Re: First Jobs

1

I spent the summer I was 16 working the bottling machine at the local vitamin factory. $5.50 an hour. One of my more fun jobs ever, it turned out. Later they moved me over to the shipping department, which was not as awesome.


Posted by: Brodysattva | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 3:34 PM
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My first non-babysitting job was bussing tables and doing kitchen prep (making salads, plating desserts, picking lobster meat from the shell for lobster salad) at a fish store/restaurant near my parents' beach house when I was thirteen or fourteen. I got paid twenty cents over minimum wage, in cash in an a little brown payroll envelope.

I'm still not crazy about lobster -- in the right mood it's delicious, but if I think about it wrong it makes me ill. Hours picking lobster meat out of the shell was profoundly nauseating.

(I wrote to a good friend of mine all about that job, and he wrote back with a silly poem incorporating everything I'd said about it. I think I still have the poem in a box someplace.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 3:49 PM
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Cart boy at a Waldbaums out on Long Island. I think I was 14. The parking lot sloped down toward the store like a huge bowl. I used to ride down a dozen or more at a time. It's a wonder I never hit a car.
People from some nearby apartment complexes used the carts to take their groceries home and leave them strewn around. My first week on the job the manager drove me around showing me and said that he wanted me to go and round them up once a week, and that it should take me about 3-4 hours. Of course it was almost always the same people who took them so once you figured out where they left them it was more like 30-45 minutes and the rest just free time to kill for me.

I worked at a Dairy Queen too. That was fun. There was always a lot of nitrous left in the dispensers after the whipped cream ran out so it was free whippets and lots of them.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:06 PM
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I started working at McDonald's. This was back when fucking huge sodas were a novel innovation.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:08 PM
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I think I got $3.35, which was a quarter over minimum wage.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:10 PM
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I had a high school job where I could plausibly have taken steps that would have caused panic throughout the region, required millions to stay indoors, caused millions of dollars in economic loss, and possibly brought out the national guard. I was too much of a pussy to try it though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:15 PM
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My first non-babysitting job was working a register at a Fuddrucker's. My father made me apply for a job literally everywhere we went for the last month of my senior year of high school. I was interviewed for a night shift stocking shelves at Target (turned down, to my great relief - the manager "didn't think I'd fit in"). It was minimum wage, but I met lots of interesting folks and learned a lot (pidgin Spanish, what a teardrop tattoo meant, DUI laws, why anyone smokes menthols). I liked it well enough (to my parents' chagrin) that I scheduled myself for shifts every holiday thereafter when I was home from college, even working there part time on top of a more "suitable" (boring) full time summer job the next summer.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:17 PM
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I had a high school job where I could plausibly have taken steps that would have caused panic throughout the region, required millions to stay indoors, caused millions of dollars in economic loss, and possibly brought out the national guard.

So you worked at Fuddruckers, too.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:20 PM
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Delagar, that story is great! Stick it to the man.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:23 PM
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My first job was combination envelope stuffing, data entry, and IT. My first job I got fired from was bullshit jr. IT at a law firm, but I got in a lot of long naps in the storage room before I stopped showing up. Later, I got fired from CompUSA by accident. My manager said "go home" because he was annoyed at me, and I inferred an apparently unwarranted "and never come back". Since I never answered my phone, I didn't learn I was mistaken until it was too late. My only non-computer job (well, before my thirties) was at a movie theater, but I never went back after the first day. Never got paid, but I kept my uniform blazer. Seemed fair.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:23 PM
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My first task at my first job, at the local IGA, was sorting soda and beer bottles returned for deposit. This was after a hot Fourth of July weekend, when people topped off the plastic garbage bags of bottles they'd evidently been keeping for ages. It turns out that the reason stores won't accept bottles in plastic bags is that they're incubators for the most horrifying, slimy molds you are likely ever to come across. Later that summer, Gene Kelly came into the store and totally classed up the joint. THE END


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:25 PM
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From age 18, two summers over college, admissions clerk at psych hospital where my dad worked. Pretty uneventful: I took people's information, had them sign forms, entered stuff into the computer, answered phone calls. Paid at least twice minimum wage at the time, I think, plus the occasional joys of extra wage for after midnight and holiday work.

