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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Law School Professors, Agents, and Friends

At the end of my first semester of law school, we took final exams over the course of a week. How this differed from college and high school was that our law school final exams were our only grade. There were no quizzes or tests before that. Just one big final that lasted hours after four months of cramming information into our brains and then summarizing it in "outlines" that were a hundred pages long. I knew the information. I was going to ace this. I, like many of my Emory cohorts, entered law school with an enormous amount of confidence. We who graduated top of our class in high school and college. We who believed we would excel at whatever we did. We who carried enough hubris to cloud our vision of reality.

Until I got my contracts exam back. Professor Abrams had peppered it with red marks and topped it with a giant "78." A 78? I didn't get 78's. I didn't get "B's." I stormed up the steps to the third floor and right into Professor Abrams office. A short man with a proclivity toward bowties, he had a stare that stopped you cold. When I crossed the threshold of his office and met his gaze, my self-righteous indignation fled through my shoes. Recognizing my deer-in-the-highlights shock, he motioned me in. "Professor Abrams, I reviewed my contracts exam and I'm not sure why I got a 'C.'" He took my Blue Book from me and spent a few minutes going over the plethera of red streaks. Defeated, I asked, "What did I get right?" I'll never forget his response: "The parts that don't have any red on them."

Trying to get the attention of an agent feels frighteningly reminiscent of my afternoon in Professor Abrams office. Most everyone at Emory Law was bright. Some were even freakishly brilliant. We'd all spent most of our academic lives being praised for our efforts. Now, excellence was presumed. We could only improve if our errors, rather than our successes, were the focus. There are thousands of great manuscripts out there waiting to be discovered, and only a handful will make the cut. Hubris, entitlement, and expectation are unaffordable liabilities. No matter how many times I revise The Beauty of Grace, I always see room for improvement. I can't--and don't--expect an agent to sign me. I must simply continue to work at it and shoot for the stars in the hopes that someone will take a chance on me. I love my friends dearly and they've been incredibly supportive. Many have read my manuscript and given me sincere and reassuring words of encouragement. But I need red marks and brutal honesty. If I ever do get an offer of representation or *little prayer* a book contract, I know that will be the beginning, not the end. There are many more red marks in my future and I welcome them.

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