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.