Some events in my memory: taking a four-figure check from some people deciding to prepay some; mistakenly assuming a teenager going in was a minor and having her mother sign the forms; having to keep the police from dropping someone in the waiting room and leaving without communicating anything; someone apparently trying to shock me by saying he didn't believe in God.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:26 PM
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Thirteen years old, working as a dishwasher at Roche Harbor Restaurant on San Juan Island. Paid $3.35/hr and spent the day smelling like garbage. Occasionally the creepy security guy with a thing for young boys would stop by to make conversation and I'd suddenly get very busy doing absolutely anything but talk to him. At the time my family was pretty much destitute so after about two months of my pay going into a mythical "college fund" that coincided with getting groceries my Dad started working shifts with me. On days my Dad and I were on they'd schedule just the two of us instead of three dishwashers because they knew my Dad was dead set on showing me how to take pride in my work, no matter how menial. We kept the dishwashing station spotless no matter how heavy the load. That summer I learned a great deal about self respect and self reliance. Eventually my folks decided to head back to Africa to make things work there, but despite the total shittiness of the situation I look back on those nights working with my Dad with a certain amount of fondness. We had a good time despite the garbage and relentless work. He taught me a lot. I still take a certain amount of pride in washing dishes and getting them completely spotless.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:35 PM
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Embarrassingly and problematically-for-my-later-being-in-the-world, my first job was the semester I took off in college because I just couldn't with the learning right then. (I think unlike everyone else here, I experience learning as difficult and uncomfortable, as nice as it is to know things.) I got a job through the university temp agency making copies of files from microfiche...s? Or is it like fish and stays the same in plural? Everyone was very nice and the job was simple and boring and I collected a few interesting names from student files that I still use. I thought "one day I will use these in stories" only it turns out I have no knack for writing fiction and anyway those are real people and maybe I'd feel guilty. But they were great names.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:43 PM
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Hmm, a couple babysitting things in high school; summer camp counselor; dorm snack bar; some paid stuff at the school newspaper but mostly volunteer positions; lifeguard at the campus pool; waiter at beach club in rich person enclave (where I spilled a glass of red wine on a rich person's kid); then research assistant, TA, etc. through real job.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:44 PM
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10 made me imagine a children's book called Amelia Bedelia Gets Fired.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:46 PM
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My first non-papercarrier job was as a ride operator at a tiny local amusement park when I was 16. I was making $1.60 an hour - 70 cents less than the minimum wage at the time. The park operator said the company was exempt from the minimum wage because it wasn't engaged in interstate commerce.

I ratted them out to the Labor Department, but they told me they already had a complaint. And sure enough, some months later I got a check for $416.10 for back pay.

My father explained at the time that had my labor really been worth $2.30 an hour, that's what they would have paid me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:50 PM
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Though I've never been fired, I had a sort of "didn't make it past the trial period" thing at a really rotten job working for the old toad of a famously antisemitic director of the Santa Fe Opera in his Upper East Side townhouse. I said to the guy at the employment agency "huh, a bit of a schlepp from where I live" and he said "you might want to nix the Yiddish around Mister Crosby."

He was a nasty piece of work and I was too scared of him to ask for more directions when something wasn't clear so I made a mistake or two and on what I perhaps fictitiously remember as Christmas Eve he said it wasn't working out. My main regret is not swiping the Rolodex card for Eleanor Steber from my desk. She had been dead for quite a few years but it would have been a funny little souvenir.

I Am Verbose Today.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:50 PM
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Full-time sacker/shelf stocker in a grocery store at $1.60 per. Worked with two very Catholic early 20 something married vets, one of which was always complaining about the rhythm method, and the other who was "In the army. That is all I can legally say." I don't remember their names. They introduced me to a 16mm porn on sheet party, but wouldn't give me beer.

I remember Doreen, with the long brown ironed hair, smiling at me.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:53 PM
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Also erratum in 14 "that I still use" should be "that I still remember." I am seriously shutting up now because I'm leaving.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:53 PM
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Like LB, my first job was bussing tables. First night on the job, a waiter asked me to refill a jug of Thai Iced Tea. Turns out the Thai Iced Tea container was stored right next to the Foul-Smelling Toxic Cleaning Fluid That's The Same Color As Thai Iced Tea container, and since I can't smell, I had no inkling they were different. A customer took a sip, took a sniff, and complained loudly to the waiter; the waiter took a sniff from the jug, retched, and pointed me out to the boss, and I was fired on the spot. All in all, my busboy career lasted about 4 hours. I'm just glad no one died.


