|photo by tomi tapio|
I attended my first Writers' conference this weekend in Springfield, Missouri, organized by the Ozarks Romance Authors. I might not have considered traveling from Rhode Island for the conference, but a member called to let me know I was a finalist in their writing contest in the YA division, and she invited me personally to attend. That meant a lot to me. My sister also lives in a nearby town, so I was in!
I remember a time not too long ago, when the whole idea of attending a writing conference terrified me. I knew they were a good idea for any writer serious about making it a career, and I certainly am, but I was worried that I'd be too lost-- wandering around not knowing what to do or say. I was especially afraid of pitching to agents.
Now I can say that I never have to do that for the first time ever again. Like most things we fear in life, it wasn't as bad as I expected. Well, I was pretty bad-- at least at the first pitch meeting. I was scheduled to meet with both agents who attended, thanks to an awesome new author friend, Cecily White, the conference chairperson.
I anchored the news on television for 12 years, so you might not think I'd be nervous speaking across a table in a small room to just one woman. I was. When I first started reporting on tv, I was so keyed-up I had to throw up before going on the air live. Every time. I once threw up in front of the governor of Mississippi one minute before a live interview. Breath mint anyone?
No, I didn't literally throw up everywhere during my first pitch meeting, but figuratively, I kind of did. I found myself talking on and on about things I hadn't even meant to mention and forgetting entirely about important things I should have said about my book. I've read in agent blogs that pitch meetings are not the end of the world-- a single one will not make or break your career as an author, and most agents end up requesting pages no matter how much you fall apart. But still, when you're talking about your own little creation, that you want so much to someday reach your target audience and perhaps even make money in the process, the nerves are there.
I lived through it, and she did indeed ask to see my first 30 pages, but I know I did a poor job of selling it to her, and I didn't perceive a lot of enthusiasm on her part. Thank goodness I had another pitch session an hour later. Even with just one under my belt, it was so much easier. This time when I entered the room, the agent smiled at me, I smiled at her, and we proceeded to have a semi-normal conversation. I was able to talk about the most important parts of my book, my hook, what sets the story apart from everything else out there. She asked questions, nodded and smiled, laughed at the appropriate places. She asked questions for which I actually had good answers. When our time was up, she said the book sounded really interesting and she'd love to see the first fifty pages and synopsis. I'll be sending that to her this week. I know it may not lead to an agent-client relationship with her-- she has to not only love my ideas, but also my writing, and she has to feel that mine is a book she can sell. But based on our meeting ( I really liked her personally) and what I know of her from the agent-author panel I watched later in the day, I think we'd work well together, and I feel hopeful.
It was a long day. A GOOD long day and there's so much more to talk about. In my next post, I'll tell you about the YA group critique session (my first of course) I took part in. It was led by an awesome multi-published author who says exactly what she thinks. In the meantime, keep writing- and good luck!