(image courtesy swallace99)

“Solicit” sounds salacious and illicit.  It’s word redolent of streetwalkers and door-to-door salesmen.  But it also means “to ask” and asking doesn’t have to be nasty, does it?

For example, what if writers were solicited?  Even unknown writers, I mean.  I know, I know–I’m talking crazy-talk, but just humor me for a second.  

What if this old slush-pile-on-an-agent’s-desk thing is a dead fish?  I bet even the agents would agree that their giant, rotten slush-piles are just not working.  

What if writers made their writing public (on a blog or a social network or Tumblr, for example) where publishers could find them?  

Couldn’t publishers devise a better way of trolling what’s out there to find what they’re interested in? (Search engines, hunts for clever keywords, a smart and connected group of “friends” who “like” good stuff… they could team up with WordPress, they could follow trends, I don’t know, but maybe clever people could find a way.) (For those of you who argue that publishing should not be a popularity contest, let’s not kid ourselves.) 

I know, it’s a dream, a delerious fantasy.  But I also know it’s possible, because Hugh Behm-Steinberg, the faculty editor for ElevenEleven, the literary journal by California College of the Arts, solicited me. Yes, that’s right, he wrote me an email asking me to submit a piece of prose.  I don’t know how he found me but he did and now my story Down River is included in their 12th issue.  (Please excuse me for repeating this but I just can’t believe it’s true.)

What is the opposite of “slush-pile”? What’s an antonym for nasty, salacious groveling?

It’s a breath of fresh air, a civilized, pleasant exchange. Just think of all the time, pain, binge-drinking, nail-biting, head-banging, and drudgery that was avoided by this simple, elegant twist. And my blog is not particularly popular.  

Is there hope for us all or am I just dreaming?  


About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. You are so deserving. It is grand that you are being recognized for your wonderful writing. Congratulations.

  2. I love that picture.

    I have also been solicited. It was quite delightful – and the initial solicitation, for an excerpt of my novel, has lead to further interest (but nothing to write home about yet). It happened through twitter, possibly because my blog operates mostly below the radar. So I can recommend that, despite twitter being yet another time suck if one is not careful.

    IMO, It wouldn’t be agents for the most part searching out for new talent – it would be their interns. Agents don’t really have the time in their day, I think. I love the idea of the light descending on the unsuspecting blogger…but, as an intern, wading the slush pile, though it was quite a slog, it also brought on a kind of holy, readerly desperation, a wish to see the goodness in the subs, just to have some hope left that the writers are out there. The list of recommendations was always much longer than the agent I was giving them to really wanted. But I thought it only right, to give everything the fullest chance I could.

    • On Twitter? Wow. I only have one foot in over there, but your comment is very compelling. I’ll have to give it another try.

      I guess I’m imagining a world without agents, probably because I don’t have one and therefore don’t really know what one might do for me. From here, they just seem like another impossible hurdle. And it never occurred to me that there might be someone in that office experiencing a readerly desperation to match my writerly angst. I’d love to hear more about your internship. What was that like? Did you ever discover anyone I might know in the pile? How often did you find gems? Did you blog about this and I missed it?

      Fingers crossed for you.

      • I didn’t really blog about it, because I’m not anonymous and I wouldn’t be able to truthfully tell about the experience. It was wonderful though, the first office I’ve worked in and not wanted to fling myself out of the window – it was all light and plants and lovely people, and I’m sure that thanks to the internship I managed to learn how to finally write a professional cover letter and synopsis, which has had a huge impact on my career.

        I didn’t always find gems, but there were usually one or two a week that could have, with much revision, made novels or memoirs, that spoke truth, even if not always with the most eloquence. Plenty that were terrible of course, but they didn’t matter. The near-misses always struck me. The books that seemed not quite there, and I wished I could write back to the authors with some advice, or just, keep at it, give it time. But you can’t do that,

        I did find one bright, actual gem, actually. I don’t want to give too much away here – just that it was a beautifully written American family saga following in the wake of a death, and that I loved it, and when I took it to the agent I was working for that morning, he told me he couldn’t sell it, because it couldn’t be easily summarised in a sentence, and thus would not sell, in the hunkered down market.

        Yes, I was that intern with the broken heart. I am sure there are more like me out there. Agents too. The people handling the submissions are there because they care about literature. They may have different tastes, they may grow weary of slush after a time, but what motivates them is love of books, the passion of first discovery.

        • Picturing you, Helen, and people like you as the ones wading through the slush pile makes the whole process a bit more friendly-feeling. I’m not going to do it again in the near future, but perhaps I’ll revise my view of the past.

          Helen– it seems like you write about writing on your blog, but do not show your WIP. Or perhaps I joined too late to see it? I wonder what your policy is about this– as an insider.

          • Well, I have put up the first draft of the first paragraph somewhere, but at the moment it’s just not terribly polished, not really worth sharing.

            I have put up the first couple of paragraphs from Kilea, my first novel, and that excerpt is still on Necessary Fiction, but I was always wary of doing more on my own. My understanding was that blogging is a form of publishing, and that while the copyright still belongs to me, There may be some legal wrangling involved for any publishers who are interested, if it is over a certain percentage (I’m not sure how much, maybe 10%) then it’s harder to work with somehow? I’m not exactly sure. But I sort of worked around the idea of not giving too much away, just in case.

  3. TheOthers1

    Thinking about being solicited as a writer brought to mind a storyline. I shall go and write that now. 🙂

    • It’s enough to give one the good bumps, isn’t it? If you write it, can we see it?

      • TheOthers1

        Sure. I’m not sure how it’s going to sound because my mind thought bout literally being solicited, midnight phone calls, and illicit affairs. Well, not inappropriate at this point.

