Monday, June 13, 2005

Recovering from Writer's League of Texas Conference

This past weekend was taken up by a conference in the Omni hotel in downtown Austin. It was a strange event, for me. I've attended many science fiction conventions -- far more than I can remember. This was different. Take a large convention, chop off all the fans. Then chop off all the published novelists. End up with a couple of hundred aspiring writers, all with a manuscript ready and all unable to find an agent or a market. Now drop in fifteen real live agents and editors, all with the duty to be there and listen to the pitches. It was a stressful event. You could feel it in the air. Even though I have had modest luck getting my short stories and nonfiction computer works published, I've still got a large pile of finished novels that never seem to make a connection with an editor. I've also sent out fifty or so query letters to agents with no luck. An event like this could make a big difference in my writing career.

So, lots of potential, but also lots of people to meet. With everyone you meet just as hungry as you are. This wasn't a casual fun event.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm a hermit by inclination? I can be cheerful and pleasant with large numbers of people, when the event calls for it, but I'm never comfortable.

For three days, there were breakout sessions with talks on where the market is going, and how to write your query letters. Those were useful. I'll be re-engineering all my queries after I absorb all I've learned. The money to attent was worth it just for those sessions.

There were also a number of mingle times. The Agents and Editors had light blue name tags. All us wolves had white name tags, so the crowd consisted of clumps of whities circled around an isolated bluie. Of course, most of us 'wolves' were actually timid puppies, and some never got up the nerve to edge their way into the pack. I surveyed the page of bio's and selected my targets based on their professed interests, and I talked to some of them. Or rather, listened. Sometimes I can't make the push to inject my words into the conversations. I have a couple of agents who will receive my re-engineered query.

There was also the ten minute consultation. Each conference participant was scheduled a ten minute visit with the editor or agent of choice. Here was the moment for your practiced pitch. Here was the time you made your sale, or impressed your potential agent.

I flubbed mine. It was horrible. I'd never done a 'pitch' before, and although I'd heard the stories and knew what I was supposed to do, when it came down to talking to the lady, I just followed her leading questions, and never actually talked about what made 'Falling Bakward' such a good novel, nor why a publishing house would be lucky to have me as an author. The ten minutes vanished quickly, and her only comments just highlighed how badly I had expressed myself. She was left with a totally wrong impression. I was left with only a vague memory of what I'd actually said, and a severe loss of confidence.

Ah, well. I've known my faults for some time. I think deeply, but not quickly. A one-on-one, high stakes, encounter is my personal quicksand. Nobody will ever get much from me in ten minutes. This is one reason I became a writer. It is my only chance to actually express my thoughts and feelings with any clarity.

So now, I've got to regain my composure. I've got to take what I've learned and make better queries.

And maybe sometime, I'll try the 'pitch' again. But only after I've recovered.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I am not often quick on my feet either. That's why I like blogs. You can work on a post for as long as necessary or rewrite as often as you want before publishing it. I need to get better too, if I'm going to pass my qualifying exam, where the professors on my committee can fire questions at me at will. Not for another year though. Good luck with rewriting your letters.