Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Eating Crow

[No, E.T. not Crowe—better luck next time.]

So my husband would tell you I always insist I’m right, and it’s true. At home, pretty much, I AM always right. And why on earth would I say I was wrong when I’m not, just to convince someone who insists I always need to be right that I don’t always need to say that? If I’m right, I stick to my guns.

But sometimes, if you make a mistake, it is best to just fess up.

A Painful Lesson

My first job out of college I worked at an advertising agency. It was an adrenaline rush of a job, fast paced and mostly satisfying, initially, because I was learning a ton, got to pretend I was rich from time to time (attend events for clients, that kind of thing). Then, 18 months in, the woman two spots above me on my account messed up… bad. She didn’t pay attention to expenses—planned parties that went way over budget… when we reconciled for the year, she was fired.

The guy above me and I were each promoted a slot (me, with some hesitation—I was very green), I became an Assistant Account Executive, BUT, I got dished the budget management for some unfathomable reason (except that I think it was easier to mostly train ME for HER job (with a few schmoozing exceptions), rather than have BOTH of us training for new jobs—plus, I was the excel pro, which when handling a three million dollar, line-item budget is helpful.

I watched expenses. I was careful with how we ordered things that were optional. I put my foot down when our corporate office tried to pass expenses off to my client that weren’t ours (or insisted that expenses that belonged split proportionately across all clients be split that way, rather than mine-the biggest-eating it). I did a good job. But my boss had a business meeting—it was for our client and the travel form said so, but when it was copied and kept in my file, it had part of the reason covered, so it LOOKED like she had done the travel for the corporation the client was part of, rather than the co-op (the co-op was our client—we had to coordinate with the corporation, but those expenses were on them).

I was 23. I was asked by the co-op treasurer what was up and I didn’t know. I said I’d find out, and I asked a question or two, but my boss was out of town and I didn’t get to the answer before the next meeting. I figured ‘I would get to it’ was good enough. At the meeting, he called out the agency because of this one piece of paper with a question mark hanging over it. I was SURE I was going to be fired, but we managed to get the original copy of the form overnighted from LA and show the treasurer to his satisfaction, but my boss was PISSED. She’d been humiliated at a meeting and it was my fault.

I learned my lesson. Just because something is uncomfortable and you are embarrassed, or you don’t know the answer or how to find it, avoiding it can only make it worse. Face it. Own it. Deal with it. It may be fixed, it may not. But I guarantee it will be better than if somebody finds out about it when you DIDN’T own it and try to fix it.

I live by that.

So Yesterday…

This isn’t nearly so dramatic, so you can all sit back down and relax, but it IS a little applied lesson…

I got my request, as mentioned… 75 pages, synopsis, author bio…

Well a ‘bio’ here at the University is pretty much a ‘relevant resume’—we send them with grants and sometimes manuscripts—it is the evidence you are qualified to do what you do. There is something SEPARATE we call a ‘narrative’. After reading last nights ‘author bio’ comments I realized what I really should have sent with my packet was the thing that I think of as a narrative.

And then it occurred to me… I can pretend I never learned, and look like it was an innocent mistake of a rookie (all true) or I can explain and send the right thing, showing growth.

So this morning I drafted an email, with a one paragraph ‘author bio’ that looks more like a book jacket blurb (Joris, I haven’t forgotten I owe you an amusing one—just sort of nuts at the mo, and that is hell on creativity). I think my email both explained, and was a little funny—I referred to my error as nincompoopery, which will either frighten or win over said agent. I also referred to the author bio I sent with the packet as the ‘decoy’.

I figure I’m a playful person, and an agent probably just ought to know that ahead of time because someone who can’t cope with that, isn’t a good fit, but I think the admission of error and immediate correcting speak well for working with me… or that is what I am hoping. Because mistakes happen. Better to fess up, fix it, and move on.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

[by the way, I had a second request yesterday afternoon--only a chapter, but better than a poke in the eye--so 2 requests for more and no refusals--that is the best rate I've had on a query round!  Send two more queries to celebrate)


Kassy with a K said...

So... I actually blogged about your blog today, Tami. :] I've only just started blogging so was unsure about sharing with anyone, but alas, since I have used your blog as inspiration, I figure it's a must. So, here I have rambled in (sort of) response to your post. :p

TreeX said...

And here I was hoping to keep it a surprise to the world at large, perhaps in the hope of drawing at least one comment along the lines of "hey, did you get published?!"... Guess not ;)

I'll still make you a beauty shot though, soon as the cat has been cuddled and releases my arms ;)

Jan Morrison said...

oy! my dad was a general in the armed forces here in Canada and he was the head of public relations. His biggest gripe was when organizations or folks didn't immediately confess to mistakes made. He said they could've done without all the highly expensive pr and spin doctors if they'd just say - oops, I messed up, I'll fix it. Sorry.

Watery Tart said...

I'm following you now Kas--how dare you start blogging in silence? Liked your blog!

Joris-Sorry! I didn't know we had a trick planned!

Jan--EXACTLY! But it's really hard to fess up, and if you never have HORRIBLE consequences of getting busted for not admitting it--there are just a lot of people who don't do it...

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Congratulations, Tami. Pumped fist and did happy dance already, but not on your blog.

And the author bio looks fantastic. Joris, you are a genius.