For months, I’ve been eating, dreaming, walking through this pitch conference. I’d never been to a writing conference of any sort, and have long eschewed workshops and book clubs, and lived in my make-believe land of being a writer. This is the first concrete step I’d ever taken to make it real. And it was a great step. That I’ll likely never do again.
There are writers who remain oblivious to the market, to the numbers, to the sheer complexity and enormity of their dreams. They constantly send out work and occasionally hit their mark. There are writers like me who are painfully aware of the odds, see the enormity of the task before them and tell themselves someday. When I am ready. When I have time.
So here I am, almost 50 years old, trying to launch a writing career. I laugh using the word “launch”. More like a slow crawl, an inch worm’s speed. Talk to any writer who seems to be an overnight success and odds are, they’ve been doing a slow crawl for years. No one saw them, no one lauded their work, no one sharpened their pencils or handed them a guide.
Parts of the conference were the expected breakout sessions on querying and selling, but what most people came for was the golden ticket of being able to meet with three literary agents and/or editors for 8 minutes each to pitch their work. I researched and submitted my preferences in advance and ended up with two I’d requested and a last minute replacement I knew would not be a fit.
I wrote 50+ pitches in advance, talked to friends about the book, read all the advice articles on pitching, bought a suit and showed up on time. I came away with two requests for partials (10-50 first pages) and a full manuscript request. When I saw who my replacement agent would be, I did a nonfiction book proposal on the fly and she said they’d be interested in seeing my full proposal.
This was an optimum outcome for me. But what does it really mean?
It means that I know how to talk under pressure. Yay me. The last workshop I sat in for the day was about debut mistakes. Two local, established writers talked about their experiences and took questions. A moment of clarity hit me. I’m done being at a conference. These people had been working their asses off for years – around marriages, divorces, children, jobs, setbacks and personal demons. But what mattered to the writing was the writing.
This weekend was an important reminder to me. I can talk knowledgeably about the market and publishing of books. I could even become a writing advice blogger. I can pitch the hell out of my work. But it’s all bullshit. And manure only has value and meaning if there is something to nourish and nurture. I got caught up in the dressing, while the body was being neglected.
So, it’s back to work – reading, writing, editing, revising. It’s nice to know I have some people who’d be interested in seeing my work, but that was always the case – if the work was good. So back to making it as good as it can be.