A writer’s day out
Scribes are eager and hopeful
Stomp! Muses flattened
… … … … …
Saturday, my friend Amy and I went to Writer’s Day, a writer’s conference hosted by NHWP. After a full day of gorging ourselves on information, I came away feeling … well, disappointed.
For example, my first workshop was elevator pitches. One-minute pitch about your novel. This was familiar ground, and I didn’t worry too much until the panel of judges announced that our one-minute pitch needs to include why I, the author, am qualified to write this book.
I knew my answer, but my problem was that it wasn’t part of my original one-minute pitch. As we went up and pitched in front of the three judges and the other 19 pitchers, most of us were revising our pitches on the fly.
When it was my turn, I got up in front of the room and read my pitch off my messy notes. One of the judges, a radio host for some station in Manchester, said that I did it in 58 seconds, the shortest one so far—BUT! “I was really interested in the story, but I wish you hadn’t read it off paper. I wish you had memorized it.”
I bristled. First of all, I wasn’t the first pitcher who hadn’t memorized the pitch, so why I was singled out, who knows.
Secondly, nowhere in the workshop description did it ever say we were supposed to memorize this thing.
So, I kinda, sorta, talked back. “Well, it would have been nice if that had been noted in the description, that way when we signed up we would have known that was an expectation.” Then I pointed to him, because he’s one of those radio jocks who’s very commercial and I said, “Buddy, if you would have told me to memorize it, I’d have done it for you.”
Thankfully, he laughed. I might be a modish gladiator, but I am well-behaved. I was taught to never talk back because it’s supposed to be disrespectful.
I think I just learned a valuable secret.
Incidentally, when the radio jock had gone on to say “you wouldn’t be going up to a literary agent and reading your pitch at a cocktail party” one of the other judges (a publisher from Boston) laughed and said, “You would be surprised. They pull out their notebooks on a plane, on the street, anywhere, if they happen to be in the presence of a publisher or an agent.”
Making us writers sound like desperate fools with no sense of decorum…sigh.
Another workshop I attended was Meet a Publisher. So, not really a workshop. More like a panel where they field questions. It was fine, for the most part, but you could tell they had a few things on their mind that they wanted to pass along. Such as “don’t complain if we send you on a tour,” or “don’t complain if you only get 5 minutes on a 6am news show,” or “don’t complain that you got bumped out of a slot,” or “don’t complain that you have to go on another tour,” etc.
Apparently, authors are building themselves a reputation for being difficult, whiny, and diva-esque.
In between workshops, I overheard someone talking about the Meet a Lawyer workshop (set up just like Meet a Publisher). One small problem. The lawyer never showed up. So, his assistants stood in for him and immediately prefaced their information with, “well, we’re not 100% sure this is the right answer, but…”
The last workshop I attended was about how YA is now the face of writing and that we all must write YA if we ever want to get published. Adults aren’t reading adult books, they’re reading YA. Young kids aren’t reading children’s books, they’re reading YA. You want to write the next Hunger Games? Too late. The climate has already changed and by the time your big dystopian novel is written and sent off to a publisher no one will want to read the damn thing.
By the end of the day, I was feeling a little letdown because nothing really moved for me. I felt like a lot of it was the same kind of information from several years over, regurgitated (except for the Hunger Games revelation, but last year they were saying that about Harry Potter…).
The information was a drag, or even, a threat. The longer this whole process takes for me to get published, the more impossible it’s going to be.
After the conference I needed a cold beer. I found a nearby bar, hunkered down, ordered an IPA and as I sipped it, a brand-new character edged into my brain. Then another one. Then a conflict puffed up between them, and suddenly I’m grabbing my ever-ready pen and pad of paper and I’m jotting down this entire story idea right at the bar.
I have no idea how much time passed when a waitress stopped by and said, “You writing a novel?”
Yes. Yes, I am. I just can’t help it.