Posted by: dz | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:55 PM
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Re 19: My brother (the younger one, not the boss one) got a job at sixteen bagging groceries/stocking shelves for a local family-owned grocery. But apparently what he and his fellow stockboys mostly did was smoke dope. Despite the abysmal pay, he kept this job for the next six years. You can see why.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 4:58 PM
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My first job I got fired from was bullshit jr.

Well that's a whole 'nother thread. The first job I got fired from was restaurant work. They claimed that I had refused to take a lie detector test. This was inaccurate: I had refused to sign the form saying that I was taking the lie detector test voluntarily. I explained to the polygraph operator that I had to take the test or I'd get fired. So I refused to sign the release; they refused to give me the test, and I got fired for refusing to take the test.

The ACLU at first said it expected to take the case, but then backed out for reasons they didn't explain.

The second job I got fired from, the fuckers were forced to take me back, with back pay, after I won the legal case. An uninformed person might assume from these anecdotes (and the anecdote in my other comment, come to think of it) that I have a bit of a problem with authority.

This is not true. At one time, I had a problem with authoritarian assholes, but I've largely gotten over it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:03 PM
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Hm. First job was at a greenhouse, weeding and odd jobs.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:09 PM
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21: That's at least partially poor planning on their part.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:16 PM
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CompUSA - a name I am pathologically driven to read Compoosa.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:20 PM
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I also used to work for CompUSA. I was a temp in their catalog warehouse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:22 PM
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I had a few different jobs in my day.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 5:29 PM
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Bookstore clerk in HS. In college I worked in the campus housing office plus nights and weekends at the Museum Company store at the mall. In Germany I did a very short stint as a tour guide, translated press releases for a publicity company, scanned piles of images for a graphic design firm, was a gopher at the Fulbright Commission before stepping up to fill a real job there on an interim basis.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:23 PM
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Oh, and not a job exactly, but one summer in college I did a lot of MRI studies, which paid $25 an hour. The researchers told me I had a very active brain and referred me to all their MRI-study-running friends, but I'm pretty sure that they were mostly pleased at how still I could lie in there for hours.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:24 PM
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I think when my wife was 12, and her sister 10, so 1990, they were getting babysitting jobs (as a team) at rich person enclave for about $15 an hour. Never mind leaving a 10 and 12 year old in charge of your kids, but paying them that much? I guess there was very limited babysitting supply.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:32 PM
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That's what we pay!...two decades later, for three small children.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:38 PM
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31: I started babysitting when I was 11 or 12, for three little girls under the age of six, usually from 5 pm-1 am, which paid $15 total. Your wife got a sweet gig!


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:42 PM
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Why do you hire small children to babysit?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:42 PM
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That's what we pay!...two decades later, for three small children.

Man.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:44 PM
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Janitor for a two room preschool, two hours a day after school. $2.90/ hour, minimum wage at the time. I liked it because I was usually there all by myself.

In college I delivered the New York Times. I landed one interview for a real postgraduation job because someone misread "deliverer" on my resume as "reporter." I foolishly straightened the out the confusion, and didn't get the job.


Posted by: Unimaginative | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:48 PM
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David Brooks has never needed to imply that he merely delivered the NYT. Because we live in a fallen world.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:51 PM
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Unless he has. In which case I'll apologize to the world.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 6:54 PM
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Eleanor Steber's rolodex card would be an awesome souvenir.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:07 PM
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You know the joke about needing bifocals because your arms are too short? I'm living it right now. My first bifocals are on order and I'm awaiting their arrival is as eagerly as a kid waiting for Christmas.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:10 PM
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As a San Fernando Valley girl, I sold "healing" crystals from a stand in a mall, of course.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:12 PM
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My first non-papercarrier job

So there's at least one other red blooded American here. Paper route when I was 11. Later on I set up soccer goals for the local AYSO league and also did work dragging around seine nets and such surveying fish populations in So Cal with my dad for his contract work with environmental firms. Hot work in the summer when it's the Santa Clara river out near Magic Mountain but shocking trout with a rig consisting of a car battery on a backpack frame was fun as was traipsing around Vandenberg Air Force Base dodging wild pigs.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:16 PM
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Soccer refs for the kiddie league get $10/hour and are only 14 or so. Some of them are really good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:20 PM
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||

I have a bleg but I don't really exactly have a question. My mom and I got an offer for a digital publishing of our children's book, from a publisher that does mostly school reading material. We certainly want to have an agent read over the contract before we sign it and return it. We don't have an agent.

