And now, my blogfriends, we come to the climax of the All Write Now 2016 Writer's Conference. The part where Val Thevictorian makes a buffoon of herself.
The lunch session ran a little long, so rather than find a quiet nook (or perhaps a toilet seat) where I could quickly edit my pitch to morning keynote standards...I stayed in the ballroom to await my fate. I had my trusty little notebook to jot key points. Just a bit of re-vamping from the 2-minute-and-15-second pitch I had planned for that 5-minute pitch session. (FORESHADOWING, people, FORESHADOWING.) I wasn't worried about memorizing, because that doesn't work for me. I'm an impromptu pitcher. I have the bullet points in my head, and freestyle from there.
Everybody pitching herded themselves to the end of the ballroom next to the glass-windowed (glass makes the BEST kind of window, imho) area where the agents sat at long tables. I glanced left, and saw Madam Sioux standing at my shoulder in solidarity.
"I am WRITING MY PITCH, Madam!" I didn't want to be rude. But apparently my not-nervous nerves got the best of me. I don't think Sioux took it the wrong way, because she stayed right there. One of the conference organizers read off names, and told those 6 people to sit in the chairs lined up against the window. We listened about like kindergarteners on the first day of school lining up for afternoon bus routes. The others, of course! Val did exactly what she was supposed to do, which was stay out of those chairs, because she was not in the first group of pitchers.
In my little notebook, I sketchily trimmed the fat from my longer pitch. I had a greeting updated to reflect what had gone on in Jill Marr's morning keynote address. A statement of why I had chosen to pitch to her. Then my name and my work and what it entailed. You see, from vast internet research, I learned that agents do not appreciate being verbally assaulted with canned pitches the minute the prospective author steps up to meet them. A brief greeting makes them feel more human.
After one more set of pitchers took (or didn't) the chairs, it was my turn. Yes. Val moved to those chairs and had a seat. It was expected of her, after all, even though the other five milled around near the door to the agent sanctuary. Finally, it was time! Time to enter and stand at the end of my agent's table. That was the standard procedure.
I stood dutifully. I was the best stander to ever stand! Val is, after all, a compliant creature with a permanent record clear of blemishes. Jill Marr motioned to me before the conference runner said we could sit down. So I went on over. I wanted to extend my hand and offer a greeting, a humorous comment relating to the morning's activities. Say my name--
But Jill Marr was looking down at her list! The minute I walked over! Because, you know, we were running late, and times were off. She looked befuddled.
"What is your name?"
OH DEAR! It was like I didn't know what I was doing! Should I have said my name as I walked over? Leaned over and pointed to my name on the list? Said it while her head was down? OH DEAR! I was the biggest rube who ever rubed! What was I thinking, signing up to pitch to a big-name agent with a big-name literary agency?
"I'm Kathryn Cureton--" I made my greeting. Which went over like a lead balloon. Fell flatter than a pancake (with no baking powder) in Kansas.
OH DEAR! I had to repeat that little greeting. Not so humorous the second time around. OH DEAR! Why was I so stupid? Jill Marr smiled politely. The big ol' bird on my head was starting to crow and crap.
I mentioned that I chose to pitch to her because she represents humor books like "Don't Lick the Minivan." Because that's the type of stuff I write. Jill Marr mentioned how she signed that author at a conference like this in Canada.
I told her the name of my book is "One Great Big Not-Listening Party," and that it is not finished yet. [Yes, I know that's a cardinal sin of pitching, but not necessarily so with a nonfiction book, and besides, when was I ever going to have an opportunity like this again?] I explained that it was in the style of a Jen Lancaster or Celia Rivenbark or Jenny Lawson book. At no point did I say that I was the next one of them. Just something to compare to. And Ms. Jill Marr said,
"Not being finished is not a problem for nonfiction. I am not familiar with those authors."
Good thing I was not wearing a skirt, because at this point I would have wondered if my buddy Sioux had neglected to tell me that my skirt was tucked into my pantyhose. I understand that humor is not the main thing Jill Marr represents. She just has a couple of books out in humor. But it's not like Jenny Bent was at the conference. I picked the best choice from what was available, and Ms. Jill Marr was quite congenial and accommodating.
"They were bloggers and turned their stories into humor books. I have been published in five anthologies--"
"That's a good sign."
"I won a couple of contests, including the nonfiction category of this one last year."
"Oh, that's something to put on your query. Are you on social media?"
"I have two blogs that I've been posting to daily, one since 2005, and one since 2011. I don't have a lot of followers. And they're not in my own name--"
"Why aren't they in your name?"
"I was a teacher for 28 years. My employer didn't want us on social media. I just retired in May--"
"So have you come out? Ha, ha! Are you writing under you own name now?"
"As a matter of fact, just last week, I did a whole blog post on coming out! Put in my real name."
"You'll need to get your blog under your own name now. Congratulations on your retirement!"
I brought the conversation back to how I enjoyed "Don't Lick the Minivan."
"Did you know that the original title was going to be, "Get That Train Off Your Penis!"
"Yes, I did! I read it at the beginning! I've never had to say that to my kids, but I DID find myself yelling, 'Stop plugging your brother's fart hole!'"
"Oh, is your book about parenting, like Leanne's?" [Leanne Shirtliffe, author of "Don't Lick the Minivan]
"That. And WIFING! My husband does things like give me a crutch to hold open the hatch of my SUV, rather than getting it fixed. And a pair of pliers to turn on my lamp instead of getting a new one. And tried to make sausage out of our neighbors' pot-bellied pigs until I made him let them loose!"
Jill Marr laughed politely. "Oh, he sounds like my ex-husband! Not able to fix anything!"
"In this case, he's not so much unABLE as unWILLING!"
"When I met Leanne, her twins were the exact same age as my son. Do you have a proposal?"
"Not ready to hand out to people at this moment."
"Do you know what a proposal is?"
"Well, you're ahead of about half the people at this conference. When it's ready, send me the proposal." She gave me her business card.
"Thank you. I will." And with that, my time was up.
I'm pretty sure she gave me her business card just because. Just because I had the nerve to actually try to pitch to her. Don't cost nothin', other than printing costs for the business card, which I'm pretty sure are provided by her employer, or are at least tax-deductible. So...I will send a proposal when I get it polished.
At the final session, prizes were awarded for the writing contest. I received Honorable Mention for my essay "Baby Boomers Survive," and 3rd Place for my essay, "A Hot Date in the Next Town Tonight."
Yes, I AM proud of myself for going through with the pitch, because it HAD entered my mind to cancel it when we arrived that morning. And I AM proud of my contest placings, even though The Pony said the talk at my table when I went up to grab my Honorable Mention was that there were about 372 honorable mentions in that category.
Surely he exaggerated.