Sunday, February 13, 2011

Celebration: Confessions of The Pitch Girl pt. 2

The pitch slam has just ended and I'm like "I can't believe that just happened." I step out of the hall, shoot off a text to my girlfriends and grab a much needed cup of water. I look around for my friends and the first person I see is Nick who has good new of his own. He got partial and full requests as well.

I head out into the hall and there are tons of writers hanging around, sharing their good and bad news. The air is much lighter, but you can see some disappointment. I couldn't wait to share the good news, but I didn't want to brag about it, especially to those who's experience might not have been as eventful, so I kept tight lipped until a few of the writers asked me. they were all so sure that I would get requests and they were right. I tell three who approached me and a few others who were within ear shot join in and next thing i know there's a circle of writers standing around me listing to me and this is the coolest part, they weren't listening to me brag about how many requests i got, they were genuinely excited for me just as much as i was for them.

It was an amazing environment to be apart of, writers celebrating together and encouraging one another. I wish I could live in that type of environment everyday. I was still playing it pretty low key like "Like I got 5 for 5, but it's no big deal." and another writer who I hadn't personally met before that moment chimed in and said "That is a huge accomplishment, you should be proud of that."

I ran into Andrew on his way out and he had good news as well, not that i doubted he would, he was after all "The master pitcher." I wanted to stay and hear every one's success stories, but I had a concert I was supposed to attend in Brooklyn and was already running late.

So I head back to the studio only to find my girlfriends still out sightseeing, so I popped into the bar next door and used the time to text my husband the good news. I was expecting the girls to meet me at the bar, but they managed to sneak past me and texted me to let me know they were there.

I open the door to camera's flashing and the two of them cheering. They bought me flowers and the nicest card. (Like I said before AMAZING FRIENDS) I totally didn't expect it. They wanted to know everything. I could barely speak at this point, but I did the best that I could.

We got dressed and headed to the concert, but of course being the girls that we are we show up 30 minutes late and the they're completely out of seats, but the night wasn't lost. We found this amazing lounge with a live jazz band, who proudly played my favorite artist of all time, Jay-Z. I swear if he and Florence + the Machine did a single it would be that one song I would play for the rest of my life. But moving on. The food and music are amazing. We're meeting some of the locals and I am having the night of my life. My girlfriends are telling every person they meet to look for my book when it comes out. Mind you I don't even have an agent yet, lol.

It was getting pretty late and I was finally starting to crash, so we headed back to the studio, where I celebrated the amazing day by finally getting some sleep.

Tune back into tomorrow for the Close of the conference and my post conference meeting with an Agent.

Friday, February 11, 2011

TEARS and PITCHING: Confessions of the Pitch Girl day2

So this was the BIG day, the PITCH SLAM, when I tell you the nerves filled the entire building from the second I stepped into the lobby. Mind you I’m working on Zero sleep. I’m feeling like a college sophomore ready to take my final exam.

I’m reciting my pitch in my head as I stand in line at the starbucks counter. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I was seriously thinking about having a cup, but I remembered my secret weapon, Liquid B-12 (The legal crack) Five seconds under your tounge and you will be wide awake and moving faster than the energizer bunny, only problem is, it tastes like melted Tylenol. So I take a double shot grab a hot chocolate and meet Steph and Nick in the lobby area, we grab a table and everyone takes turns pitching the group.

The coolest thing about the conference was that our group was always expanding. Another Michelle I met just before leaving the lounge joined us, then john from the table next to us asked if he could join it, it was like summer camp all over again. So I decide to go last practicing my pitch, mostly because I wanted to hear everyone else’s stories. I am after all a book addict. So I pitch everyone my brand new “5am Pitch”

Hello My Name is Tetonia
I have a young adult paranormal
It’s complete at 69,000 words and the title is Undisturbed.

It’s a story about a girl who thinks the medications she been taking for over a decade is to treat her disorder, when it really just masking the signs that she isn’t entirely human.

Seventeen year old Deyan Morrow is a prescription dependent cheerleader with a hidden disorder, whose only goal is to make it out of high school before any finds out, until she meets Tony, the only person to ever break through her emotionless haze, but the question of whether he would still want her if he knew the truth is never far from her mind. However, there’s more to Deyan than even she knows, like the fact that she’s (Removed for those who haven’t read the book.), or worse that someone wants her dead because of it.

Everyone at the table is shocked, I mean literally without words, Steph’s like “How in the world did you come up with that overnight.” Divine intervention, is what I tell her and Andrew of course. He told me to start with the paranormal and that’s what I did. Their reaction totally got me pumped, but I was solid in my pitch, because honestly nothing I had written before came so close to the tone and essence of my book.

