Pitching Your Novel

My guest today is Angela Noel. Her experience at a writer’s conference brought back many memories for me.

Signing up

By Angela Noel

A poet friend told me about The Loft’s Pitch Conference. The idea terrified me. Pitch my book to three agents? Live? That sounded like a job interview married to a parole hearing and covered in olives (I hate olives). But, I reasoned, I’d never been to a writer’s conference. It was in my hometown. The Loft in Minneapolis is an incredibly supportive haven for writers and ideas, and not likely to host another conference for at least another year. And, I had a second novel languishing at 30,000 words that needed a swift kick in the pants. I decided to sign up.

The months between signing up and showing up were filled with drafts. I finished that second novel, but it needed so much work, it wouldn’t be ready in time. My first novel was much closer to perfect. So, I polished it with the help of my writing group, and wrote draft after draft of my short pitch (the verbal equivalent to a marketing letter). It needed to roll off my tongue. It had to be perfect. I practiced with everyone who would stand still for four minutes and listen to me. I pitched my aunt and my mother over the phone. I pitched my golden retriever, who thumped his tail in appreciation. I pitched myself in my bathroom mirror. In short, I did all I could to prepare.

The day of the conference dawned. I picked out my clothes carefully and promised myself that in just ten short hours I’d either have a yes or a no. My first pitch to one of the three agents was mid-morning on the first day. If an agent liked my pitch, she’d request my work. That’s a foot in the door, not a shoulder or an armpit, just a tiny toe-hold, but a toe-hold nonetheless.

I had only dread in my belly. Too many new people, no friendly faces, sweaty palms, and rejection—I imagined the soup of terrible awaiting me. But, I got in the car anyway. I drove to the conference, parked my car, checked that I hadn’t accidentally put my dress on inside out (it happens), and tried to pour mental molasses on the butterflies to slow their fluttering. Then, I trotted across the busy street and opened the gorgeous wood and glass doors of The Loft Literary Center.

That’s when it hit me: I could do this.

The first person I saw, a woman in a scarf so large and intricate I wanted to hang it as a tapestry on a wall in my home, looked up at me wide-eyed.

“Hello! I’m Angela,” I said, probably too loudly. “This is my first conference. How about you?”

She looked down at the floor, but shook my proffered hand. She told me her name and that she was new here too. She pointed me towards the stairs. “I think you have to register,” she said. “I’ll see you up there.”

The queue of eager registrants spilled down the wood and iron spiral staircase on the second floor. Once at the top, I found my name badge, got my program, smiled like a lunatic, and made my way to the coffee and mini-muffins. I saw many awkward fellow writers looking timid and alone.

“Coffee!” I said, setting my bag down to grab a paper cup. “Thank heavens for this! Unless I spill it on myself, in which case: curse you, coffee!” I don’t even know to whom I aimed my words. But hearing my own voice in the air comforted me. Smiling at the man who looked like a science fiction writer (and was) gave me courage.

Within minutes, I knew that in the land of introverts, a smiling ambivert is the circus come to town. As an ambivert—a quixotic creature sometimes filled with the extrovert’s love of people and company, and at other times the introvert’s craving for silence and peace—I had both an opportunity and an obligation.

I believe there is greatness in all of us and I’m grateful to see it in others. If I could just pick my head up, forget that I, too, am nervous and fretting that my preparation or worse, my novel, might not be good enough, I’d see how others suffered. They had all my fears but seemingly less of my willingness to shatter uncomfortable silence with words, smiles, and handshakes. My natural curiosity, and sincere love of fellow humans took over. Before the first hour had elapsed, my nervousness had been replaced by joy.

These people, these wonders, had put their work forward just as I had. They wanted to learn, to grow, to see their writing blossom in view of a wider audience. I could do something about that. I could connect people. I could meet one person and include them in a group. I could ask questions, share ideas, and demonstrate my interest in their work. With these small acts the nervous turtle in all of us relaxed. We came out of our shells. Desperate to relieve my own fears, I stumbled upon a gift I had to give to others.

Years ago, I realized the cost to me of being the first to love, the first to stretch out a hand to connect, was infinitesimal. Many times, I’m the instigator of new relationships. I can’t help myself. People are wonderful. And, though I don’t like rejection, I don’t often fear it. But, I’d let fear get to me prior to the conference. Yet something about walking through those doors and seeing all the other writers, my kin, made my fear disappear.

We journey together, all of us humans. For some of us we walk in tandem for the duration. For others of us, we are but temporary companions on the Appalachian Trail of life. Either way, initiating conversations costs me next to nothing. But the payoffs in learning, in awe, in wonder at the capabilities and pursuits of another human are infinite. I had forgotten this truth in the days leading up to the conference. I had focused too much on myself: my fears, my work. The moment I remembered I wasn’t alone, that I could forge connections and offer others a lifeline, everything changed.

