The Weekend in Oz: Pitches, Lectures and Forums…Oh, my


I woke Friday to thunder and rain. It was a bit heavy-handed of God to provide such weather on the day that I was going to pitch my novel at the PNWA Conference, but God does have a sense of humor. I looked out at the wet sidewalks and realized that even though I have now lived in Washington for more than 25 years, I did not bring a raincoat to the conference. This was not a problem for the many writers who were staying at the Hilton, but it was a problem for me because I am frugal. I was staying at a hotel that was old, cleanish and cheap. This hotel was walking distance from the Hilton, but it was not walking distance in the rain when you don’t have a raincoat. So I did what any red-blooded-American would do when faced with such an overwhelming problem: I drove my car two blocks and paid ten dollars to park.

I arrived at the conference dry and ready to meet my fate. The editors and agents started the day with a forum. They talked about the types of books they wanted to see and what they didn’t like. It was very helpful. I spent most of the rest of the day writing and rewriting my pitch. I attended a couple of classes and then around two went to a session called “Is your plot High Concept?” High Concept is taking two or three existing ideas and mashing them together to create something new and popular. (Dinosaurs+Amusement Park= Jurassic Park)

The High Concept session was a little like the first few episodes of American Idol. You know, when people who can’t sing stand up and embarrass themselves in front of three judges. The panel for High Concept tried to be kind, but no one really had a High Concept novel.  I thought my novel (Lost Generation+baseball= greatness) was High Concept, but my newly condensed pitch did not include much about baseball. This realization hit me pretty hard, because the next event I was heading for was the pitch session. I walked to the pitch session understanding that my entire trip was about to come down to 90 minutes of selling my novel.

Remember those junior high dances? The ones where the pretty girls stood together? The ones where all the boys desired a dance but were too terrified to ask the pretty girls to dance? Well add elements of speed dating to a junior high dance and you have a pitch session. Lines were formed and the three-minute pitches began. It took about four rounds (12 minutes) before I was able to get my first pitch. I pitched like a nervous junior high boy and got my first request for materials. The remaining 78 minutes were a blur. I pitched to four more people and got requests for materials each time. Maybe the agents were just being nice, but I didn’t care because I got the dances.

I took the long drive back to my hotel, had a frosty beer, spilled bbq sauce all over my shirt, and watched British Open highlights until I fell asleep.

My final full day was relaxing. I didn’t have anything else to stress about and the classes I took were very rewarding. The day had a few surreal moments: Eating dinner with a great group of writers and the Lion of Hollywood, getting a very public request for my manuscript, and learning that Space Opera is an actual genre of writing.

That was my weekend. Exciting at times, boring at times, bladder straining at times, weird most of the time, and now part of the inaccurate history of my life.


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