Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Romance Writer's of America's National Conference-a First Timer's View of Pitching

Pitching at the Romance Writers of America National Conference can make veteran conference attendees quake in their shoes. As a first timer, there’s a lot of luck involved in getting the right agent/editor appointment for what you’re writing, if you get a choice at all. The rest is up to you.

The alarm blares and my eyes spring open…pitch day. I groan knowing how many appointments are scheduled for me. Zero. Late registrations don’t allow for much planning. Today the only way to get any agent/editor face time is by waiting for opportunities to open. Not everyone shows up for their scheduled time slot. It’s a matter of standing all day ready to spring forward at any given moment to snag an opportunity.

The hardest part of pitching is self-confidence. I know my story backwards, upside down and blindfolded; I wrote and edited the words countless times. It’s whether I’m projecting the story clearly to someone else where the problem may arise. Usually not, it’s why I write, there’s unlimited editing.

A huge confidence boost is laying out a no-fail outfit the night before. Okay, I had two ready, but it’s still easier than stressing over what to wear. The next item to check off is easy makeup application [guys don’t nick yourselves shaving]. Comfortable shoes help, but don’t overdo the comfort level. Flip flops have there place when hanging with friends, not at an important meeting.

The stilettos clip while sprinting across the street to the Marriot Marquee. I’m dressed to impress, my feet can feel comfortable later. The uniformed security guard waves and smiles, as I dash for the elevators with a wave. By now he’s seen me more than most guests from racing back and forth to my room at The Paramount Hotel.

The doors open and its pandemonium. A mass of people mill at the room entrance and I’m not certain if they’re petrified to enter or awaiting appointments. I stand in the long line to sign for pitch openings when I hear, “An opening for so and so, editor.” I turn around, smile and wave. “I’ll take it.”

After receiving instructions, I wait two minutes and sit for the first pitch. My hands shake a little as I remove the story notes from my purse just in case of brain freeze, but my voice sounds confident. Ten minutes later I find myself in line again and in no time returning to speak with another agent/editor. I guess when you jump right into the mix there isn’t time to get nervous.

So far today’s pitch sessions were positive with varying results. My brain is burning out, my adrenaline is fading fast, but I can handle one more time in line. If I have to wait more than fifteen minutes, I’ll have to run to Starbucks as my next stop. Within moments I get another opening for my last pitch.

I introduce myself and begin anew. She picks up a few pages of the story I accidentally grabbed with the notes and begins reading them. I finish speaking and she doesn’t stop reading. She’s smiling while reading and I’m smiling at her smiling. Remember the writing better than I speak thing? She thinks so too and begins asking me what I’m looking for in an agent. Holy cow!

Snapping my jaw closed, I listen to what she can offer me as an agent. Some semblance of my brain is working and I ask who she’s signed lately and what they write. I agree to send her the full manuscript and we shake hands at parting. One final polish and it’s ready to send.

I’m a firm believer in making my own luck and preparing ahead makes it possible, even at Nationals. Was I nervous? Heck yeah, but stacking the deck in my favor with a little confidence certainly helped. Remember to check back soon to see how I made the workshops I attended produce immediate results.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Romance Writers of America National Conference...A First Timer's View

I enjoy the frantic calm of the city and keep pace with the crowd to the Marriott Marquee a few doors down with the registration confirmation in hand. My biggest fear is David Cook's personal serenade at the Paramount Hotel would eclipse the week. Seriously, he stood twenty feet away and I didn't notice anyone else in the qualifies as personal to me. After a quick ride up the glass elevator and a hello to the concierge, I find the sixth floor mobbed with women at the far end. I hurry forward.

Writing is a solitary vocation.The Romance Writers of America is a formidable group dedicated to helping its members produce quality romantic fiction and lend support along the way. Over 12,000 members rely on volunteers in all facets of the organization in order to accomplish this monumental task. The organized chaos of women lining up beneath alphabetic cards were rattling off more aliases than mob bosses. The registration volunteers sorted through each person and explained the pertinent information with a smile.

I receive my badge with a first timer ribbon, a goody bag of books and conference agenda and did the unthinkable..I ask if they need help. They let me loose after a superspeedy orientation and it all works out. Oh yeah, the registration attendees immediately noticed the first timer ribbon hanging above my new blue volunteer ribbon. I do travel extensively, but I've never heard so many, "bless your hearts" in so short a span. Between checking in registrants, unloading skids of boxes and replenishing goody bags to shelves, three hours flew past in a snap and with the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing only a few hours away, it was time to prepare for the evening.

Sporting the badge I find my way up to the sixth floor all dressed and polished to meet so many writers I've admired for years. A funny thing happens in the elevator; a mascaraed eyelash pokes me and my eye begins watering. All attempts to dislodge it only makes matters worse. I ask for help. A very nice woman offers to look and see how she can assist me, but the dim elevator bulbs doesn't provide enough light to see the problem. The doors opens, we exit to where the lighting improves and she spots the culprit. A quick remedy and we are on our way.

Believe it or not I'm a shy person, but walking down the corrider in silence when she just aided me felt awkward, so I make small talk. She asks what I write and I ask what she writes, she hands me her card and I ask to submit. We walked to the front of the line together, past the guard and into a room with hundreds of authors and fans lined up awaiting autographed books. A smile to writers everywhere knowing our fans love us no matter what name we use.

I can't say it was an elevator pitch, but I'll never forget the lesson learned: You never know who's in the elevator with you and to stay on your "A" game. A huge thank you to Amy Pierpont, an Executive Editor at Grand Central Publishing, for coming to my aid. You'll see my pages soon!

I learned a lot more about the conference by getting answers for other people while volunteering, than if I'd stumbled along on my own. So if you get a chance, volunteer somewhere at a conference and help out the people who are helping you. Volunteering also helps with information about pitch sessions, but that's another story you won't want to miss.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Romance Writers of America National Conference...A First Timer's View

I heard "Nationals is amazing, it's exciting, the workshops are great," the Romance Writers of America National Conference was even better than I dreamed. So many incredible published and yet to be published writers in one place at the Marriott Marque in Manhattan, New York. The city that never sleeps combined with writers known for burning the midnight oil...I was in for some very long days. The week flew by making me reflect on what I'd learned from this experience.

Personal issues forced me to register late and find lodging a week before the conference; tricky, but doable. The Paramount's accommodations are very metro and only a few buildings down from The Marriott Marque. A perfect location, more affordable and a mental hiatus from all the creative conference energy, which if captured could have lit up the lights on Broadway.

Not knowing what to bring, I packed half of my closet into a huge suitcase. My husband shook his head as I sat upon the luggage to zip it closed. I did wear most of them. There are so many activities at the conference, plus publisher parties and don't forget all the events ongoing in the city; it's always better to be prepared for anything, than not have what you need at a moments notice.

The hotel registration had early check-in availability too. An added bonus, David Cook, an American Idol favorite, celebrated his new album release by rocking out six songs with his band on the hotel's famous curved staircase immediately after I checked in. Oh yeah, this is how my week began and it was a nonstop ride.

Return back here to learn how I managed through the organized chaos at the conference registrations and news about the fabulous Author Signing Event. You'll never believe what happened!