Beyond the Smoke
Terry Burns

Terry Burns is an agent with Hartline Literary as well as writing inspirational fiction. As a writer he has over 40 books in print including 10 novels. He has a new 4 book series from Port Yonder Press entitled “The Sagebrush Collection” of his collected short works and the first released March 2010 entitled “On the Road Home.” A Young Adult entitled Beyond the Smoke won the Will Rogers Medallion and a new book “A Writer’s Survival Guide to Publication” also from Port Yonder Press was developed out of the month long course he held for ACFW. A popular speaker at workshops across the country, a bookstore of his available works as well as a regular blog is at As an agent Terry says "I'm looking for a good book, well written in a unique voice, aimed at a market that looks promising, and where I feel I have the contacts appropriate to be able to sell the book in that market. I’m pretty open as to genre but I don’t do children’s, sci fi or fantasy. He’s a member of the Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR).

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Experience Is The Best Teacher

I used to be active in our local writing group, to the point that I was a two-time president of the organization. Unfortunately, these days I nearly always have a place to be, or I’m working conferences and events, when their meetings occur. But that’s beside the point.

As a result of sitting in on several writing classes and crit groups, and talking with other writers, I amassed such a level of knowledge and confidence that I began to teach in the group. The information I shared was eagerly received.

Then came the fateful day when a best-selling author gave a presentation. He also sat in on my session for beginners. After it was over he said to me privately, “You don’t really believe all that garbage you were handing out, do you?”

Well, yeah . . . I did.

I was stunned. We went to dinner that evening and talked for a long time. I came to understand two things. First, I had ceased to learn and started to teach; and second, I was getting all of my input from writers who didn’t know any more about the craft than I did. We shared opinions with one another until we came to accept it as truth. I gave up teaching until I could be sure of my subject matter and believe what I was saying was accurate.

Nobody has a handle on exactly how things work in this business. Every time I tell a group that in my experience something works a certain way, someone is sure to point out that some highly successful person did it just the opposite with phenomenal results. There is always the exception that proves the rule.

I’m not a gambler, but I understand playing the odds. If most of the time certain actions produce certain results, I feel no need to buck the trend and do the opposite, hoping that I can be successful where others are not.

Everyone has something to teach, and I try to be open-minded to it all. But am I more likely to learn from someone who has had significant success, or from someone who has studied and possesses a lot of information but has no results? That was me,

I knew a lot, but much of it turned out to be a collection of opinions rather than proven success. I was blind and leading the blind.

I teach again now, with many years of experience under my belt. But I don’t just teach. I try to constantly learn, because teaching without learning is only passing on stagnant information about a fast-changing business. And I tell those taking my classes and workshops that while I am confident that the information I pass on is accurate, there is always another way to do everything.

Be wise and filter and assign weight to teachers based on how likely they are to know the truth of what they are saying. I surely try to do that.


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