Monday, April 26, 2010

Post Pikes Peak Writers Conference--Bypassing the slush pile

Yes--it was fantastic!

Later, I'll blog a little about some of the workshops. There was a lot of fantastic information about honing your craft. But for now, I'm going to give the details about the agents who asked for my manuscript.

On Friday, I decided to attend a Read and Critique 1-2-3 workshop. In this R&C, you bring the first page of your manuscript, and the moderator reads it aloud--this way it's anonymous. The panel the mod read for was Kate Gale (editor with Red Hen press), Carol Berg (an author), and Scott Hoffman (a founding agent of Folio Literary Management.) They were pretty brutal (something I'm always grateful for--more about that soapbox in a later blog.) After the first line of the first page was read, Scott frequently said, "Okay stop! I'd quit reading right here."

I was lucky to have my first page read--I was on the waiting list. M. B. Partlow, another member of the PPW was the moderator--she did the reading.

One line in, Scott says, "Stop!" I, of course, pee my pants a little. Then he continues: "I already love this." I un-pee my pants. M. B. resumes reading. At the end, the reviews are great and Scott says, "I love this, but I think it's absolutely unsellable. But whoever wrote this, please send me the manuscript, a synopsis, and your bio."

After the session, I go up to the front of the room to reveal that I'm the one who wrote Suicide TV (my manuscript.) I talk with Kate about what genre my manuscript might fall under, then move on to Scott. He tells me that the reason he thinks my manuscript is unsellable is because publishers aren't interested in reality show stories. (They don't believe we want to read about reality shows when we can watch them on TV. But remember--publishers are reactionary, not revolutionary--just before J. K. Rowling, they said there was no market for children's fantasy. Just before Twilight I kept hearing that vampires were on their way out.) But Scott wants the manuscript anyway. We talk about some common interests, he gives me his contact info, and I leave.

I go out into the hallway, where I see DeAnna Knippling--a great writer & friend. I do a little happy dance--the kind with the tappity feet, the flappity hands, and the squeaky noises only dogs can hear--and we hug. And Scott Hoffman goes walking by. I make a lame comment about how cool I normally am, but he just gives me a big smile. I'm sure they're used to seeing writers this way.

Friday night, I'm sitting at the table of Donald Maas, (an agent) talking with him and his wife, Lisa Rector (an independent editor with Third Draft NYC)--what a lovely couple! After socializing for a while, I give Donald my log line: two contestants on a suicide reality show fall in love and want to live, but the show has other ideas. Donald says, "you should come and talk to me about this." I meet him in the bar that night, answer a few questions, and he gives me his card (which I promptly lost) and asks for 50 pages and a synopsis.

Again with the happy dance.

The next day, I'm in Donald's workshop on microtension (more on that in a later blog) and he asks if anyone has their manuscript with them--he needs to pick apart some dialogue. I give him mine. He opens it, looking for some random dialogue, and his eyebrows knit together. (I pee my pants a little.) Then he says, "this is pretty tight writing." (I un-pee my pants.) Finally he finds some dialogue we can work on. Donald and the audience are pretty brutal (which I like) and find ways to tighten what I've written. Yay!

I go to my 4:20 pitch appointment with Sarah Megibow (an agent with Nelson Literary Agency.) By this time, I'm no longer nervous. I pitch to Sarah, and she asks for thirty pages, giving me her card with the secret password on it. (Yes, there really was a secret password.) Luckily, I don't lose this card.

Saturday night, I sit at Scott Hoffman's dinner table. My husband John is with me, and we spend much of the evening chatting up Scott. I am surprised to learn that he's not at all what I expected. Look at his photo and bio--does he not look scary and snobby? Well--John and I find out Scott reads Orson Scott Card, likes Joss Whedon, listens to TED lectures, and it pretty progressive about copyrighting trends (more about that in a later blog.) Have I found my soul-agent? We'll see--I'm not ready to pass judgment yet.

So that's about it--three agents, all interested in my work. Let me say one more thing, though: all of these agents were sold on the premise. I agree that the premise is fantastic. But none of them have seen more than a page or two of my writing. Think about it--dinosaur theme-park was a fantastic premise, but could just anyone have done a good job writing about it? The real test is yet to come--will they like my writing. But as John says, I've gotten past the slush pile--and that's a fantastic thing!


  1. What an exciting weekend. Crossing my fingers that more good comes of it.

  2. Did you find Donald's card? Doesn't that have his personal email on it?

  3. Yes, it has his personal email on it. No, I haven't found it. But I have resources who will be able to give the email address to me.