.  I only deal with the best.”

        “Hey boss, does that mean you think I’m the best?”

        “Hell no, Bibey.  You’re my project.  But, you have become a good writer.  And you have a great story.  I’d rather have a good writer with a great story than a great writer with a lousy story.  Write character back story on the blog.  Start with your next post and keep at it till the first of the year.  I think you’ll get there, but don’t give up your day job.”

         “Yes sir.”

         Heck I like being a Doc anyway, so I was sure I could follow his advice about the day job.  We don’t have an airport in the County, but if we did I wouldn’t fly when I went to Atlanta, either.  I never liked to fly anyway, and now I realized it qualified me to be a Southern Lit guy, I wasn’t about to start.

        Come next post, I’m gonna follow his advice and start to show y’all all about my people.  If you spot something I’ve missed let me know.  In a way my book reflects what I believe about life- we’re all in it together.  If I get published someday, my agent and you guys deserve a lot of the credit.  I’d a never gotten this far without you.

Dr. B

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12 Comments on “The Agent Part II”

  1. Amber Says:

    Your agent sounds like quite the character! You should ask his permission if you could do some tinkering of your blog design – make it a little more you.

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Amber,

    I think we’re gonna do that with the web site which will link into the blog. I am still designing it. One concept we are considering is asking folks to send pictures that look like the people they have read about. Right now no one has send a better one of Tom Bibey that that weary farmer photo- I still plan to use it.

    Dr. B

  3. Cindy Carter Says:

    All this “cloak and dagger” stuff. Honestly! I would think the “agent” would love the attentions of some “nice” woman! Specially a southern one!

    Can’t wait to start the reading.

  4. drtombibey Says:

    Ms Cindy,

    I think it just got to be too many of ‘em for the Agent.

    Now me, I’m a one woman man, but I do know a bunch of ladies who are friends- I work with twelve at the office and I get along with all of them.

    I think you might be from N.C. As you read, if you think you have seen some of my characters, send in a photo- we might do some of the web design with the ones who look the most like the real folks.

    Dr. B

  5. mrschili Says:

    Something my students can’t seem to grasp is that it’s important for the reader to get a feel for who characters are – even if the character is the author (as was the case with my students’ first essay – a personal narrative in which they were asked to describe how they’ve changed, grown, and matured). We readers need to really KNOW the characters – to understand them in ways that we come to on our own; it’s not enough for the author to just TELL us something – in order for us to care enough to invest in the story.

    Case in point – the other day I told my writing class a (true) story about Beanie. We were in a clothing store and she was angered by a woman who had unfolded a sweater, held it out to look at it, decided she didn’t want it, and crumpled it up into a ball and threw it back on the shelf. Bean – all of nine years old – went around behind the woman and re-folded the sweater (as best she could – it was bigger than she was) and put it back neatly.

    After I told the story, I asked my students to give me adjectives to describe my daughter. They FILLED the blackboard with beautifully descriptive words that really nailed my kid’s personality – observant, polite, considerate, mature, anal, courteous, and on and on. Then I asked them if I actually USED any of those words. Twenty-three light bulbs went off. I SHOWED them my daughter – they came to the character assessment on their own.

  6. Ted Lehmann Says:

    I’m sittin’ here in Roxboro listening to Garrison Keillor do an episode of Guy Noire with Lost and Found drifting through the window of our trailer while I read your blog, and I’m all confused. My world contains too much crossover already. Can’t wait to read the back stories. The agent may not actually exist except on Prairie Home Companion, but if you trust him, I’m willing, too. Keep it up. – ted

  7. Smitty Neuse River Pres. Says:

    Doc, all I can say is that this is going to be fun. I can’t wait to read some of this character stuff.

  8. drtombibey Says:

    mrschili,

    When I read your post I was struck by how similar your thoughts are to what my agent has to say about taking the book to the next level by Jan 1.

    I have come to the conclusion I am nothing but a big kid, but I share their sense of joy about it all, so that may save me.

    Dr. B

  9. drtombibey Says:

    Smitty,

    I am on the last leg of the start of my journey. When I return to Saltillo I will have a book in hand.

    My agent asked me what my financial goals were. I told him if I sold enough to where 15% was good enough for him to keep me, and to make gas money to Saltillo and Ole Miss and back home it was all the success I could dream of as a writer.

    Dr. B

  10. drtombibey Says:

    Ted,

    I’ll start the back stories on the next post. Man, I have all trust in you. If I write nonsense call my hand, cause you and mrschili are the pros. But like in music and golf, sometimes the amateurs have all the fun. And I am having a bunch of that on the journey.

    Dr. B

  11. Billy Says:

    I thought you would like to see what was on our local TV station.

    http://www.tsgnet.com/pres.php?id=370617&altf=Es41Upn&altl=Cjcfz

  12. drtombibey Says:

    Billy,

    Oh my goodness. And they said it was a man no one had ever seen too!

    Dr. B


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