Saturday, May 30, 2009


The Book Expo America/Writer’s Digest conference and Pitch Slam was more than I’d hoped for, and less.

More laughs from the workshops. Janet Reid and Barbara Poelle shared tips on a panel of agents. If they ever give up agenting, I think Comedy Central would find a slot for them. Chuck Sambuchino snagged a surprise guest for his workshop: Janet Reid listened to pitches from brave souls in a room full of onlookers. She was as ruthless as she is in her Query Shark blog, but somehow she managed to dig out the nugget of a hook some writers didn’t know they had. There was an odd moment when a man pitched his memoir about starting a commune in the ’70s and the woman who later tried to kill him (story enough!) but it got odder still when he added that he’d once been part of a four-person marriage. Yikes! Ick. More information than I needed. But who doesn’t think this guy is getting a book deal? (If I’m breaking some code of ethics by repeating his story here, someone please tell me!)

Less attendance than prior years, which means I had the good fortune to meet with 10 agents instead of the 3-6 the conference folks estimated. Pamela was on my shoulder the whole time and as soon as I got weary, she yelled, “look alive” in my ear. That’s what good writing partners do.

More requests than I anticipated: 5 for Bodley and 4 for CCS = 9. No, the accountant in me has not checked out. The one remaining was a sit-down with the agent who’d suggested revisions on Bodley. It was so great to meet her in person and to talk about how my revisions are going. She’s still excited about seeing the manuscript.

More kindness from all. The agents happily listened to my pitch and my nervousness disappeared as I talked about my projects. I even met with an agent from another conference, who previously said he couldn’t get past my answer to “why now?” He was right; I didn’t have a good enough answer. I brainstormed and ran a few ideas past my brilliant critique partners and realized I had a solution. It was a fairly significant change to the beginning, but the story remained intact. When I told him my solution at BEA, he gave me an A for persistence and asked for a partial.

Throughout the day, I was fortified with emails from Pamela, Elizabeth, Julie, Susan and my fellow board members at Writers’ Guild of Texas. More support and good karma than one person deserves!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Agent Pitch Slam

As many of you know, (because I can't stop talking about it) on May 27 I'll be attending the Book Expo America/Writer's Digest writers' conference in New York. It's a one day event, just prior to the Book Expo America conference May 28-31. You should know this if you're going to register, so you don't end up registering as an exhibitor for the BEA event instead of the BEA/WD event and have to call technical support to clear up the confusion. Not that anyone I know would do such a thing.

My main reason to attend is the Agent Pitch Slam, or, speed dating with agents. Three minutes to pitch an agent, as many agents as you can visit in the 2-hour window. There are over sixty agents attending, but apparently because of long lines (think Janet Reid, Stephany Evans or Donald Maass), I should plan on pitching 3-6 only. I'm splitting my time between The Bodley Boys and Center Court Seats and a Pair of Jimmy Choos and researching the best choices for each. I wish I could pack Pamela in my suitcase to give me a boost of confidence (and to double up on the pitches). I hope they allow texting in the pitch slam room.

Two weeks ago before I met with an agent at the DFW Conference, I paced the lobby, reciting my pitch under my breath. More than one person asked if I needed any assistance. Like maybe a ride to the psych hospital. I'm trying to stay calm, agents are only people as they like to say.

Anyone been? Want to share some tips with me?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Conference Highlights

This weekend I attended the DFW Writers’ Conference put on by DFWWW. It’s their second year and I thought it was a success.

Bob Mayer delivered the keynote speech at Saturday’s lunch and then hung around to present five workshops. Five! He’s a master of a no-nonsense, sensible approach to writing and the publishing business. Know what you’re up against and conquer it.

I got to hang out with my writing partner, Pamela, and a few critique partners, (Elizabeth, if you had a blog, I’d link you!), meet some new writers and enjoy what I love most—learning more about the writing process and talking about books.

Two agents had unfortunate emergencies that kept them away, but the remaining agents did double duty trying to make sure everyone got a chance to pitch. And they did so pleasantly.

Even though the agent to whom I pitched The Bodley Boys didn’t ask to see it now, he asked thoughtful questions which have prompted me to spend the last few days slightly tweaking the plot. He said if I could figure it out, he’d like to take a look. His suggestions were in line with my current revisions, so even though it set me back a bit, the book will be better in the end.

Tidbits I learned at the conference (many from Bob Mayer—sign up for his Dallas workshop at the end of May if you missed seeing him this weekend), or tidbits I knew but just had to hear again:

1. Can you state the original idea for your book in 25 words or less? If your pitch is a mess, chances are your book is too.
2. You don’t have to write what you know—write what you are passionate about. I knew this, but it’s always nice to hear again.
3. Write complex characters. Every character thinks the story is about them.
4. Book dissection—study the books and movies that work. I recently pulled apart The Thirteenth Tale and Ghostwalk and refer to my notes often.
5. The plot has to be logical. Even in a ghost story.
6. Don’t get caught up in the query/submission process and forget to keep writing. Write the next book, and be thinking about the one after that.
7. Keep your blog current. ☺
8. Keep the boot you wore when you broke your toe. You never know when you're writing partner's dog might slash her foot and leave her with stitches and a sore foot.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Animal Magnetism

Three separate, but related incidents, have me wondering: Was there was a full moon last night?

1. My husband went out the back door to the garage and a squirrel jumped from the fence and scratched his arm.

Here’s his account:

Day 1 at home - while opening the door to the backyard from garage, I am accosted by a rogue squirrel. My arm is scratched as the giant squirrel invades the garage. I leave the battlefield to apply medicine to my bloody arm (ok, maybe a couple of drops, there were at least two, I'm sure). I steel myself for the return to the scene of the surprise attack and to confront the mad invader. I bang and shake the masses of boxes and bags in the garage hoping to flush my foe from its hiding place. Finally! I spy the invader crouched in a dark corner waiting to spring. Approaching slowly, I seal off all but one of its escape routes, leaving only the door to the outside in its view. Thrusting into the corner with my trusty sword, um, broom handle, I prod the giant creature into the open! A mad scramble ensues! The beast is valiantly driven back into the Plano wilds. Peace and tranquility returns to the kingdom (and all before 9:00am).

Except that pesky part about the tetanus shot.

2. Pamela called me this morning to tell me she had a mishap with her dog’s nails and has a gash in her foot, possibly needing stitches.

3. Critique partner Elizabeth has a dead possum in her back yard.

Anyone else have an animal adventure today? I don’t know about you, but I’m looking out for wolverines. And lizards. (see previous lizard post!)