Guest Blogger: Tracy Burns

08 Jul

On Writing To An Audience

Writers often hear the advice, “Know your audience.” Meaning know who you are writing for—and write accordingly.

Well, there are actually two audiences. The audience who will read our work–as readers; and those we hope will offer a contract for it—agents and/or editors (who, of course, consider the readers).

The agent/editor audience I write for is stuffed. Literally.

It includes Little Bear, and Big Woolly, and Koalie, and Polar Princess, and the nameless one with the yellow hat. There’s Duckie and Dog and Griz.

When I’m stuck writing, beating my head against the desk and cursing that I didn’t choose a different creative outlet, such as bonsai growing, my stuffed agent/editor audience helps. I address them like I would a team of coworkers and managers. As if I were in a meeting: proposing a plan of action, arguing my plot, brainstorming, soliciting advice.

Sounds corny, but it works. Staring into the beady eyes of stuffed animals does a lot to bolster confidence. They’re tough—very tough–but also cuddly. They’re hard to maintain eye contact with, but soft and forgiving. They unnerve me. They demand the best in me. So I work hard to deliver.

If I can’t convince Little Bear or Duckie or Griz that my plot is engaging and the characters have enough motivation and conflict to drive the story, how on earth can I convince someone with a pulse?

Today, my audience is virtual and I guess you could say we work remotely. I donated my menagerie to charity when I moved west (all except Little Bear)—figuring it was selfish to keep them on the payroll when they could be enjoying life snuggling with a child. So my communication is directed at a photo. One I took of my plush colleagues lined up on the sofa before I deposited them in a basket at the door of Goodwill.

I’m grateful for my stuffed audience. They help me keep things in perspective and are amazingly good listeners. And when I receive a rejection in the mail—it hurts, no lie—I can look at their photo and get all sorts of virtual warm-fuzzy condolence hugs. I can feel the fur.

Do you have a symbolic audience you write to? A pet, stuffed animal, or other totem?


Posted by on July 8, 2011 in agents, editors, writing


Tags: , , ,

16 responses to “Guest Blogger: Tracy Burns

  1. Janis

    July 8, 2011 at 7:10 AM


    Well, I think my 4-legged friends serve that purpose. Cuddling a furry, purring body calms the heart and I feel loved, even after rejections. Thanks for the thought and visiting Gem State Writers.

    • Tracy Wilson-Burns

      July 8, 2011 at 3:56 PM

      Hi Janis,

      I agree–a purring body does wonders to restore oneself! Although, sometimes my cat gets pretty territorial about who gets to sit in my office chair…


  2. Liz Fredericks

    July 8, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    Thank you for blogging with us, Tracy. I’ll have to dig out some stuffed animals. My dogs won’t hold still long enough to have a meaningful dialogue. 😉

    • Tracy Wilson-Burns

      July 8, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      Hi Liz,

      That’s the beauty of the stuffed animals–not only will they listen to me read and whine about “Where the heck is my muse?”, but they also don’t need to be walked!


  3. Steph

    July 8, 2011 at 9:00 AM

    Great blog, Tracy. I guess I use my husband is my symbolic audience. He’s not much of a romance reader so I know I’ve done something right if it holds his attention. I also use him to bounce ideas off of.

    • Tracy Wilson-Burns

      July 8, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      Hi Steph,

      It’s great to have a (live) male audience! They can provide so much good feedback on the male POV in stories… My husband has told me quite a few times, “Seriously, honey, no guy would say that.” And, unlike with stuffed animals, a live audience really does have to be entertained–so you know you’ve done good when you can keep their interest.


  4. Meredith Conner

    July 8, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Thanks for blogging today Tracy. My Chihuahua keeps me in line. He is also a character in my book so he has an added investment in my story. My husband built a small shelf for him to attach to the back of my chair and he uses it to keep an eye on how things are progressing.

    • Tracy Wilson-Burns

      July 8, 2011 at 4:04 PM

      Oh, I love that image of a Chihuahua shelf attached to your chair! Now, I want a Chihuahua more than ever! Sounds like your dog is a great motivator for your writing, how cool!


  5. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    July 8, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    Personally, I have my four-legged audience which consists of 2 chocolate labs – all 200 pounds of 2 dogs – who sit next to me while I write. I consider them my comfort pals. I like it when they’re next to me while I revise, write, and edit.

    • Tracy Wilson-Burns

      July 8, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      Not only do they sound like comfort pals, they sound like (cozy) sentinels to keep you at your writing! I’m sure it’s not easy to take a procrastination-break away from your desk when you have a 100 pounds of dog on either side!


  6. Tracy Wilson-Burns

    July 8, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    Hi Everyone,

    Thank you for all your replies to my blog post! You’ve reminded me that not only am I fortunate to have my virtual audience, but I have a live furry one (three cats) and hubby as well–all of which make my writing work more enjoyable.


  7. Peggy Staggs

    July 8, 2011 at 4:14 PM

    Tracy, thanks for taking the time to blog with us. My audience is an assortment of owls. They all look so wise I have to do my best under their discerning looks. Well most of them, one looks like a drunk chicken.

  8. Carley Ash

    July 8, 2011 at 7:21 PM

    Thanks, Tracy, for blogging today. It was a fun read.

  9. P.L. Parker

    July 9, 2011 at 10:18 AM

    Good post – enjoyed it and a good bent on keeping focus.

  10. Clarissa Southwick

    July 9, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    Hi Tracy, I don’t have a symbolic audience, but I do imagine what the evil contest judge would say. Perhaps I should switch to someone less intimidating. Thanks for blogging for us today. May your stuffed editors always give you the best advice.

  11. Mary Vine

    July 9, 2011 at 8:31 PM

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tracy. Even though I have a dog and a cat, I don’t think of them as my symbolic audience. However, I used to have an old dog that planted herself at my feet by my desk. Nice to think about her again.


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