1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    My First Writers' Conference

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Catrin Lewis, May 9, 2015.

    I've taken my courage in both hands and committed to attending the Pennwriters Annual Conference in Pittsburgh this coming weekend (May 15-17). It's the first time I've been to one of these and I thought I'd record my impressions in a thread here.

    My primary impression since I signed up a couple weeks ago has been . . . Panic Fear! :eek: What if I show up at my Read and Critique session with my submission in the wrong form and not enough copies? Or do I need copies at all? What business did I have signing up for an agent pitch session when I'm not even sure who my novel's target audience would be? I asked for a pitch session with an editor-- oh my gosh, it sounded like such a good idea when I checked that tick box when I was completing my registration in the middle of the night! But what is an editor pitch session, anyway? I'm pretty sure I won't be just interviewing someone to hire to tart up my manuscript, but what should my object be going in?

    Then there's all the workshops. Gosh, so many I want to attend all at the same time. What if I choose the "wrong" ones and miss the ones I really should have gone to? Aaaaaggghhh!

    Well. The first thing I did was go on the Pennwriters Facebook page and confess my ignorance. And a great many members, some of them conference presenters, have hastened to offer help and reassurance. Between their personal emails and official communications from the organization itself, the fogs is beginning to clear. Maybe by Friday I'll be able to act like I know what I'm doing.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2015
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  2. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    The next thing I did was respond to a call on the PW Facebook page for moderators to introduce workshop speakers and keep time.

    Gosh, I'm a newbie! I've never even met any of these people! My place is to keep my head down, stand back, and observe. I have no business volunteering to stand up there and introduce any of these published authors.

    But I'm going to do it.

    Don't worry, once I know how to pronounce the names correctly, I'll be fine. You can't scare me-- I'm a substitute teacher!
     
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  3. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    A complication: Some feedback I got on my "finished" novel tells me I should rewrite my opening. It'll take some research to get it right.

    Just what I needed: Something else on the To Do list before Friday.
     
  4. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have fun! I've never been to a writers' conference, but I've always been intrigued.

    I look forward to reading about your experiences.
     
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  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Catrin, I'll be interested to read about your experience. I will be attending the New York Pitch Conference in early June, which includes workshops on pitching your work to editors and then provides several opportunities to do so. Only 65 attendees are accepted, so you have to apply before you register.
     
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  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    If you mess up on the pitch just consider it practice. Have fun!
     
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  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good news! I've got my editor and agent pitch appointments and I got in in time to get a spot in one of the Read and Critique sessions.

    But panic in the streets! I just realized last night that the latter requires a half page only synopsis of my WIP, and I only have the rest of the afternoon to write it!

    Watch me do miracles-- or break down completely. :pop:
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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  8. EdFromNY
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    We do what we must!
     
  9. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Indeed. I think I got it down to the requisite 4½" x 6½". Other Pennwriters-types on the Facebook page were commenting that they find it difficult to come up with so much. Which makes me wonder if I've got it straight what a novel-synopsis is.

    We'll see!
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
  10. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I've got my workshop moderating assignment. I'm on to introduce fantasy author Jon Sprunk at one of the very first sessions at 9:00 AM on Friday morning. Nothing like being thrown into it right away.

    (Think I ought to get some sleep before I go to this thing?) :sleepy:

    EDIT: Just for the hell of it, I just went on Mr. Sprunk's fiction page on Facebook and introduced myself. Well, no, not just for the hell of it. It should reduce the weirdness factor if I can wear off a little of my shiny noobie newness before Friday morning.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2015
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  11. EdFromNY
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    @Catrin Lewis - sounds like you're ready to go. And, yes, sleep is highly recommended.

    Good luck, and enjoy!!
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Have fun! Sounds like you're jumping in with both feet. And why not. :)
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just a few thoughts:

    A pitch session with an editor is probably one of the best reasons to attend a writer conference. You can learn a lot and it's your chance to have the undivided attention of an editor, and not be a faceless email submission--one of fifty or so received that day.

    Have business cards if possible, to share email addresses and network. Jot notes right away after the conference, about who you met and what you discussed and follow up.

    Have fun and enjoy.
     
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  14. EdFromNY
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    Thanks for the advice, @TWErvin2.
     
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  15. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Terry, you would not believe the time I've put into designing and redesigning those bloody cards! I pick them up at Staples in a half hour, and they'd better be ready because between my job tonight and their operating hours I won't have any other chance until the conference dinner break tomorrow.

    But maybe (please, yes? :geek:) you can tell me exactly what I and the editor should be wanting out of a pitch session? Agents, I'm aware of what they do. But after the introductions are over, what do I say to her? "This is my novel, here's what it's about [insert logline], and I'm hoping you can do . . . " Do what? And what's in it for her? Clueless, clueless, clueless. :bigoops:

    I picked an editor who herself writes books about intellectual people, so there should be a connection there. But if you or anyone else with experience on this can reply tonight, I'll be overwhelmingly grateful.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    Catrin, your pitch should be similar to the inside of a book jacket. It serves the same purpose - to make someone want to read it.
     
  17. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Catrin Lewis,

    If an editor is there accepting pitches, he/she is interested in finding a new author, a new voice.

    From your posts, it doesn't appear that the editor has read any of your work ahead of time (sometimes they read a synopsis or the first 10 pages sent to them prior to the conference). I believe the mini-synopsis you're bringing for the agent would be handy to have on hand for the editor.

    A few thoughts: After introducing yourself and shaking hands and sitting down, etc., mention or discuss what you know of the editor...mainly what he/she has edited. If you've read something, that is good or maybe titles from the publisher. It would require a little research with respect to the editor, but having good background info can never hurt. Then lead into your project/novel. A 15-20 second 'elevator' pitch. Be prepared to discuss who you believe your audience is, and why you feel your novel would fit in with the publisher the editor works for. Of course, be prepared to discuss your project further, if asked.

    A lot of it depends on who you are and your personality, and the amount of time for the pitch...ten minutes? Polite and professional always works. Also, the time will fly.

    You might ask what he/she is currently looking for (especially if you have additional projects in the works and/or planned--in the works or completed is better). Also, indicate where appropriate other projects you have planned/working on. Editors don't want a one book only author.

    Near the end, ask if they (he/she) would like for you to send the first three chapters or the entire novel to them. If they made suggestions, ask framing it after you've implemented the suggestions. If the editor is interested, it will allow you to bypass the slush pile...as in the cover letter you can indicated that it is a solicited manuscript.

    Remember, editors are people too. They're readers and very busy, often read manuscripts on the subway to work, for example. They're looking for something that will spark them...that they can convince the editorial board and the sales/marketing team that the project is worth the investment.

    Practice your pitch and wishing you luck. I know you'll learn from the experience, not only from the pitch sessions, but the entire conference. It'd be awesome to learn of your success arising from the event. :)
     
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