I loved the conference. I loved when a woman I had just met asked me to hold her hand while an agent read her query letter aloud to an audience of people and applauded her work. When all three agents I’d pitched my novel to requested my manuscript, I knew my success was not mine, but ours. Each of the writers who’d let me into their world, who had talked to me about writing, creativity, passion, and purpose had gifted me with confidence. When I met with the publishing professionals I had an army of love behind me. It was the purest and best kind of love—the kind we give away for free without thought of return. I loved those writers and didn’t need them to love me back. I didn’t even wonder if they did. Giving love, standing in awe of creativity and accomplishment, is its own fuel; it feeds on itself. The more of it we give away; the more we have to give.

Though I believe I offered comfort to some of the quiet and withdrawn among the constellation of would-be authors at the conference, ultimately it was they who comforted me.  By giving all I had to give, I got everything I needed in return and more.

So: Go. Be. Do. Invest in whatever it is that scares you. We have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by signing up. If I can, you can too.

 

If you’re interested in attending an excellent, small, and well-run conference to pitch your novel, meet industry professionals and network with other writers, sign up for the 2018 Pitch Conference at The Loft Literary Center. Registration begins November 14, 2017.

 

 

Angela Noel lives and writes in Minneapolis. In between fiction projects, she posts inspiring stories about interesting ideas and compelling people on the You are Awesome blog. She enjoys yoga and loves books, humans, wine, and chocolate (but not necessarily in that order).  Connect with her on Twitter at or Facebook or subscribe to her blog for a new post each week.

 

 

 

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Book Review: “Orion’s Gift,” by Anneli Purchase

Thank you, Robin, for this review of Orion’s Gift, available by clicking on the book cover image at the left of the page.

witlessdatingafterfifty

Two people who have been unhappy

and lonely, although in marriages,

each have an impetus to escape.

One reason to leave is the

mail brings a mysterious

letter whose content is

left unknown to you, reader.

The subject reluctantly is revealed.

The other person receives an

unexpected “windfall.” This

novel full of intrigue is

written by my friend and

fellow blogger, Anneli Purchase.

These two “lost” souls have back

stories which both have overlapping

pain and past controlling spouses.

They come from two different

countries, Canada and the U.S.

For Kevin, unfortunately time has been

hard on his marriage. His anguish

is palpable, his decision to leave

has been a long time coming.

It means he will be leaving a

son and daughter behind.

Sylvia has a womanizing

husband who doesn’t

show her love nor

respect.

The two characters

make a choice to leave and go on

their own into…

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Flapping My Wings

Here is a book that I wish I could have had available when I was teaching grade one. It looks like a beautiful story that any kids would love. Why not check it out?

roughwighting

woodpecker, Flicker, spring birdsI’m supposed to be heralding the publication of my new book.

And heralding I’m trying, but unlike my other posts, this one is just….not…writing…itself.

So I’ll follow the birds outside my window, who are heralding the signs of spring. Flapping their wings, singing songs, tapping on my outside windows – Look! LOOK!

View original post 211 more words

Don’t Get Too Possessive!

When should you use an apostrophe?

More people overuse apostrophes than underuse them.

Often, I see apostrophes in words that are meant to be plural, but not possessive.

e.g. The photo’s look great.

It should say: The photos look great.

Sometimes  people use apostrophes with pronouns.

e.g.  her’s, it’s, our’s, their’s, who’s, your’s — these are all WRONG if you’re trying to show ownership. They should be written: hers, its, ours, theirs, whose, yours.

Be aware that apostrophes have two separate uses. One is for showing ownership, as in the cat’s whiskers. The other is to show that one or more letters have been taken out (contractions).

Some of the words can be confusing.

e.g. Let’s means let us, but if you meant to say that someone allows you do do something, it should be, “She lets me go to the movies.”  

Who’s means who is, but if you meant to ask who owns something, you would say, “Whose dog it that?”

And the most troublesome of all … it’s or its.

It’s means it is, but if you are attaching ownership, you would say, “The dog should pay attention to its master.”

There was a time when the general rule was to use apostrophes to show possession for people and animals (the dog’s fur, the lady’s hat), but to use “of” for inanimate things (the hood of the jacket, the eye of the needle), but this is now being disregarded in many cases. It seems to me that it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to “the car’s windshield” or “book’s cover.”

One of the most common errors I see is the use of an apostrophe  with decades.

e.g. The  Beetles were popular in the 1960s. There should be NO apostrophe.

But if you shorten the decades to refer to the ’60s. This apostrophe is correct because it shows that something has been left out — in this case,  the 19. Be sure that the apostrophe is turned to face the same direction as a comma (not as at the beginning of a quotation).

Placement: The apostrophe comes after the word that has the ownership. If it is a singular noun, then you would put the apostrophe after that noun. If it is a plural noun, then put the apostrophe after the end of that word.

e.g. This is the dog’s collar.

These are the dogs’ collars.

The use of apostrophes is more complex than one page  can do justice to, but consider this a beginner’s list of basic helpful hints.