Revisions, Rejections, and How I Found My Lit Agent (Part III)

        I called. The secretary gave my instructions. “Meet him at the caboose behind the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Friday at 2:40.”

        “Why 2:40?”

        “Cause that’s what the boss says.”

        “Yes ma’am.”

        “He’ll be in New York all week. He likes to relax on Friday mornings  and write. 2:40.”

        “Got it.  Where’s the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”

        “Can you find Chattanooga?”

        “Yes, ma’am.”

        “If you find Chattanooga you can find the Choo Choo. Can’t miss it.”

        “Okay.”

        We came in from Nashville early. As we drove along by the river we heard music. Hey, a bluegrass festival.  I thought for a minute.  Must be Three Sisters. I’d read about it. We wandered through downtown and spotted a huge train on top of a hotel. Chattanooga Choo Choo. I stopped at the desk. “Pardon me ma’am, is that the Chattanooga Choo Choo?”

        She rolled her eyes. “Yes, sir.”

        “Room for two, non-smoking, Bibey’s the name.”

       She scrolled through her computer. “Yes, sir. Here you are.”

        “Where’s the caboose?”

        “Through that door, go by the gift shop. Follow the tracks. There is a picnic table right beside it.”

        “Thanks.”

        “Are you here to meet the agent?”

        “Yes, ma’am.”

        “He fires most of ‘em on the first meeting.”

        “Thanks, I guess.”

        Marfar kissed me bye. “Good luck.”

        “I wish you could come,” I complained.

        “He said come alone. No family.”

        “I’ll call.”

        I found the caboose and the picnic table. 2:38. I sat down. A band struck up in the distance. I checked my watch. 2:40. A gray-haired man in a tweed coat approached. He carried a large briefcase and sat in on the table. It was as battle-scarred as my mandolin case, and the corners were tattered so bad I thought it might break open. Several papers spilled out over the top. He stuck out his hand. “Bibey?”

        “Yes, sir.”

        He studied my features for a minute. “Say you want to be a writer?”

        “Yes, sir.”

        “Why would you want to do that?”

        “Why not?”

        He smiled. I got a sense he was working hard to try to be aloof. “You still have time to turn back, you know.”

        “It’s too late to turn back now.”

        He laughed. “You hear that band?”

        “Yes, sir.”

        “You said you were true bluegrass. Who is it?”

        Dang it, why didn’t I check the line-up? I listened for a moment. Someone broke into a nice fiddle break. Hm. Chattanooga. My mind drifted back to a jam session at John Hartford’s Christmas party years ago. I took a chance. “Hey that sounds like Fletcher Bright.” (Fletcher is a big Chattanooga real estate man; he knows everyone in bluegrass.)

        His smile broke into a broad grin. “Correct.” He pulled my resume out of the briefcase. “Tell me your story.”

        “What kinda word count you gonna give me?”

        “Brief. You’ll have to edit a lot. You use too many words.”

        “Yes, sir.”

        “Do you have to call everyone sir?”

        “Yes, sir. Mama taught me that way. All good southern writers love their mama. She was an English teacher.”

        “Go on.”

        “Okay. I’m a doctor. I saw a lot. I read in JAMA years ago where some professor said docs ought to write so people can know what it’s really like to be a doctor. I can’t tell people’s secrets, so it has to be fiction. Everyone’s always told me I should write a book.”

        “That’s what they all say.”

        “Well, I am proven commodity. You got your check, didn’t you?”

        “Yes.”

        “Do you have a blog?” he asked.

        “What’s a blog?”

        “Where are you from again?”

        “Harvey County.”

        “You have the Internet I presume.”

        “Yes, sir.”

       He looked over his glasses at the resume again. “Get your kids to show you how to set up a blog. Your readers will teach you how to write. If you don’t have one by our next meeting you’re fired.”

        “No tickee no washee?”

        His eyebrows raised. “I suppose.” He reached into the briefcase and retrieved my manuscript. “This isn’t too bad for an amateur. How many revisions have you done?”

        “At least twelve. I have a doctor friend who writes children’s books. He was an English major. And my daughter’s creative writing teacher helped me too. She thinks it has promise. Of course, all she has to compare it to is a bunch of testosterone poisoned teen-aged boys who ain’t got nothing on their mind but trying to get laid.”

        He laughed outloud. “I am sure it would be good for an “A” in Senior English, but this is a different game.”

        “Yes, sir. That’s why I need you.”

        “So how long do you think it will take for you to get there?” he asked.

        “I work off the ten-year plan. It takes ten years to get good at anything, be it doctor, musician, golfer, or writer. I started in 2000. I think we can get there in three more years.”

        He scratched his head. I wasn’t sure he was convinced.

        “I ain’t Twain, but I got no give up in me, sir.”

        “Tell me about loyalty,” he asked.

        “It’s one of the big themes in my book. I don’t just write it; I live it. Same wife, same kids, same nurses, same friends, doctor, dentist, mechanic, and barber. All I need is one agent.”

        “When some people break big they change.”

        “Well for one thing I’m not likely to break big. But if I do I won’t change.” I recalled how he groomed one writer only to have them leave once they found success. “If you’re my agent and someone from New York shows up with a million bucks they gotta give you your 15%.”

        “You been playing the lottery, son?”

        “No, sir. I’m clean. Not even a traffic ticket. Look, its like they told Monroe when he hit the Opry. If you’re gonna leave you gotta fire yourself. If you’re straight with me, I’ll never leave. It don’t matter whether I write in obscurity or it does a little something. I ain’t gonna change. You can count on it. Just ask my wife.”

        “I grew up in Texas. A man’s word is his bond there. Are you willing to shake on it?” He stuck out his hand.

        “Yes, sir.” We shook.