        • That’s exactly where my mind goes every time I “submit” to the slush pile. A dark, dirty place. I look forward to reading you!

          • TheOthers1

            lol. I love how you use the word submit in quotes. Interesting. I make no promises on how it’s goodness, but I’ll link back here whatever I manage.

  4. It’s a great feeling getting an email from an editor soliciting work and providing a personal email address so you can skirt the slush pile. It’s happened a couple of times, including just last week. And like you and the commenters, I’m not sure how they found my blog either. So people are looking. Used to be agents would read literary journals and solicit new talent from there. It would be great to see that practice expand to the blogosphere. Probably 99% of what comes in the slush pile deserves its name, so it’s in the best interest of agents to seek out and solicit writers.

    • I wonder how they do it. Find us, that is. It must be a well-guarded trade secret.

      Have you ever heard of a blogger finding an agent via their blog? It’s certainly in agents’ best interest, but I’m not sure if it’s done. I’d be curious to hear.

  5. My work has never been solicited but I’m thrilled to bits that it’s how your story came to be published. It DOES seem civilized! Pleasant and professional and completely wonderful.

  6. I love this dream and I want to dream it with you.

    I’m glad that Hugh Behm-Steinberg solicited your writing. He found you somehow and saw what your readers see. The first may have to do with luck. The second, of course, is all you and your talent. I come here because the view your writing shows me of the world enhances mine. I come to see what happens next, and as a writer, I come to learn. I’m glad you’re here now. I hope you go far.

  7. Yes! Dreams for all and mojo to you!

    I do wish I knew how he found me, though. Then I could tell all my friends what to do.

    (I hope his ears aren’t burning after today. Is it terribly unprofessional to mention him by name? If I had an agent, s/he could stop me from committing faux pas.)

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  9. You are the best and deserve this and much more. Just so we’re clear on this one thing though: binge-drinking is not to be completely ruled out, even if and when one is successful, right? “How bad can a girl get?”, indeed.

    • Oh, you can bathe in booze if you want. Champagne, even. And if we ever achieve real success, we’ll buy drinks for the world, right? (Did success ever cure anyone’s problems, I wonder?)

  10. Anna, that is wonderful, congratulations!

  11. congrats on the pub. you deserve more soliciting–even if you don’t love the word.

  12. Oh Anna! How wonderful! You go girl!! You are an amazingly gifted and very creative writer and you need to be published all over the place. I can almost feel the warm fuzzy feeling of being ‘solicited’, and yes, it’s definitely the opposite of nasty here. 🙂

    • Thanks, Munira! Warm and fuzzy for sure.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about power dynamics and it seems to me, the solicitor must always feel subservient, in a way. If you have something valuable, then you don’t have to ask others to want it, but if you have something sub-par or common, you have to grovel a bit and perform tricks to inflict desire. When people advertise themselves (personal injury lawyers, for ex., or politicians) a side effect of the ad is always a commoditization and a lessening of value. I wonder how it got turned around for writers– because there are so many of us out there, but still, the pride one might feel is sapped every day and so many writers feel impotent and valueless and even shame for trying. It’s sad.

  13. what a wonderful thing to happen to a writer, in this case – you. congratulations. continue…

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  15. congratulations – sorry for the silence – my computer had you in trash 😦

  16. Well, I am sometimes a little trashy. Thanks, Carla!

  17. Congratulations, and how exciting!!

    I miss being a short drive away from you! Weird, but I feel it!

    Your photo reminds me of this trashy-delicious book I bought some years ago. 🙂

    • There you are! I miss you, too! Every time I visit T.T. I think of you. And that book– woah–did you see the price tag? Who knew trashy stuff could be so pricey and is it as good as it looks?

      • Oh, I didn’t see that! How ridiculous. It’s a very satisfying book (and it actually takes a good bit of time to read, unlike many comics) — I’m glad I only had to pay $20, or whatever the normal price is for it! Funny how wild the prices get once something’s gone out of print.

  18. “delirious fantasy” – and I love it! Nice post

  19. CJ

    Congratulations on your invitation to publish and Yes the tumblr “find me” way is better than the slush pile. Though I haven’t been found yet I am developing a readership by gifting my actual work. Better than bitterness and rejection.

    • Thank you, CJ– I completely agree. I’m doing the same thing.
      The only thing I don’t understand about Tumblr is how to subscribe to you via email. I wish it made that easier. As is, I see you at Averil’s and remember that I want to check in to see what you’re doing. And if their mysterious methods are effective, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they all find you. I love what you write.

  20. CJ

    Thank you. I wish there were a built in post notification to the outside world from Tumblr too. But do delight in the daily parade of the dashboard there—displays everything and everyone I follow including a bunch or literary publications, great photographs and quirky gifs. Quirky gifs would be a good title for a Tumblr novel come to think of it.

  21. It was only a matter of time – your writing is superior to a lot of what’s out there. Well done, you deserve to be ‘solicited’ – which I’m assuming also means you get paid eh? I’m sure one day your name will even be published larger than your book title – sheesh, IMAGINE THAT!

  22. What a wonderful turn of events. I’m pleased for your fortune. Don’t worry too much about “how” he “found” you, for now. That he did, means you are doing something right. Already. Whatever it may be. Just keep doing what you are doing.
    But I do “get” the urge to know!
    (This post is very inspirational.)

    Consider this. What it is a solicitor in the UK does, for example. Does that help to raise the ambience of the word up from the gutter? Mayhaps. Or mayhaps not.


    • Thank you, Janet. It is very hard not to wonder how. I’m one of those people who like to think that I understand the rules of the game but you’re right, I can’t control it. Thank you for stopping by!

  23. I’m banking on the hope. Then again, maybe it’s not so simple as all of that.

    Either way, your logic seems sound and I endorse it fully.

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