Five years ago, we were in this situation, except we had a much better offer, from Random House, for two books. The agent we got ended up being a shithead.

My impression from last time is that it's easy to get an agent when you've already got a contract and you're basically giving them commission for not having to do any work shopping a book around. But I don't know if that's still true, with this weaker contract. Also I don't know how to ascertain whether or not a potential agent is a shithead, ie will not continue to advocate for us after collecting the commission.

I guess there's nothing to do except start cold-calling agents, but I just feel like a fish out of water. Any advice would be appreciated.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:25 PM
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Why not hire a lawyer to review the contract for a fixed fee?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:29 PM
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Just to be clear, I know nothing specific.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:29 PM
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Well, because this feels like the one moment when you have some leverage to actually land an agent who might represent you in the future. Otherwise we'll have to still ship it out ourselves (read: my not-streetwise-mom will do so painstakingly) because my mom still wants the actual hard copy deal, plus she's got other books in the pipeline.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:34 PM
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(But maybe we don't actually have any leverage in this situation because it's not that great an offer, and we might as well just hire a lawyer.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:36 PM
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Fran Lebowitz said night clubs were a good place to find an agent.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:39 PM
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I was a busboy at a Chinese restaurant in high school. Shortly after I started college I realized I'd been a real annoyance to the same-aged hostess and she had been humoring me. Classic eye-opener.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:43 PM
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Not to distract from the very important bleg above, but I have an odd confusion about a babysitting job I held.

I watched a small toddler while her parents went to the Gator games, one season. I remember that she was just barely verbal. But: I definitely did not change any diapers, nor did I help her go potty/wipe/etc. All I remember is being bored out of my skull. I'm wondering if I got tactfully fired after one or two games, because they came home and found three hours of poop in her pants, or something.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:49 PM
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But enough about me. Back to the bleg.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:50 PM
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Heebs, my first job was at a good independent children's bookstore that was recently celebrated by buzzfeed or some similar site. Is there something near you or your mom where the owner might have connections in publishing, if you don't have other ways of getting advice from people with books like yours and actual agents?


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:52 PM
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Oh, that's a great idea. There's Austin's beloved BookPeople, who would probably take the time to give me a name, since they were super generous when we were promoting the book the last time.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 7:58 PM
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then we take Wozniak.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 8:04 PM
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Paper route in the mid-1970s. With the big bag and (sometimes) a bike. Sundays the papers were big, so I pulled them in a wagon.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 8:08 PM
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First non-babysitting job must have been re-glazing all the storms on the neighbor's two-and-a-half story farmhouse. Scraping paint, chipping off the remaining glazing putty, putting in new points and putty. I guess I was 13 because that's when I got a SSN because that's when I got a bank account. (Later the social security office was very suspicious that I hadn't gotten a number at birth. When did that become normal?) I only broke two panes, and when the yearling bull started investigating the ladder I managed to not fall. I remember hanging from a windowsill and keeping the ladder vertical with my feet, and I was a healthy chores-doing kid, but it doesn't seem likely.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 10:46 PM
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44 etc. -- I don't know the lit agent world well but I could suggest a few names I've vaguely heard. In general unless the agent thinks that you have a zillion dollar moneymaker that's somehow not been hustled enough and/or have a huge pipeline of stuff he's interested in, I'm afraid that you'll find it more likely than not that the agent will just more or less take the cut from the deal you've been offered, do some minimal work, and that will be it.