So we head in to our first workshop of the day with Donald Maas, and if you’ve read my other blog posts you know who excited I was about this one. Putting Fire In Your Fiction, is the book I’m currently reading and that’s exactly what I did. Our exercise was to take 5 minutes and think about the most difficult scene in our book, the one that’s been driving us crazy in rewrites and edits and we just can’t seem to get it right. Well for me it was the last scene, all the edits and revisions and I still felt like “It isn’t done yet.” Well Mr. Maass instructed us to pull out the emotions our character should be feeling and to think back to a time when we felt that exact same way.

Now if this was a happy moment in history I’m not sure I would have been able to find it so easily, but there something about heartbreak and tragedy that lingers, you’ll never forget the moment when someone hurt or betrayed. So I took a very painful memory and we were supposed to write how we felt in great detail and as I was writing Deyan’s voice took over and I found that every word applied to her, which turned out to be the point, by the end I was in tears, along with most of the room. As silly as I felt for getting so emotional, I was elated that I finally had the ending to my book.

Oh course when he opened up the floor for questions I hoped in line, when was I ever going to get the chance to get answers from the man whose books reshaped the way I write stories. My questions were about making my antag relatable and whether it was acceptable to have a POV of a faceless character. And he really took the time to answer them in great detail and gave me even more tips to really turn up my Antag.

My next workshop was the Ask the Agents Panel and the room was packed. It was at this point that I realized in all my prepping for the big pitch slam, I had forgotten to put on my make-up. (OMG!) So I took a little time out to paint my face and get all pretty. I didn’t want the agents to see the bags under my eyes.

I get back to the packed room and there is a line going all the way to the door of writers with questions. There’s one agent on the end who’s belting profanities like a sailor and the poor questioners are looking like deer’s in headlights. Her energy was awesome, but man I didn’t want to take her on. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that asked Steph who she was and I learned it was the infamous Janet Reid (Now is the time I should probably mention that I had also volunteered to mass pitch for the query shark and now that I had seen her in action I admit I got a little shaky in the knees.)

Good think I had a whole lunch hour not clear my head. Steph, Nick, and I went to lunch reveling over the fact that we all connected over a little Writer’s Digest Posting. We got to talking about our spouses and writing process and almost lost track of time. When we got back to the hotel I was ready to chicken out, but I kept telling myself “None of this will kill me, if anything it will make me a better pitcher.” So I go to the workshop, hop in line, and I’m ready. “Query Shark bring it on.” And she did, she ripped me to shreds up there. By the time I stepped off that stage I was thinking my story had no plot and the pitch slam followed immediately after that.

Everyone hurdles down stairs to the big PITCH SLAM, the room is hot and lacking of oxygen, though if you looked in the writers faces, you would swear everyone was holding their breath, my mind is still trying to recover from the shark attack, I’m trying to rewrite my pitch on the spot. I’m totally freaking out, wondering what my girlfriends are doing and questioning why I had even come. Then I stopped and pulled myself together. I remembered the look on everyone’s face at the pitch practice and all the compliments I had received. The other participants were wishing me luck as they passed me, they were all confident that I would get a yes, I should have been too.

I pull out my cheat sheet with my “5AM PITCH” and decide I’m just going to go for it. The wait in the first line was about 20 minutes and somewhere halfway through my cheat sheet disappeared and I totally freak out inside. I’m thinking “what I am going to do now?” I’m blanking on the words and there’s only three people ahead of me. The writers behind me were practicing their pitches and I turned and they both said “Hey you’re the pitch girl; we know you’ll do fine.” Now I’m feeling the pressure, the rejection would be 400 fold, I’m finally the next up to pick and I’m reading the agents body language and she looks friendly enough. The bell rang and it was either run or take a seat, so I sat.

I delivered my opening liners and once I finished the log line, her eyebrows raised, it was so cool. I finished my pitch in like 30 seconds and once I was done she was leaning all the way in, another good sign. She told me she loved the story and handed me her card with page request and I was like “Really?” she even wanted to know what else I was working on, so I pitched her soul stones and she said. “Wow, I love that one too, totally send me those pages.”

I still thought “Okay, maybe that was a fluke.” So I hope in the next line (Yes, I’m totally leaving the names of the agents out on purpose, not that I'm stingy, but because I'm not sure I'd like my private conversations to be exposed in a blog and like they say 'treat others the way you'd like to be treated') 20 minutes in this line and I sit thinking “1 request is good enough for me.” I pitch this agent her eyebrows raise when I finish my log line, now I’m thinking “I might have something here.” I’m not even finished with my pitch and she’s sliding me her business card and writing the number of pages she wants on the back.

