This past weekend was the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Summer Conference. I attended last year with high hopes of getting My Bad Luck, the story I was working on at the time, picked up by an agent. Even though I snagged almost a dozen requests for material I knew my work wasn't ready. I thought it was until I attended the workshops and presentations at the conference. My work was good. It was not quite great. Despite that I sent out the requested material, waited, and took the rejections as they came back to me.
This year was different. I took everything I'd learned last year, everything workshops and critique groups had offered, and all the notes the editor I'd hired gave. I took it all and marched in there ready to conquer.
Since I registered early - something I recommend everyone do - I was given not one, but two power pitch blocks. The power pitch setup was new to me and a bit intimidating when explained. Basically they had a bunch of agents at one table and you waited in line to talk to them. Each pitch was three minutes and each block was ninety minutes. In the first block I pitched to six agents and two editors. In the second block I pitched to five agents and one editor. All in all I loved the power pitch blocks. There were a couple of hitches with them, mostly just inconsiderate people who didn't want to budge when their time was up and the agent or two who had eleven people waiting in line for them.
Now, the events leading up to the first pitch block were a bit dicey. I had a pitch prepared. One I felt pretty darn good about...and then I began to over analyze. I heard feedback from other writers like 'it's a bit wordy' or 'can you clarify this part better'? Constructive criticism is my best friend. I rewrote. I repitched. Same response. I tried again. It got worse. Towards the end of the first day I'd been through seven drafts and finally called on my friends, bribing them with alcohol after diner to get them to help me write my pitch. Maybe it was the Merlot, but I went to bed that night feeling awesome. The next morning though....it was bad again.
My friends (old and new) told me it was all in my head. I was too wrapped up in it. I disappeared for hours, wallowing in self-loathing and wondering why I'd wasted so much money on a conference I didn't have a pitch prepared for. I loved the story I'd written. I loved it more than anything I'd ever written and I knew there was a place for it in the market. I just needed to convince agents of that without throwing up all over them in the process.
Finally I threw my hands up. I resolved to just go in there and wing it. I knew my book. I knew which points I wanted to hit, and if need be I had a dozen different pitches memorized if I choked. My power pitch block rolled around and I walked in there, fully prepared to kick butt.
And I kicked butt. On my desk right now I have fourteen requests for material, three of which are requests for the full manuscript. So if you're choking when you're preparing a pitch, get out of your head. I am a very confident person and I was somehow reduced to a depressed heap of flesh sitting in the corner contemplating slitting my wrists with my note cards. Deep breath. Relax. That's what everyone around me was telling me to do but I didn't listen until I was on the verge of going home. I loved my book too much to give up on it.