Always Be Prepared

In June I attended the Writing Workshop of Chicago because several of the guest speakers were people whose writings and blogs I have enjoyed online. Also, the promise of agents, both speaking and accepting 10 minute pitches, made this an opportunity not to be missed.

One agent’s name stood out. I have queried her in the past, and have gotten encouraging responses. I decided to pitch my YA novel to her in person, and this would also be a great chance to thank her.

For days I practiced my pitch. I typed out what I wanted to say, then timed myself to fit my speech in the 10 minute time frame. I memorized the words, and while driving, watching TV, and in bed at night, I recited my pitch. I arrived in Chicago, feeling confident that I could do it, no problem.

My pitch time was set for the morning, about 30 minutes into the sessions. At least I didn’t have to worry and fret all day about what to say. I could get in there, say my speech and get it over with!

When it came my turn, I made an initial blunder. I called the agent by her first name, not Miss so and so. Granted, in her emails to me she had signed just her first name, but I didn’t plan on calling her by it upon our first meeting.

I sat down and everything I had memorized evaporated. I hesitated, then said, “I’ve never done this before. Where do I start?”

The agent couldn’t have been nicer. She told me to just tell her about my story, which I did. Along the way she asked questions and gave input, and before I knew it, my time was up.

I must not have done as badly as I thought, as she asked for 30 pages. I left her table feeling grateful and encouraged.

As a moderator for the SCBWI – IL Springfield Area, I tried something new at our last meeting. Knowing 3 of the members were attending a writers conference this weekend, I asked one to pitch her story in six minutes, all the time we had left before the meeting ended. Another member acted as the agent and listened to the pitch and asked questions.

I know I put this writer in a pressured situation, but she handled herself quite well. The “agent” had great questions, and based on this practice session, the writer realized how ill prepared she was to talk about her book. She is now working on her pitch, and she’s going to be ready, and confident, when she meets an agent or publisher at this conference.  If they say, “What do you write? Tell me about your book,” she is going to have a quick response.

Writers need to be like the Boy Scouts, always prepared. Yet, even the best prepared can stumble. It’s the finish that counts.

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