I’m two for two. Two more pitches and two more requests, with the same eyebrow rise. I see Chuck passing by and he asks me how I’m doing and I tell him “I’m 4 for 4.” and he says “That’s because you have a good pitch.” And I actually believe him this time.

I have 30 minutes left and I’m determined to get to the last agent on my list. I had been passing her line all afternoon because it was so long. So I wait, the pitch slam is coming to a wrap up and I’m texting my girlfriends letting them know my progress and I’m wondering if it’s possible to end the day with a perfect score. So I take my seat pitch the agent, get the eyebrow raise and ask if there’s anything else I can tell her about my story and she asks me so many questions about how I developed the story, why I wrote it, what else I was working on and on and on the bell has rung and we’re still chatting. She hands me her card, only she doesn’t tell me how much she wants so I ask “How much do you want?” and she tells me “The whole thing, I can’t wait to read it.” Then she asks me for my card, which I almost laughed at because all our presenters said “Agents don’t want your card.”

So I walk out of that hall feeling like I had just lived a dream, I know I didn’t have a contract or a book deal, but it was a total victory to know that my story was of interest to someone other than me.

Check pack in tomorrow for the Celebration.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tweet UP Til Dawn: Confessions of THE PITCH GIRL pt.2

I know what you’re thinking “What the heck is a Tweet Up?” That’s what we were all saying. I had envisioned a cyber cafĂ© where we all tweeted about the conference, but it was actually a lounge called FACES & NAMES. Very cool place.

I texted my girl friends to meet me there and walked over with Steph and a few others, but not after thanking Chuck for helping me out with my pitch, he promptly told me that I shouldn’t have been nervous because I had a good pitch and at the time I thought he was just offering a little “lip service.” You know when people just say things to make you feel good, but when he actually remembered my characters names I thought “Okay, maybe it wasn’t so bad.”

So I get to Faces and Names and I’m as perky as a kid on pixie sticks I’m handing out with my new writer friends, when I some faces I recognize from the conference website, the Writer’s Digest editors, so I go introduce myself (Like I said, I’m not a shy girl. Lol) So I get to talking and it turns out I was standing right next to Phil Sexton, one of the editors who emailed me about my discussion board. We had an awesome conversation about his workshop on publishing success. I cannot even begin to tell you how friendly and welcoming the WD staff was. Phil and I chatted for what seemed like forever and he gave me some helpful advice.

I worked the room a little more and got to meet Rich Knight and tell him how his pitch almost made me stay in my seat, his story was so gripping and unique that my works couldn’t do it justice. If you want to know more check out his blog:
I also met Michelle, who turned out to be from Arizona too (We're already planning to do lunch one day soon), but the find of the night was my friend “THE MASTER PITCHER” A.K.A: Andrew Rosenberg this guy made my pitch, he had a way of selling you your own story with the brief info you gave him, and coupled with the fact that he sitting on a story which sounds like an award winning film, we had alot to talk about.

It’s writers like these that make your conference experience, you walk away with friends you know you’ll have for years to come. He helped me in the simplest way find the essence of my story that would grab anyone who heard it at by the end of the first sentence. (I’ll share my pitch with you during my Pitch Slam post)

So my girlfriends ended up volunteering to hear pitches and offer an unbiased opinion and I got to pick the brains of a few YA reading Mom’s about some controversial topics.

The night was a blast; I had awesome new writer friends. I made plans to do a little pitch practice with Steph and Nick the next morning, but my mind was never far from my pitch, which needed some work. I had to find a way to include the paranormal element of my story and include Andrew’s advice.

We get back to the studio around 2am and I’m kicking myself for staying out so late, I’ve almost talked my voice out, I’ve met so many people. I grab a seat, my note pad, and a pin and I’m determined to have a sellable pitch before I dare close my eyes.

My girlfriends were planning on going out to a club, but opted to stay and help me. (Amazing Friends) it was 5am by the time I finally shouted “Why is it getting progressively worse” My brain was shutting down, my friends were dozing off and fear started to set in. I was half way through the biggest slice of pizza I had ever eaten when I decided to go back to the conference, the pitch practiced in front of the whole conference, there was something there that people liked, or else they wouldn’t have crossed a room to tell me how good it was, or shook my hand at the lounge and asked me to tell them more.

The sun was all but rising when I dotted my last period. I didn’t know if it was delirium, sleep deprivation, or hysteria, but it sounded like my book and I thought “If they like the pitch, they’ll like the book because this is what it’s all about.”

I had pitch practice with new my friends at 8 so I thought “Why sleep?” I put my note pad and my new "5am PITCH" in my bag started getting ready.

