How to Stop Stuttering and Love the Phone

by sarahenni on November 17, 2011

When my bestie Megan told me she was putting together a list of tips for other grad students/interns on how not to sound like an idiot on the phone, I said 1) BCC me on that list like whoa and 2) please let me adopt it for a blog post! She is the most organized, put-together, professional and yet incredibly fun person I know, so I can’t think of anyone better to help my readers (and me) overcome phone phobias.

Nowadays, when social movements are started on Facebook, donations are generated through membership websites, and causes are marketed on Twitter, you could argue that to participate in, well, anything, one never has to open their mouth and actually talk. Nielsen Media has found that people entering the work force today are more likely to email or text then to pick up the phone, and Pamela Paul’s New York Times article found that no one really talks on the phone any more.

Well, my summer of interning has put me in a situation where I hear people on the phone all day cultivating donors and managing volunteers.

I’m going to be honest: these folks sound downright awkward.

Talking on the phone is not natural for the majority of professionals anymore (least of all, writers), but those who can master positive phone communication end up feeling like less of a jackass than the those who always default to email.

Why is this important?

Well, for one, the agent phone call. It’s hugely important in building the working relationship you’ll need. Writers want the phone call as proof that an agent is a real, live, publishing professional, and agents want to make sure you aren’t—well, crazy.

Here some skills on how to professionally utilize the phone I learned working in the private sector that can help ease your phone phobia.

1. Stuttering.

For some reason, as soon as we get on the phone we all start to stutter. We pause….. we say “um,” and we are suddenly so unsure of the words coming out of our mouths. How can you prevent stuttering? For one, have written down in front of you the main points you want to address in your call. The main questions you want to ask an agent about them, their agency, and how your book would be represented. (Kate Hart has a great list.) Talk slowly and each time you feel a stutter or “um” coming on simply stop talking. Slow down. Think it through, and your concise speaking will actually come across as confidence on the other end of the phone.


2. Leaving a Message.

State the purpose of your call at the beginning and the end of a voice message. Most people miss the first part of a message or are at least slow paying attention. Start out with who you are and why you are calling and end the message the same way. For instance:

Hello Dream Agent, My name is Megan O’Connor. I am calling to discuss my book, Most Amazing Book Ever. You said today was a good time to call, and I am available until the rest of my life 9 p.m. eastern time. I can be reached at 555-555. Again, this is Megan calling concerning my manuscript, Most Amazing Book Ever, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

3. When you think the phone call is over, ask one more open-ended question.

On the phone you don’t get to observe body language and thus you don’t know if the person on the other end has more they want to talk about. When you think the conversation is dwindling down ask something like:

Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today? Do you have any questions for me? Is there anything else I can help you with?

You would be surprised how often people will tell you what they really feel or how much more you can learn about an agent from asking that one open- ended question at the end of a call.

4. Smile while you are on the phone.

It sounds silly since the person on the other end of the phone can’t see you, but actively smiling while you are talking will come across in your tone and help you act more natural in the conversation.


A YA Halloween: Claudia Kishi

by sarahenni on October 28, 2011

This final, and possibly most fun, YA Halloween option is dedicated to Kate Hart! Claudia Kishi, most avant garde of all the Babysitters Club members, is a freaking awesome Halloween costume because all you need is neon everything and a side pony and girl, you good.

What Claudia Wore has a great post on how to get decked out as The Artsy One, and I had way too much fun putting together this set. Some people might just think you’re an 80’s chick (and some people might guess Robin Sparkles [which, let’s face it, would also be a rad option]) but get yourself a throwback painter’s palette and at least one person will squeal with delight upon your entrance. Guaranteed.

Claudia Kishi


Rebel Yell fitted shirt
$69 –

Pink skinny jeans
$58 –

Kate Spade tahitian pearl necklace
$228 –

Forzieri rose earrings
$145 –

Juicy couture jewelry
$48 –

Nylon Tricot Scrunchie
$6 –

Style Hotline Phone in Teal
$70 –


A YA Halloween: Isabelle Lightwood

by sarahenni on October 27, 2011

This idea might be perfect for next year, when The Mortal Instruments movie is either out already, or being heavily promoted. But now it’s a fun one for those YA fans in the know that would enjoy An Evening of Goth, complete with whip. (Though technically Isabelle is more elegant/glam/goth, so I think you’d be safe adding some fancy vestements from your own wardrobe.) Also not pictured—a Henna tattoo kit to give your arms badass Shadowhunter marks.

