Funny You Should Ask is a humorous and handy column by literary agent Barbara Poelle. In this edition, she offers tips for remaining supportive of your more successful writer friends when they achieve your goals.
Dear PB & J,
The publishing path is like a game of Plinko on “The Price Is Right”: You all have the same chip to drop in, but it won’t take the same course to its destination. Try to find the confidence to assert that your boots are exactly where they need to be on your path. Know, too, that those chips can take a sudden wild hop—for better or for worse. One day you and your friend may have switched places, so it’s wise to act the way you hope he might if and when that time comes.
You can’t ever truly control a reflex of envy, but here are some hypothetical scenarios to keep you self-aware, outwardly projecting more of the PB (Positive Buddy) and less of the J.
Jelly: A friend emails to say the manuscript she sent out on Friday has an offer of representation. It’s Monday.
PB: Burn a printed copy of that email over the kitchen sink while hissing, “So glad I got that MFA.” Then return to the computer and type, “Huge congrats! Let me know if you want to Skype with wine tonight so we can run through your list of questions to ask the agent.” Bonus: It’ll help you prep for your own eventual call, too.
Jelly: You’ve sold two books for $10,000 each. Your friend’s debut just banked $250,000. Each. For a trilogy.
PB: Scream into a throw pillow until your spouse offers to take the kids out for dinner. When the house is quiet, call your friend and say, “My envy is as green as the Kate Spade bag you will buy me for having helped you revise your earlier drafts.” Then trade ideas for stops on her book tour.
Jelly: Your friend hit The New York Times list the week she debuted.
PB: Place your friend’s book in the driveway and back over it. Then text him: “WOW! So happy for you! And for me, too, because now I know a bestseller who will blurb my book!”
It’s OK to acknowledge the green-eyed monster—just don’t let him linger. Consider it fuel for the fire—then get back to focusing on your own Plinko chip.WD
ASK FUNNY YOU SHOULD ASK! Submit your own questions on the writing life, publishing or anything in between to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Funny You Should Ask” in the subject line. Select questions (which may be edited for space or clarity) will be answered in future columns, and may appear on WritersDigest.com and in Writer’s Digest magazine.