Filling Out A Notebook

Recently I filled out a notebook that was given to me about a year ago. Not one of those full-sized loose leaf types, but rather a hardcover, one-inch thick journal type of thing.

There’s something to be said about the feeling felt upon ‘completion’ of a notebook. Perhaps it’s mostly pride – accomplishment – but for me, it’s also galvanizing, because my next thought right after “Huh, no more paper,” is “Alright, where’s the next book at?”

Filling out a journal/notebook with one’s notes and sketches, ideaa and phrases, fun names discovered or plot-point questions asked of one’s self is not a big deal. I’ve filled out numerous notebooks in the past (I think I keep them somewhere, too, even after transcribing and patching them). I’m sure most other writers have, too. But I feel like in this digital age, the value of a good notebook might be overlooked. It’s no much a technophobic “hey, slow down and smell the ink” kind of thing, so much as a “Ahh, good times, am I right?”

The majority of my writing is digital. Big surprise. But I truly enjoy looking at a notebook, knowing I’ve filled every page with scribbled ink. This feeling is surmounted only by the sensation of holding a new, fresh notebook. A clean slate.

Just felt like sharing.

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WDCE 2013 Pitch Slam

So I went to it, the 2013 Writer’s Digest Conference. I was only able to attend Saturday’s events (it lasted Friday to Sunday), but let me tell you, that day was packed, and most nerve-wracking of all was the 1.5 hour Pitch Slam. I’ll describe that in a moment.

There were multiple talks and events being held, some during the same time slot, so attendees such as myself had to choose between things. I’ll talk about those in another blog entry. As for the Pitch Slams, there were two, and one must register to whichever beforehand. I opted for the earlier one, based purely on the idea that I’d only work myself into further anxiety the longer I waited. Besides, I heard afterward that supposedly by Round 2, the agents are already tired and supposedly less receptive. Who can tell?

First time conference and first time pitching.  I was nervous. Yet I had done my research, rehearsed my lines, and gotten there on time. But nothing compares to actual experience.

I had left a talk ten minutes early to get to the designated “pitch room,” only to find that about 10,000 other writers had the same idea. We waited, I made small talk with those before and behind me, and eventually the line moved – and then, I was there, stepping past some majestic double-doors and into the presence of dozens of agents, any one of whom might show elating interest or offer a crushing rejection.

Now, every article you find about “how to pitch your book” will tell you about how the agents are only human and that a rejection does not necessarily mean your work is bad. Indeed, easy words to pass along, but not so easy to practice on the first time around. This was the gateway, the starting judgment. That’s not easy for people to take casually.

But the difference is choosing whether to subject yourself to judgment or to avoid these things altogether. Books that are kept secret don’t get published. Unless they find ’em after you’re dead.

Here’s how it went. Agents lined the walls, each seated and behind a table. Lines of us aspiring authors formed at each of the agents we hoped to see. Now as I said, I did my research, and had the names of the ones who I gauged to be most interested in epic fantasy. I had made a list of 6 ‘primaries,’ agents that had priority, and another 8 ‘secondaries’ in case the lines were too long, someone cancelled, or whatever. Good thing I did, too, because i saw that some agents had not showed up (all mine did though), and the line to meet one of my primaries was too long by the time I got to her.

Time with an agent is about 3 minutes. At one end of the room, some folks with a bell and a loud speaker would ring on intervals. “Switch!” And “One minute left!” When it’s time to go, it’s time to get up; and when it’s time to sit, you blast off with your 90-second pitch following a brief introduction.

So I pitched, and I slammed. Of the 7 agents I managed to see during those 1.5 hours, 4 were interested to see more of my work and two had given me the names of people (who weren’t there) they thought I should contact. Then, at 5 minute remaining, I thought i’d simply call it quits, but then I spotted one of my secondaries looking lonely. He wasn’t interested in my pitch, but happily gave me the name of someone else he knew. It pays to make that extra effort.

Not too shabby. You will hear whether or not anything comes of that, trust me.

Regarding the Slam itself though, I’d read horror stories about this event. Rude agents interrupting, timers being off-key, things like that. I’m here to tell you that the worst part of the entire experience was my own anxiety.

The agents, even those who were less-than-interested, were polite. Only one urged me to hurry up (“Alright, tell me the end”) and several times someone in front of me stood up early – which threw timer off. This meant that once or twice I had benefitted from an additional 30-45 seconds of agent time before the next bell buzzed and the system reset. That’s like, a week in Pitch Slam years. With one agent, the same happened to me, giving whoever was behind me some extra time as well.

I emerged from the clamor with an air of victory. And that feeling was exponentially magnified after the events that would take place later in the evening. But like I said, that’s another entry.

Back to the Slam. Listen, as an amateur I don’t think I’m authorized to dispense advice. But I did learn a lot, and after speaking to dozens of other folks there, in conjunction with my experience, I feel safe emphasizing a few points to other would-be authors:

  • Get over yourself. “Fear profits man nothing.”
  • Talk to people. You’re all there for the same reason – you’re not against one another so make a friend.
  • Research and plan who you’re seeing. I can’t emphasize this enough, since I met some writers though who’d done nothing. They went from agent to agent at random, only to be rejected multiple times just because that agent wasn’t even into their genre.
  • Target the agents you want, based on what they’re after, and form a back-up list.
  • Get over yourself.

Happy writing!

Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013

So lately I’ve been busy not only with the usual weavings of life, but come Saturday April 6th will be the weekend of the Writer’s Digest Conference of 2013 in Manhattan, NY. As might be surmised by the title of the post, this is the topic. I really hope I don’t have to write out that mouthful again.

Anyway, recent times have been mad as I do last-minute research. Aside a handful of workshops I’ll be attending on Saturday, I’ll be doing the Pitch Slam, where they line all us sad writers up to throw our books at agents. As the date approaches, I confess great eagerness, served with an increasingly heated side dish of anxiety. Typical.

No really, though. This is a big step. This will be my first writer’s conference, my first agent-pitch’ing, and (very likely) my first official publisher/agent rejections. If nothing else, I will have tried, for I positively refuse to let whatever negativity that might be generated as a result of the experience to dissuade me. I’m going and come hell or high water, I’m going to learn a lot.

To everyone else headed there, I wish you the best of luck – anyone reading this, well, let me know if you’ll be there. We’ll form a click. We’ll form a dance. We’ll snap our fingers like greasers – whatever it takes.