Posted by: RH | Link to this comment | 07-14-14 10:52 PM
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Oh, I forgot, I umpired a couple of little league games when I was in 6th grade, I think that might have been my first paying job.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 12:07 AM
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Paper round. £6 a week for 7 mornings a week. I was 14 I guess? At Christmas I dropped off Christmas cards for all of them and got over fifty quid in Christmas tips. Then I worked in a shoe shop and got a tenner for working all day Saturday, which seemed easier! My brother had the chance to take over my paper round, but he was far too lazy. And then from 16 onwards I temped each holiday in a share registry place very near my house. Mostly doing "amendments" - comparing two columns of computer printouts of names and addresses and companies and bank details and pinning a flag to the printout if there had been any mistake in copying them. Sometimes, later, I would get more exciting jobs, like counting share certificates.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 1:01 AM
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(There was always babysitting in there too, but a lot of it was for people at church, and you were expected to do that for free. Did have one regular well-paying job though. The dad was a commissionaire at a London hotel, and the mum didn't work, and they were fucking loaded. He must have done ridiculously well from tips and ticket touting.)


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 1:07 AM
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I had a summer job once as a Lewis & Clark historian on a cruise ship. I had to narrate the journey of L&C for about 6 hours on a day cruise. I did it twice a week, and the pay was quite decent for the hours worked. (IIRC it was about $250/day, plus free food). In preparation for the job I read Un/daunted Courage, the Diaries of L&C, and basically everything I could get my hands on. I was given a basic outline, but was allowed to flush it out however I felt. Most of the people on the cruise were elderly Republicans and kind of awful. I wore the dress suit my sister wore to meet the Supreme Court, and got a complaint it was too short because it came down to the knee instead of past the knee. During breaks I got all sorts of offensive "why you're too pretty to be a historian" types of comments. I'm decent at public speaking and the cruise ship staff thought I did a good job with my G-rated history routine, but eventually I was fired because of complaints that I looked too young and people 'didn't think I looked like an historian' (I was a young looking 21 year old at the time). After me they hired a similarly aged man with a beard. I know I was fired because of sexism from elderly Republicans, but alas age and gender are not protected classes in the 'infotainment' industry. I later found out the cruise line did regret firing me because I was better than the dude they hired after me, but oh well. They paid me $100 for a map I drew of the Columbia River.

Before my foray into infotainment, I worked as a cruise ship brochure writer for the parent company cruise line. I got both this job and the historian job through a history teacher at my high school. The brochure gig paid $400/brochure, and involved writing breezy histories of small towns I'd never been to interspersed with 'fun fact' bullet points. This was pre-wikipedia so it involved actual research at the library. I also had to find images to illustrate the brochures and coordinate with the graphic designers. The cruise line enjoyed my brochures and at one point there was a potential book deal with an up to $10,000 advance on the table, but nothing came of it.

I'd forgotten about these jobs, and now it's reminding me that there's good money for relatively little work in cruise ship industry, if you can get your foot in the door.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 1:38 AM
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44

My sister is an literary agent. I can ask her if she's interested or to direct you to an appropriate agent if she's not. If you don't have my contact info I can send it to you.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 1:42 AM
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I've been trying to explain babysitting* to the locals here, and they find it just incredibly bizarre. I think there are so many angles of incomprehensibility, including: 1) not having family close enough or willing to move to look after kids, 2) trusting an infant to an unrelated teenager, 3) teenagers with free time and inclination to do odd jobs for money, 4) teenagers learning how to care for infants in school (we did the Red Cross babysitters course in 8th grade home ec).

*people are shocked that as a childless woman I know how to hold, feed, and burp a baby and change a diaper. They're even more shocked when I explain I, a PhD student, used to babysit for money as a teenager.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 2:22 AM
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64.last: Most of my friends with kids have turned down my babysitting offers. I think they don't exactly trust me, which is very funny, since I used to spend every weekend in high school babysitting. Just because I don't have my own doesn't mean I'm not fond of kids or don't know what to do with them.

57: re:SSN, I think in the early or mid-80s, it became more convenient to apply at the child's birth for tax purposes, custodial bank accounts, etc than to apply when the kid was old enough to work. My parents did mine and my younger sister's at the same time, so I was assigned mine when I was four.


Posted by: ydnew | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 4:06 AM
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people are shocked that as a childless woman I know how to hold, feed, and burp a baby and change a diaper.

One of my favourite George MacDonald Fraser passages is describing his time in command of a troop train, at one point of which a distressed woman thrusts a screaming baby at him and says "Do something useful! Change him, can't you?"

