Belated, I know. But I promised! So here I am.
And oh, gentle viewers, do I have some news for you!
First of all, I’m quite ashamed to admit that I have as yet consumed no bagels. In fact, I’ve eaten perhaps three meals in two days. Horrified? So is my stomach.
Actually, my stomach is quite happy at the moment. I just went to the most amazingly delectable Italian restaurant of my life — the Trattoria Trecolori in Midtown (on W 47th between 7th and 8th, for all you New Yorkers who care about your stomach’s feelings). I meant to document this fabulous meal with a picture, but I’m afraid I ate it all, and the eating erased all thoughts of anything at all.
Enough about food for a moment. I promised you conference tales! And you shall have them.
Yesterday we had three sessions when we first arrived. Here are some of the highlights:
A.J. Jacobs is a best-selling author. He spoke at a session about writing memoir for the 21st century. His books are itching at me to buy, with titles like My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Better Himself. He went 30 days telling the truth as it went through his head with no filter. He went a year trying to live exactly as the Bible dictates — even though he’s not religious. He read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. He’s funny and entertaining and had us all laughing. Go check him out.
At the end of that session, someone asked about what they needed to do to build a platform — she happened to be sitting right next to me. So what did I do? I wrote down Kristen Lamb’s blog and book title (We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media). I may or may not have bragged about how awesome she is.
Donald Maass is a bestselling author of Writing the Breakout Novel and a top-notch agent. He spoke about writing the 21st century novel and had some fabulous insights about the evolution of the publishing industry — and about the evolution of the 21st century reader. He brought up that many of the books that have dominated the bestseller lists for months at a time are literary novels. Sure, the thrillers etc. are still there, but books like The Lovely Bones, Water for Elephants, The Help — all those books are fairly literary. And they are killing it in sales. This is a huge change. He challenged literary writers to put more commercial aspects in their books. More suspense and more conflict. He challenged genre writers to deepen their characters.
Chuck Sambuchino is the editor of the Guide to Literary Agents that Writer’s Digest puts out yearly. He’s also a really straightforward, down-to-earth guy. He also happened to recognize me from Twitter. At this, I almost peed my pants. (Sorry, Chuck. That surprised me.) I had that extra pitch session, and since we were chatting when he had a no-show, I got to do the session with him! I was very happy. He was very helpful. But more about that in a bit. (Go buy his book, How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack.)
Another big high point yesterday was that I met the lovely Kourtney Heintz — you should all check out her blog.
By the end of yesterday, I was quite glutted. I had met some amazing people. Donald Maass gave me some of the best news I’ve had in a while when he said that the markets were changing. Chuck Sambuchino is just an all-around friendly guy. If the conference had stopped there, I think I would have felt like I got my money’s worth.
This morning began with a session on becoming an author entrepreneur with Dan Blank. All you WANA people out there — guess who he mentioned? None other than Bob Mayer. I took that moment to nod at the women I’d told about Kristen Lamb — because I’d mentioned Bob Mayer in my whole diatribe there. They looked suitably impressed.
Dan Blank is awesome. He gave concrete advice on what it means to be business-minded about writing. As someone who treats the word business like it has a bad smell, I needed someone to make it accessible to me. He did that. He can do it for you too. Go to his website, authors. Follow him on Twitter. Send him an e-kiss for being so awesome. For realsies.
Next was an agent panel, at which I was able to find out that I really did prepare myself — as I knew most of the answers already. I was, however, able to steal Chuck for a minute to ask him how to introduce myself when I write under a pen name. (He said to just say Emmie, because they wouldn’t remember my last name anyway — and I go by Emmie to pretty much everyone.)
Next, I found myself in for a mighty treat, gentle viewers.
Before I hyperventilate writing this, I better just get it out. I got to meet James Scott Bell!!!!! Not only did I plow through his craft book Plot and Structure on the bus to New York, but he let me tell him the first line of my novel. And his face lit up, and he said, “I like it!” (Emphasis his!) Then he grinned at me and shook my hand and wished me luck. Yes, I’m a little starstruck. I can’t help it. The guy’s an emperor of suspense and a master of the craft. He’s doing an intensive workshop in November this year in Seattle with Donald Maass — I just might have to go.
The final session before
Doomsday the Pitch Slam was with Barry Eisler, the man who has made himself notorious by turning down a $500,000 book deal in favor of self-publishing an e-book and may or may not have described the legacy publishing industry as a “cartel.” Cough.
I respect what he said about authors having more choices now. I don’t begrudge the e-book anything. But I’m going to try and publish traditionally. That’s just me and my choice. It is the right choice for me. I will change with the industry as it fluctuates, but remember that goal of mine entitled “Book on Shelf?” Yeeeah, that goal’s still there.
Yes, yes, Emmie. But what about the Pitch Slam?! What about all of those agents you were going to see?! What happened at the Pitch Slam?!?!?!?!
I know you’re all bouncing on the edges of your seats right now waiting.
First of all, I fully expected to feel like this when it started:
I practiced my re-worked pitch a bunch of times on a bunch of fellow writers and my lovely friend Emily who joined me here for the weekend (hullo, Emily!) until they said it was rockin’. I pitched first to my top three agents at the conference.
You know, I didn’t expect much to happen. Especially when it came to the agent from Curtis Brown. One of the other agents I wanted to pitch to didn’t show up, so I ended up starting at the very top of my list. In hindsight, maybe that was risky.
Aaaaaaaaachhhh! I can’t keep it in anymore!
All three of them asked for partials!!!!!
After that, I looked something like this:
I pitched to three more agents. One was a new addition to the list, and I misheard what he represented, but he gave me probably the most awesome compliment of the day. He asked about my supporting characters, and then said, “It sounds like your story is very Joss Whedon.” I gibbered for a second or two. Then we nerded out for a solid thirty seconds, even though his agency only did YA. He said he LOVED my pitch — and that he wished he could give me a yes.
The next agent also had stopped repping urban fantasy, but she was super psyched about my pitch as well. She said she loved my idea and that she thought that the character development set it apart from the genre.
The final agent was a no — said the market had enough vampires. But by that time, she could have kicked me in the shins and told me my hair was stupid (I had three agents tell me they liked my hair), and I would have just grinned at her and kissed her cheek.
On that note, gentle viewers, I am going to go to bed and have very happy dreams. I’ll leave you with something to ponder:
Ponder that $250 designer doll that looks like it wants to eat your face.
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