Monday, September 8, 2008
The Accidental Pitch Session
As you know, I was recently in San Francisco for the RWA national conference.
On the final day of the conference, I slipped out of my next to last workshop for whatever reason about 20 minutes before it was over and headed up to the Starbucks on the main level of the hotel. It was probably 4pm and the last thing I should be drinking is a latte, but I want one and there I am. So, I'm squinting at the deserts and mutter out loud, but kind of to myself, "are those brownie bites?" A voice from behind me says, "you should see the calorie count on the scones."
I turn around and this extremely well-dressed, good looking, petite blonde woman smiles at me. Instead of telling her to mind her own business and let me lament the brownies in peace, I kick into caffeine-deprived nonsense mode. "You mean when I get to the counter, someone is going to tell me about the calories in that scone? Who decided that was a good idea? As far as I'm concerned, that's oversharing. I do not need them to tell me that after eating that scone, it might be a good idea for me to spend a fair amount of time on a treadmill. That is information that needs to be kept to oneself."
Blondie smiles again and says, "oh yeah, it has about 600 calories."
Now I'm just amused that she's so insistent on talking to me about the calories so the madness continues. "Well, it's bad enough that Paula Deen is trying to kill us all with her 'stick of butter' for every freaking recipe, now the Starbucks is going to bring me down by forcing caloric content on me? What has the world come to?"
Blondie giggles and says, "yes, but the risotto tastes so much better with that stick of butter." And I agree with her.
By now my latte and brownie bite have been rung up, so I wave goodbye and head back down to the ballroom level where my last workshop awaits me.
A voice from behind me says, "so you didn't save me any of your brownie bite?" I turn and there's Blondie.
"Hello, it was a brownie BITE. If it had been a brownie proper, I might have considered sharing but sorry....you're out of luck."
Now at this conference there were perhaps 900 women and many of them high powered authors, publishers, agents, etc. Throughout the conference, people would ask the question, 'what do you write?' meaning what genre, so it was kind of de rigueur to ask. Blondie asks me and I tell her that since just that morning I had the benefit of the genre-blending workshop, I wasn't sure but I think I write paranormal time travel romance. Then I reciprocate and ask what she writes. You know, being polite and all.
"I'm not a writer. I'm an agent."
I swear I did the Homer Simpson groan out loud. Blondie frowns at my groan and I explained that I'd spent the whole of the conference avoiding agents, not only because I came to work on craft mainly, but because it had been drilled into the virgins that we were to step away from the agents--don't talk to the agents, don't look at the agents, don't even think about the agents. The agents have their crucifixes out for fledglings like myself, so don't even try it.
I also explained that since I'm originally from the business world, the business part isn't the scary aspect for me, it's the other stuff and I'm working desperately to make sure that my manuscript is polished to a high gloss before presenting it to someone, anyone to consider publication. Then I say, "now I'm nervous."
Blondie smiles reassuringly, digs out her business card, gives me all the particulars of sending something to her and asks me to remind her that she met me at RWA. She also explains that she enjoys representing people who have 'personality' because let's face it--even though Norman Mailer was brilliant, watching him talk about his writing was almost like the setup to a prize fight. But I guess that's also personality of a sort.
Long story short, I take her card, find out from chapter mates that she's indeed well-respected and that I should make haste in sending whatever I am going to send. This does nothing to calm my anxiety because my ability to carry on witty banter and talk nonsense with strangers in Starbucks doesn't mean that I can string together a sentence that anyone would pay to read.
Anyway, Blondie has no one to blame but herself when my slightly hysterical query letter arrives. And it will also be her fault when at the next conference I attend, I immediately fill that bag made from recyclables with a Glenfiddich gift set, a box of brownies and the DVD boxed set of the first season of Mad Men.
You know, just in case I unknowingly chat up another agent. I'd like to be prepared with the swag to cover myself.