At that age all I knew about the care of babies was prodding them in the stomach and saying "Grrsh". Yet the British soldier is supposed to be capable of anything. Could Marlborough have changed a nappy? Or Wellington? Doubtful. Or Slim? Yes, I decided, Slim could have changed a nappy and almost certainly had. So, for the honour of Fourteenth Army, I began painfully and messily to strip young Petey's abominable lower reaches...

Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 4:22 AM
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66.passage: outstanding


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 5:36 AM
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67: yes, I love it. It's the image of this very young and uncertain officer gingerly holding a baby and running through the checklist of approved British military icons: "What would Marlborough do? No, not relevant. What would Wellington do? Hmm, not really practical. No, wait. What would Slim do? Slim would change the nappy!"

(Footnote: General William Slim, commander of British 14th Army (The Forgotten Army) in Burma and India, in which the young GMF served; the greatest British general since Wellington, streets ahead of Monty in every area except publicity.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 6:05 AM
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the greatest British general since Wellington

Ahem.


Posted by: Opinionated Field Marshal Robert Cornelis Napier, 1st Baron Napier of Magdala, GCB, GCSI, FRS | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 6:40 AM
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65: I could see feeling awkward about not knowing whether to pay you or not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 7:09 AM
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57, 65: Around 1981 or so, the IRS required parents to list the child's Social security number in order to get the dependent deduction, so parents started getting the numbers at birth. It became standard procedure at hospitals with maternity wards to provide the forms.

This change in IRS regulations apparently caused more child deaths than all of the epidemics and wars in American history combined, based on the decrease in the number of children listed on income tax returns the following year.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 8:29 AM
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J'ai dû travailler beaucoup pour cela, bien évidemment. Car je suis convaincu d'une chose : le talent, cela n'existe pas. Le talent, c'est avoir l'envie de faire quelque chose. Je prétends qu'un homme qui, tout à coup, rêve de manger un homard, a le talent de manger ce homard dans l'instant, de le savourer convenablement. Avoir envie de réaliser un rêve, c'est le talent. Et tout le reste, c'est de la sueur. C'est de la transpiration, c'est de la discipline. Je suis sûr de cela. L'art, moi, je ne sais pas ce que c'est. Les artistes, je ne connais pas. Je crois qu'il y a des gens qui travaillent à quelque chose et qui travaillent avec une grande énergie. L'accident de la nature, je n'y crois pas. Pratiquement pas.


Posted by: Opinionated Jacques Brel | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:10 AM
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Dammit, wrong post.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:11 AM
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Local bookstore was not helpful. In fact sort of rudely un-helpful at first. (I did the thing where you just sit there in silence, and eventually they start talking again, which worked beautifully. People sure do hate awkward silence.) Halford's comment is useful insofar as maybe we should just have a lawyer look it over, after all.

Buttercup, my guess is your sister wouldn't be interested - it's probably very small potatoes. Does she do children's picture books?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:35 AM
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44: What I'm going to suggest is a huge conflict of interest problem, but given the circumstances you're in it might still be a reasonable option -- ask your publisher to recommend someone? You have an offer, they know agents, obviously you'll get someone who's cozier with the publisher than with you, but given who you are that's probably going to happen anyway, and you might get lucky.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:39 AM
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That actually crossed my mind, too. It's a small, Brooklyn based educational publisher, and they just don't seem terribly...vindictive or uncooperative. If it's not too strange a request.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:41 AM
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It is amazingly hard to get advice online, since anyone who is giving genuine advice is withholding their email address so that they don't get inundated with unsolicited manuscripts, and those who provide their email address seem to have a profit-motive, and I cannot for the life of me find anyone who addresses the situation of what to do if you get an offer without an agent.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:54 AM
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Remind me if/how your book has previously been published?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 9:58 AM
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Email one or another of the Nielsen-Haydens (or ask on one of their open threads)? I don't know either of them particularly, but I think they have us blogrolled -- back when the blogosphere was more of a thing I think we were kind of one degree of separation -- and they're editors. They should know how writers are supposed to go about this sort of thing.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:00 AM
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44: further to 75, look at some of the other books published by this publisher.

Some of the authors may name their agents in the acknowledgements - if so, pick one of those.

