We are entering writing conference season, which is eerily similar to hunting season in ways that make my heart skip a beat. In fact, at conferences across the nation, hearts will be inflated and then stomped upon. Especially when conferees learn that the 15 minute one-on-one agent/editor appointments they’ve scrimped and saved to purchase don’t involve writing as much as they thought.
These days, those appointments are known as pitches. You don’t a actually show the agent/editor anything you’ve written. That would be too easy. No, you must perform your work. You practice a little speech that is supposed to impress agents, editors and God. Why, no one in the history of the world has ever thought up a more brilliant book concept!
Except that as you regurgitate your spiel, you realize that your childhood stuttering problem is back. Or you can’t remember a single thing about a novel that has taken 28 years to write.
In response to these performance bombs, most conferences have a Pitch Practice room, where you can go and make a fool of yourself in front of your peers. These writers will lovingly tell you that you suck, your book sounds dreadful and oh did we mention that you suck? By the time you exit the Pitch Practice, you never again want to face another agent/editor as long as you live. In fact, you’d rather go to your hotel room and stick your head in the oven. If your room had an oven.
I think what these conferences need is a room like most churches have for new moms (or moms like me who have no idea how to shut that kid up). We can call it the Writer’s Conference CRY ROOM, for all the attendees who’ve failed at pitching, bought into the I-got-my-agent-in-the-restroom myth or who are trying to sell a memoir (In the halls you hear writers mumbling, “Memoirs are death, people. You might as well jump off the 10th floor.”). In the Cry Room, writers can be comforted for believing this $1000+ fiasco was worth a twelve-hour plane ride. The Cry Room will be staffed by those who understand why you hate the writer who brought an authentic Indian basket to her pitch for a dreadful novel about Alaska. And why you hate the agent who was impressed by the same writer’s impromptu rain dance right there in the pitch area. And why you can’t stop crying when, all through your pitch, the agent read the newspaper, then glanced up at you and said, “Send me the first 3 chapters.” We all know how that turns out. Go ahead and cry, honey. You will when the credit card bill arrives.