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!