Isabelle from The Mortal Instruments


Rachel Pally long maxi dress
$250 –

Yves Saint Laurent black leather boots
$1,196 –

Alexander McQueen cuff bangle
$438 –

Kenneth Jay Lane cocktail ring
110 –

Nars Semi-Matte Lipstick
$31 –

Candle Holder
€40 –


A YA Halloween: Katniss

by sarahenni on October 25, 2011

This suggestion for a YA Halloween costume would be not only fun and comfortable, with the movie getting tons of early hype, there’s a decent chance of getting recognized by not-yet-YA-literate people. (And yes, there are only two kinds of people, the other being YA-obsessed.)

But does it really even need to be recognized? You’d be running around with an archery kit! All I’m saying is, I wish this had been an option when I was in high school, because the only comparable option then was Lara Croft, and that outfit barely has enough structural integrity to cover a computer animated chick.



InWear black tee
€14 –

Original Penguin hooded jacket
65 –

Superdry army pants
25 –

Coach long boots
$298 –

Knapsack bag
$30 –


Conference Survival Tips

by sarahenni on October 24, 2011


I’ve traveled to countless conferences for my job, and a couple of writing-related ones, over the last couple of years. They can be fun and useful events, but preparing for them is vastly different than preparing for, say, a vacation. The following are general survival tips and tricks I’ve developed to make the most out of almost any conference.


Pack like the conference is being held in Antarctica. I don’t care if it’s in Hawaii, the actual conference where you will sit all day will be freezing cold. In fact, I think the hotels in warm areas are so concerned about it being hot that they over-correct and you get frostbite if you wear open-toed shoes. Seriously. Bring a jacket.

Bring comfortable lounge pants. You will want to be out of conference-wear for the evening, but you might order room service. (Of course, you could always wear the hotel robe, but I’ve told you all about my affinity for yoga pants. Necessary.)


Wear fun socks. You will need the socks, since it’s generally freezing at 30,000 feet. But when you have on a pair of bright, fun socks (my favorite pair for travel is yellow argyle) you get a happy little kick out of going through security. I’ve even had security give me compliments on the socks. The result? No full body scan. Win!

Bring a book… or seven. When I travel, I read like it’s a race to the finish. In fact, most of the reason I got a Kindle was because on travel trips like this I can burn through two or more books, and packing all of those is a literal pain in my back.

If you’re changing time zones, catch the sunrise or the sunset. A woman who often travels internationally told me this trick a few years ago, and it really does help kind of reset your inner clock. Seeing the sun come up or down sends a clear message about what time it is! (Other things that help: go to sleep when it would be normal for people in that time zone to sleep—and don’t nap, even if it means being up for nearly 24 hours; eat when it would be normal for people in that time zone to eat, and; exercise! That always helps me get into the groove no matter how far I’ve traveled.)


Even if you’re staying in a room by yourself, get two beds. Then when you get to your room, just throw your suitcase and everything else on the second bed. Way, way easier then bending down to the floor to get dressed in the morning.

Exercise. The combination of eating out for every meal and having the occasional drink at conference-sponsored happy hours will leave you feeling like a disgusting, bloated mess. Count on it. So I don’t care what you need to leave behind, make sure you have everything you need to exercise. That could mean using the hotel’s workout facility (almost all have them), doing yoga in your room, or better yet, using exercise as an opportunity to get out of the hotel and actually see the city you’re visiting!


Get to the swag early. The good stuff (really nice pens, computer mice, bobbleheads, ARCs!!!) goes quick, so get to the booths on the morning of the first day. Otherwise you’ll be the person that went to the conference and only has a hotel pen and chapstick to show for it.

Get up from your seat every once in a while. Otherwise your butt will fall asleep and you won’t be able to tell if your dress is sticking to your underwear. Please, please learn from my mistakes.

Bring a pen and paper. You will want to take notes… and doodle.

Don’t assume you will get to see the sights–-but try. I haven’t always been able to leave the hotel and see fun things in the cities I have visited. But if you can, try to go out to a local restaurant, catch a baseball game, or even just walk a few blocks closer to the ocean. It will make you feel like a human again, instead of a corporate robot.

Those are my secrets to conference survival, but what about you? What other things make traveling for work a more enjoyable experience?