Check back in tomorrow for my post about TEARS and PITCHING.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 WD Conference: Confessions of THE PITCH GIRL Day 1

So I know it’s been long awaited, but I’ve finally carved out the time to share my first conference experience.

I arrived in NYC Thursday January 20th, 2011 to an okay temperature of 25 degrees. I was prepared for it, a little over prepared if I might say. I decided to multi task, making the trip also a girls weekend, which turned out to be a god send.

We rented a small vacation rental in Mid-Town which turned out to be just three blocks from the New York Sheraton & Towers and Times Square. (Score!)Let me just say is you ever want a near death experience that will only cost you $17 bucks take the New York Super Shuttle, it was an experience I’ll never forget, let’s just say those drivers treat their 15 passenger vans like a vesper.

My girlfriends and I were so excited to be in NYC that we went out to celebrate and I learned a few things:
1. Flat shoes are frown upon
2. New Yorkers don’t dance
3. And losing your coat check ticket can be costly.
4. And New York is truly the city that never sleeps, we left at 2am and the party was just starting.

Friday morning I was up bright an early despite only sleeping about two hours. I had some errands to run before the conference began at 3pm that afternoon, starting with emailing a few of the agents I follow on twitter to see if they would be in attendance, and to my surprise I got responses, a couple even wanted to meet for coffee afterwards.

I got an awesome carriage by a man who took pity on me and my kitten heels, trying to hope over the snow and ice, and all it cost me were a few princess waves. (Who says New Yorkers Aren’t Nice?)

After my errands I had just enough time to grab a bit with my girl friends, before meeting up with Steph and Nick (two attendees who responded to my writer’s digest discussion) we planned to meet up at registration and sit together and I can’t tell you how relaxing it was to have those connections prior to getting to the conference, not that I’m a shy girl (More on that later)

So My girl friends were like my glam squad/PR the whole trip they came with me to registration and help my place in line while I went to primp and by the time I got back they had even done some introductions for me. I was a little nervous, but I had already made up my mind on the plane that I was going to meet as many writers as I could in those three days.

So I find Steph in line and I was so excited to see her that I gave her a big hug, despite the fact that we were strangers. So she and I and some other’s I met in line go to find a seat and Nick was already holding a table for us with some others he met online. I had the greatest conversation with another writer from North Carolina, which got me more pumped to meet others. There were hundreds of faces, young and old and I wanted to know what they wrote, why they wrote, if their characters drove them crazy the way mine did sometimes. I was finally in an environment where I could talk about all the things the outside world would want to have me committed for. Like the way my character ties her shoes or the kind of music she plays when she’s driving alone.

So the open address is given by Richard Curtis, who had to be a comedian in his former life because he really had some funnies. And next was the pitch perfect workshop by Chuck Sambuchino. He started off by giving us the format of a pitch
· Introduction
· Genre, Word Count, whether or not the book is complete
· Log Line
· And a single paragraph pitch

After he described each part in detail he opened the floor for questions and added that if anyone would like to pitch him for practice that they were more than welcome, and I thought “Sure why not.” So a line forms and I think “Awe man, everyone is going to pitch him and I won’t have time.” So the Rich Knight steps up to the mic and asks Chuck if he can pitch. His log line gets a gasp from the entire room of 500 writers, it was so good, and staff members and I’m like “What was I thinking wanting to pitch my YA Paranormal? I’m going to be laughed out of the room.” So I change my mind at that exact moment and put my pitch away. Then people go through the line one by one asking questions and I’m like Are you guys crazy, why aren’t you pitching? This is the best opportunity you could get to practice on a pro before the big pitch slam tomorrow.” So I change my mind again. I make my way to the back of the line and I’m standing there, no notes, fully expecting for my throat to close up.

It’s finally my turn I introduce myself, follow the steps Chuck gave us and I pitch my story, and I’m relaxed and I’m explaining Deyan and her issues and then I release I’m pitching in front of 400+ people and somewhere in the middle of my pitch I blank. I totally forget to add the paranormal part and Chuck is so awesome that he asks me a few questions to get me back on track and then he summarizes the story back to me and by sheer magic he actually got the story(Minus the paranormal element) and even cooler he didn’t hate it. So I go back to my seat my nerves die down and I sort of work out the words for my new pitch while Dan Blank share’s some awesome info about branding yourself.

At the end of the evening I get people crossing the room to tell me how brave I was and how much the like my story. I meet a group of other YA writers and it’s instantly like “Yay! Family.” I’m beaming, because I’ve basically just introduced myself to the entire conference and gained a really cool nick name
“The Pitch Girl”
As exciting as theses moments were, it was only a beginning of the conference; there was so much more. Turn back in tomorrow for my post about the TWEET UP that followed.