        “I’ll send a contract. It’ll be exactly what I said on the phone. Just don’t tell anyone about this. Every time I sign a new artist if they tell their friends I have to deal with all kinds people who all of a sudden decide they’re gonna be a writer.” 

        “Yes, sir.”

        When the contract came in I sent a copy to my lawyer. He said it was dead on; don’t change a word. It’s a good thing; I had already signed and returned it. We’d already shook hands on it, and I wasn’t gonna go back on my word. I had an agent.

        When I put it in the over night mail at the office the secretary at the time looked at the address. “Hey, Doc. Y’all gonna play Three Sisters out there?

        “They’re thinking about hiring us.”

        “Wow.”

        “Just don’t tell anybody. I don’t want to jinx it.”

        “Sure.” She drifted down the hall. “Hey Sue, didja hear Dr. B might play Chattanooga next year?”

        Oh well. The writer gig is like a slow motion horse race. I wasn’t ready to run, but they had let me out of the stall to trot around the warm-up ring. One of these years maybe I’d be at the starting gate. I had a notion my trainer knew the biz and wouldn’t settle for anything less.

Dr. B

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16 Comments on “Revisions, Rejections, and How I Found My Lit Agent (Part III)”


  1. A story like yours Dr. B can teach a person patience. My goodness. Good luck, thanks for sharing.

    Julie

  2. drtombibey Says:

    Julie,

    They say at the office that Doc is like old man river. He runs deep, but never gets in a hurry, and just keeps rolling along.

    Dr. B

  3. The Turning Point Says:

    The same guy has got me doing a blog. You’re so far ahead I can’t even see your tail in this writing/blog race. Ole scruffy briefcase keeps pointing to you as an example for me.

    great blog

    JF

    • drtombibey Says:

      theturningpoint,

      Keep digging man. I’m only a couple years out in front and in the big picture of eternity that ain’t nothing.

      Besides, when I run into pitfalls and potholes in the road I’m gonna let y’all know so you can take a detour and avoid ‘em.

      Dr. B


  4. I finally found the word that describes how I experience your writing – charming. I feel entertained, respected, and like I’m being let in on a secret. Really charming.

    It’s being in a courtship, Dr. B. I want this book.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Ms. Villars,

      I am humbled because I read your blog and you know what you are doing. My book will be out in June, and I hope to post a formal statement of a release date soon.

      I have genuine respect for women. Much of it goes back to my mom, my wife and daughter, and also the fine nurses I have worked along side of for decades.

      Also there was Tag. She was the tough lady in the book who saved my friend Indie’s professional a^^.

      Not there was one woman in the book who was bad news but only counterbalanced a man who was the same.

      Dr. B

  5. Billy Says:

    I stayed at the Choo-Choo a couple of years ago, but could not park my rig. Had to park it about two blocks away and walk to the Hotel. My wife and I wanted to stay in one of those train cars for our 20th anniversary they have.

    There were so many real images in this post I could not tell fact from fiction. From what I could tell you were really there. And I looked up Fletcher Bright, he really is a fiddle player and real estate man in Chattanooga. Somehow I feel you were showing me the truth. So maybe you really are getting published, maybe we will soon see a cover….maybe.

    • drtombibey Says:

      Billy,

      Fletcher Bright, like my agent, is a quite connected man. Tim O’Brien said Fletcher was one of the few bluegrass fiddlers he knew who showed up for gigs in his private jet.

      Dr. B


  6. I’m so happy to read the conclusion of the search – your agent sounds like a genuinely honest man, and tough is probably good in an agent, too.
    Now, look at this. It’s 2010 and you’re moving forward just like you thought you would. I’m glad for you, Dr. B :D.

    • drtombibey Says:

      slightly,

      We have worked together since that day and he has stuck to his word. (As have I.)

      In my next post I’ll tell some about that. In the post after that I plan to write of the final details of the book publication, and then there will be a short one on why I had to write it.

      After that I hope to be be able to give a tenative release date.

      I am now certain it will be available in June. Like you said, that is June of 2010. (You have followed my dreams a long time kid!)

      Dr. B

  7. Levonne Says:

    Dr. B,
    I loved your story. The dialogue is terrific. I love the pace and the story. Thank you for sharing that. I met with an agent once and I was so star struck that I could barely make sense! I had been trying so hard to just talk with one. He did not become my agent but it was because of the story I gave him (I think). Levonne

    • drtombibey Says:

      Levonne,

      Bless your heart. I am very moved when folks write in with a comment like that. I have looked at your blog and if you don’t have a bunch of folks who want to be your agent I bet you will soon.

      Around 2000 I was moved to write. Given my education and background as an adult has been as a doc a number of folks have asked me where all this came from.

      I tell them I am not sure except my mom read a lot of stories to me as a little boy. I stil remember getting the little blue ribbons in grade school for writing up stories.

      Maybe more than anything though it comes from years as a doc. I still like the doc gig and love the people. One of my favorite things is when we have a slow day and I get to pull up a chair in the exam room and say. “Tell me your story.”

      I don’t guess I’m gonna stop writing any more than I’m gonna stop playng my mandolin. When you guys write in those kinda comments it inspires me to journey on.

      Dr. B

  8. christicorbett Says:

    Such cloak and dagger! Such intrigue!

    Thanks for sharing,
    Christi Corbett

  9. drtombibey Says:

    christi, You ladies are all so intuitive! There is more to follow soon.

    Dr. B

  10. drtombibey Says:

    slightly,

    I can hardly believe it either. When they told me I thought of you. There were a couple times along the way when I thought it was so close only to have it not work out at the last minute. I know you got your hopes up for me too.

    Third time is a charm though. June 2010 is for real. I have been told I’ll have an ISBN number in a matter of days.

    I’ll keep you posted.

    Dr. B


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