Willamette Writers Conference 2010
I was going to call this entry “and the journey begins” but that is completely not the truth. This journey started – in it’s serious form – three years ago. I pitched my idea to an agent in 2007 who said “yes, please, send it in.” And I didn’t. For a variety of reasons, which really don’t matter in the world of publishing. Suffice it to say, I dropped the ball.
It is now 2010 and I’m not completely done with the piece but I decided to go “balls to the wall” and just pitch it! And have fun doing it. So, here’s my 3-day journey:
Thursday, August 5
Mandatory volunteer training for the conference. I am volunteering two of the days for 4 hours each shift. I have Sunday off to frolic and go to workshops. Mostly the same information as last year, but it’s great to see familiar faces and reconnect for the conference.
Attended Pitch with the Pros. If you ever attend a conference and are pitching your work, and if they have an opportunity to practice your pitch, I HIGHLY recommend it. There were a few rooms open to pitches and it was invaluable. The first woman who pitched her book was SPOT ON! From then on, many people rambled on about their plot. NOTE TO SELF: find a one-line hook to grab the attention of the agent or editor.
Friday, August 6
Up bright and early. Need to leave by 6:30 to beat the traffic. Got to the conference at 7:20. Breakfast (as always) is fabulous. Met new people. Hung out with writing friends. Put up a flyer to solicit serious people to create a writing critique group with me.
First pitch is to an agent who is creating a middle grade line at her company. It’s a fairly young line at her company. She was in the panel earlier in the day – and I found that I really liked her. When I pitched, we connected. She asked, “so what is your hook?” I rambled a little bit and said “X-files monster-of-the-week premise meets Goosebumps.” After a few mini-brainstorms, she came up with “X-files monster-of-the-week meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid” – YEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!! Later, she saw me volunteering in the room and said “I was thinking about this and I think you should simplify it to ‘X-files meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid.’” This became my MANTRA all conference.
Additionally, she asked if I was pitching to any agents at the conference. I named a few. She said “tell them I like it.” (There was much celebrating at my table at lunch.)
Worked the consultation area that afternoon. Wore my new Avia-brand “Shape Up” type of shoes and had ZERO back pain!
Became known as “the beach bag woman” by people at the conference. (I dunno.)
Saturday, August 7
Carpooled with a friend to the conference. Got there for breakfast. Chatted.
Pitched to the first agent at 9:00. I had fun with it and said “the editor over there likes it.” Before I got out two sentences, she was hauling out her business card and writing her query requirements on it. She said, “I’m not taking many solicitations for new clients, but I love it! Send me the whole thing!”
Throughout the rest of the day, we would catch each others’ eyes and grin at each other. Later that day, a friend of mine pitched to her and came back to report that editors and agents were talking about my pitch. HOLY SHIT!
Volunteered that afternoon. Celebrated with friends about their pitches. Kathy was asked for her entire first manuscript and synopses of her next two. Blythe received 4 out of 4 “please send me your manuscript” requests!
Met a strange man who wanted to pitch his entire manuscript to me – which was based on the opera “Carmen.” I asked him what his short pitch was – and he said, “I can’t pitch this in a smaller scale. It’s just not possible.” To which I said, “good luck to you, sir.”
Went home with a BEAST of a migraine. Slept most of the night.
Sunday, August 8
Last day. No volunteering for me this day. I went to a few workshops and pitched to a few people.
My first pitch was with one of the leading agencies in the world for children’s literature. And she is the president. Scared? Nah. “Balls to the wall” right?
I did my quick pitch and told her that I pitched it to one of her agents a few years ago (remember the one that I didn’t send in 2007?). She said, “polish it, make it beautiful, and send it to her.”
3 out of 3.
That afternoon, I was exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. Spiritually. Done. One more pitch.
It was a group pitch. One agent and five authors. Doesn’t leave much time. But I liked how she coordinated it. Each of us had one minute to pitch. Then she would offer advice, etc.
We all pitched. I did my spiel (which morphed all weekend). Then she says (I was the fourth of five authors):
to the first author: “No show stoppers here. Make sure you call it eco-terror”
to the second author: “again, no show stoppers. Refine your pitch. And call it a thriller. The title is a little dry.”
to the third author: “funny. you are hilarious. your book will be hilarious. cut your POV to 3 or fewer characters. you’ve got something here. But change the title.” (she writes like Christopher Moore, if you’re familiar with his work.)
to me: “I LOVE IT! The title is awesome. The characters are appealing. I can sell it RIGHT NOW based on your hook! But, you should add more words. Make it closer to 40,000. Then, send me the whole thing!”
to the fifth author: “I have NO IDEA what your book is about. I can’t offer an opinion. Make it less confusing. Define the characters. And let me know when you’re done with it.”
I thought I was exhausted before – now I need to write more. And (I decided this last night), I need to change it from 3-person to 1-person! It’s gotta be done. Painful process, but it’ll make it a better book (no one suggested it – but I KNOW it will be better.)
I bought the 4 Diary of a Wimpy Kid books so that I can really refine my writing style. I am peeing myself laughing at the antics. And now I understand the reference the kiddos had this summer to the “cheese touch.” I never understood why I was crossing my fingers, but I did it anyway. These books are the reason I KNOW I need to change my POV to first person. Damn Jeff Kinney! Damn him!
Well, off to fortify my body. Then, my mind. Then, the keyboard. Busy week ahead! Busy busy busy week!