If not, write to the authors, care of the publisher (or via their personal website, or whatever), and say: I am, like you, an author, and I've just received an offer from the same publisher that publishes you. I need an agent; who is yours?

It's unlikely that an author with a good agent would not want to shove some guaranteed business in that agent's direction.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:00 AM
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Sent an email to a relative in the literary world.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:03 AM
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Sent an email to a relative in the literary world.

Like Thursday Next?


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:05 AM
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I can email my sister and ask. She doesn't do children's books specifically but she also works in Brooklyn and may know the publisher.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:11 AM
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I finally figured out the keywords "Unagented book offers advice" so I've found some useful online advice, (while you all were writing super helpful stuff here, actually. Hang on, let me process/catch up and then follow up.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:15 AM
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Publishers are these guys, fwiw.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:16 AM
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A surprising number of authors do not have their own webpages or ways of contacting them.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:42 AM
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If you sign up for an account at Pottermore, Rowling will personally read all email you send her.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:44 AM
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So, I emailed my sister and she would be willing to read the contract/negotiate for you for a flat fee. If you're interested I could send you her contact info.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 10:56 AM
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Sure, sounds good! My email is under my pseud.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 11:01 AM
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On the jobs front, I'd actually forgotten about the first, babysitting, which did not work out well: the child was 2 going on 3, and was just a horrible handful. I recall trying and trying to find him cute or loveable, but failing. I registered him as a brat, and felt his parents were exacerbating it. I quit.

First real job, mid- to late-high school: so-called "page" at the municipal library, first upstairs (the adult space), then later downstairs in the youth library. A wonderful experience! We -- I and my fellow youth library page -- organized the summer reading program (including spray-painting small rocks gold for the pirates summer program - you got a gold nugget to add to your sack of treasure for each book you read), did face-painting at the summer book sidewalk sale, 'published' a monthly newsletter about children's books worth reading .... In retrospect, really a terrific job. My fellow youth library page is now a school librarian; I'm a bookseller. Hm.

College work-study: ran sound and/or stage-managed for a few theater productions (Winter's Tale, Midsummer Night's Dream, an independent thing at the ART); processing new acquisitions at a music library.

Later, the grim period: cashier at the local equivalent of a K-Mart. For all of two weeks, the breakfast shift at a diner (horrible, never picked up my final check). After college: office work at a photographic darkroom equipment company. Then finally! Administrative Assistant at a community mental health center. That was enjoyable; they kept creating new, upgraded positions for me, so I continued to learn. Did a lot of grant proposals and made a lot of spreadsheets, using Lotus 1-2-3. Remember that? It was just before the advent of Windows, and graphical user interfaces at all: all DOS.

Then I decided to go to grad school.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 11:01 AM
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Ok, I sent you an email.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 07-15-14 11:25 AM
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First job: Sbarro at the local mall. It was the best upward mobility of any employer I've ever had: within a year I went from jocking the register to serving the pizza and then finally to pizza/prep cook.

Making pizzas and prepping were the cush jobs, because you didn't interact with customers, and as long as you kept the line full of food, no one cared how many smoke breaks you took. This was also the job where I had the incident that led me to me becoming vegetarian. (I spilled an entire bus tub full of marinating chicken on myself, including down the inside of my chef coat.)

Later I left for a Mom & Pop pizza shop, which offered me more money. Then when I was 18 (and thus could legally serve alcohol) I followed several friends to a BBQ restaurant, where I waited tables all throughout college.

That last job is the one I still get the most questions about. ("You were a vegetarian working in a barbecue restaurant?!") My standard answer is (a) it was also a brewery, so there were non-pork perks; and (b) don't underestimate my love of potato salad.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-16-14 4:53 AM
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If you spilled an entire vat of potato salad down the inside of your coat, would you be unable to eat anything but mushrooms and other fungi?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 07-16-14 5:18 AM
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93: Heh. To elaborate, the chicken incident was the culmination of several weeks of noticing that handling meat all day* on the pizza line left my hands smelling and feeling really gross. In contrast, when vegetables get slimy on the pizza line, you throw them out.

*lowest hanging fruit ever?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 07-16-14 5:28 AM
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94.last That's not fruit, Stanley.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 07-16-14 5:38 AM
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