Jan Flanders

As everyone who has not been dwelling under a rock for the past half century knows full well, Jan Flanders is a world-renowned expert on writing, editing, and publishing fiction. A bona fide member of the landed gentry dating back to the Jamestown, Virginia, settlement, and a magna cum laude graduate of Ms. Finicky’s Foundational Finishing School of Fiction for Well-Bred Females (FFFSFWBF), she resides with her three Angora cats in the heart of the deep South on the plantation, sadly diminished, where she was born and reared, and which her family has owned since the early 1700s. God forbid she should ever allow it to fall into the rapacious hands of any vile Northern carpetbagger! That will happen over her dead body. She is still mourning the lamentable outcome of the late War of Northern Aggression, and if you know what is good for you, you would be well advised not to bring up the subject unless you wish to have your ears pinned back. Rest assured that if anyone knows etiquette, it is our own Ms. Flanders, and she is doing you a favor by sharing her expertise.

Fiction Etiquette with a Southern Twist Twisted Southern

Just so we’re totally clear, our discussion in this column will center on the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette that govern the world of fiction publishin’ and your proper response to those Laws.

Well, good mornin’ class, er—that is, faithful readers. Ah see you have been mindful of your need to better yourselves by joining your own Ms. Flanders for further admonishment in the Sacred Laws of Fiction Etiquette. I commend your good sense.

Pardon me just one tiny moment while Ah indulge in another wee sip of my mint jul—sweet tea. Now that is most refreshin’. There’s nothin’ more bracin’ early in the mornin’ than the Confed—Southern national drink properly infused with mint—and of course, just a hint of lemon.

Isn’t it just hotter’n a pistol in here, honey lamb? Ah fear Ah am all aglow. Pardon me just one more time…

Now, where were we, dearie? Oh, yes. Now that Ah am properly hydrated, Ah am prepared to entertain this month’s question from one of our faithful readers.

Dear Jan,

I am just starting out in my career as a best-selling author. I plan to attend the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference next month. This is the first conference I have ever attended, and naturally I want to make the very best use of my time. What is the proper etiquette for approaching editors and agents at a conference in order to get that first contract of many.


Oh, honey, you most certainly are. First of all, please do not ever again fall into the fatal error of addressin’ moi with such familiarity or I shall have to give your knuckles a smart rap with my ruler. It is Ms. Flanders to you, and don’t you forget it. Now don’t stand there with your mouth hangin’ open, chil’. You’ll catch flies. Just take your seat and mind your manners. Bless your heart…

The proper etiquette for appoachin’ editors and agents is on your knees. Never ever forget that you are merely the hapless supplicant and they are the veritable gods of the publishin’ world. If you do not win their favor, you can kiss any hope of a publishin’contract good-bye as it flits by your pointy little nose.

Y’all must keep several things firmly in mind at all times. Most important, this event is for the benefit of those who so graciously give of their time to provide the likes of you with the information you need in order to progress from the basic workshops and continuing classes to the intermediate levels, and if you pay careful attention, perhaps eventually to upper level courses. Do not even think about applyin’ for the professional track. That is reserved for the best-sellin’ authors like John Grisham or Nicholas Sparks, two mighty fine Southern gents who also happen to be easy on the eyes. Ahem. It’s where they network and exchange their secrets of success. Your odds of reachin’ that exalted rank are worse than a snowball’s . . . um, well, your dear Ms. Flanders is a Christian woman, so let’s just say it’s highly unlikely.

Should you have the temerity to sit at the table of an editor, agent, or best-sellin’ author durin’ the meals, do not under any circumstances hog the conversation by runnin’ your mouth on and on about your work in progress. Believe me, darlin’, nobody

could care less. Your part is to worshipfully soak up the gems of wisdom that fall from your betters’ lips. And rest assured that you cannot gush your appreciation enough. Havin’ a passel of aspirin’ writers fawnin’ over you is one of the joys of bein’ on staff at a conference and makes the trouble these important folk go to worthwhile.

More points for y’all to ponder:

• When you pitch your project, keep your presentation as succinct as humanly possible. Do not blather. And if you encounter a lack of interest, do slink quietly away. There is nothin’ to be gained by annoyin’ the folk who hold the seats of power.

• The chairs at the head of the tables are reserved for your betters. Fight the temptation to bribe folk or pull their chairs out from under them so you can sit by that highly favored editor you’re hopin’ to impress. Such actions will bring you to ruin. Remember our dear Lord’s admonishment about takin’ the lowest seat in hopes you’ll be called up higher. Not that that’s likely to happen in your case. Bless your heart.

• And speakin’ of seats…the bathroom stall is inviolate. If you don’t know what that means, darlin’, why in the world are you goin’ to a writer’s conference in the first place? You’d better be studyin’ your dictionary instead.

• Last, but not least, flirtin’ with that adorable editor or agent is a conflict of interest and will result in nothin’ but trouble with a capital T. Keep your eyes and your hands to yourself, sweetheart.

We could discuss so much more but, alas, our column has reached its end. I trust you’ve gotten the drift. Just keep to your place, darlin’, and you’ll come away from the conference with a whole new appreciation for what a writin’ career is all about.

Next month we’ll consider why many Christian publishers decline to publish stories about real people doin’ real things. Now there’s a can of worms in need of serious admonishment.

Upcoming Topics

September: Why are Christian publishers so resistant to publishing edgy stories that portray real people in the real world?

October: If your publisher insists on putting the purple monstrosity cover on your book, what should you do?

November: Why do lightweight romance novels dominate the Christian market?