Sunday, June 7, 2009

The BEA Writer Conference - PITCH SLAM! Part1

I had no idea what to expect. Film festivals - I know what I'm getting into. This was entirely new to me, scary, thrilling, whatever. I walked down to the Javits Center (I don't live too far away - rock on Home Court Advantage!) I was of course rehearsing my ill-fated pitch (not knowing just then it would be ill-fated or I probably would have been thinking about something else entirely - like why that car seems to be following me, creeping up very slowly behind me, and blasting its horn every so often in a frat house attempt to get me to jump.)

When I arrived, I got my badge and located the room for the key-note speaker to speak her key-notes. Everyone seemed excited about the day ahead. It was WAYYYYYY early. I don't much like getting up at 7:30, let alone being somewhere at 7:30. My natural body clock says go sleepy at 1am and wake whenever you damn well feel like it. Jaden decided early on I should get up at 7:30 and tend to his needs. I'm willing to give him that until he turns 12 and wants to start sleeping til noon. I will then go into his room at 7:30 with a foghorn and blast away.

Karin Slaughter rocked the key-note. Very funny and offered some insight to her LONG journey to becoming a published author. Very quickly after her speech, we had to decide which of the breakout sessions we wanted to go to. Yikes! Not ready to make a decision/commitment just yet. Need more espresso. I decided to use my quantum physics expertise and open up a few parallel universes so I could attend the different sessions simultaneously. This had worked exceptionally well in the past. Turns out, portals refuse to open at 7:30 in the morning, and I had to laugh. Who would have thought quantum physics was on the same body clock as me?

I went to the session called Get Known Before the Book Deal: A Platform Primer by Christina Katz.  Christina had been sitting directly behind me for the key-note and had a great laugh and smile. I love great laughs and smiles as they are usually home to a real warm person. She knew her stuff! After I left, I realized I have a heck of a lot of work ahead of me. One thing I needed to do was write a blog. Someday, I'll get to it, I guess.

The next session I was going to go to was Self Promotion and Social Networking. I've always been a shameless self-promoter. This seemed right up my ally. Thing was, in the next room was an Ask the Agents panel. And I started thinking, I should probably see what that's about. Aren't I here mainly for the Pitch Slam? And aren't half of the participants at Pitch Slam going to be agents? Ah, right.

In I went.  I met a charming dude by the door and he thought I would get on well with his wife. This post could take an abrupt turn here, but rest assured, he just thought that since she was a writer and I was a writer and we both wrote for children, and I seemed kind of cool and she was kind of cool - that sort of thing - we should hang a bit and learn about this whole thing together.  So he introduced us.  And we became friends.  She has an amazing YA story - the concept just blew me away.  Go read her blog -          

So there we were together listening to all these agents speak about their wants and needs. It was here that I first listened to, met, and fell madly in love with Janet Reid - rockstar agent, blogger, lover of fine scotch, and filled with the kind of dripping, salacious badassness that usually comes only from the mind of Quentin Tarantino. Go read her blog -

Alicia (the dude's wife!) and I sat there when the session was over and continued speaking about what we'd learned about the industry thus far, what we wanted to do with our lives, and how we were going to get there.  She'd sent out a bunch of queries for her novel and had some really great feedback. In fact, she had actually already had requests for her MS from a handful of agents she was going to meet there! One was the lovely Christine Witthohn, from Book Cents Literary Agency, who'd actually called her after reading the full manuscript! Christine had some editorial advice not terribly unlike Faye had for me. Alicia had since resubmitted and was waiting to hear from her.  Sound familiar? (EDIT - Alicia let me know I had that completely wrong.  This was no surprise to me as my wife is constantly telling me I do stuff wrong.  Apparently, Christine called her after reading Alicia's query and told her that she needed to cut the word count down.  So anyway - now back to the original post)

We realized there was an actual lunch for us, so we sprinted across the Javits Center looking for it.  After a few near hits, we finally found the room and missed out on all the goodies.  Oh well.  

Fate has always been good to me. Timing has as well. This time, it was when my bladder told me it was time to go to the bathroom. I left the lunch room and asked the first person I saw where the bathroom might be located. This person happened to be Christine Witthohn. Synchronicity factor of Warp 10! I introduced myself and told her I was friends with Alicia Walker and she got a huge, giddy smile on her face. I was hoping that meant she liked Alicia's story. Otherwise, that smile would have just been creepy. Turns out I was correct in my assumption.

When lunch was over, I saw Christine was still outside the room speaking with a friend and I told Alicia she should go up and introduce herself. They'd never met in person. As we walked up, Christine began heading back to where the sessions were being held. For such a tiny thing, she sure could move! We kicked it into high gear and sped off after her. Finally we caught up and had a fabulous conversation where Christine invited me to pitch my story on the spot to her. I did. She thought it sounded like a lot of fun and gave me her card. She told me to send the full MS!  

I was on my way.  Hadn't even got to the pitch slam yet and already had an agent request the darn thing.  I was on fire! I was the rockstar of the conference! 

My next pitch left me wanting to cry in the corner and reconsider whether this was the career for me.  


  1. Great post. I'd love to attend BEA one of these years. Sounds like fun! So far. I'll wait until Part II to make my decision. :0)

  2. Thanks for linking to my blog. I'll return the favor:) FYI-Christine hadn't read my MS by BEA. Not that I'm aware of. No, I think she'd mention it. She called before I even sent any of the MS to her, saying I needed to cut my word count first (use to be 84,000). It was super sweet of her to say that in person. Well, phone. That's practially 'in person' in agent world.

    But she will read this post. She's got a secret name finding thiny on the internet that alerts her when her name is newly posted. Cool, huh?

  3. Jack,

    Thanks, man. Definitely a blast. Get there if you can. Will try to have part 2 up tonight.

  4. Alicia,

    OOPS! Sorry, I completely had that wrong. What kind of crazy internet scanning robot does Christine have working for her anyway? I gotta get one of those. I just scanned the internet for my name the other day on a whim and found a link to my films on some Chinese site, that I obviously couldn't translate, but guessed meant something like, "This guy film stupid, please don't waste time watching".

  5. Jason,

    It was a pleasure meeting you. I really enjoyed talking to you and Alicia!

    As for your next pitch (after me)... you're tougher than that. Don't let the opinion of one agent make you question whether you should keep writing or not! Opinions are like assholes - everyone has one. If the agent isn't a good fit for your story, move on. Besides, you don't want an agent who isn't excited about your project(s). You want one who will fight for you :)

    P.S. No secret internet scanning robots. I use Google Alerts. Check it out. It comes in handy.

    Talk soon! :)

  6. Christine,

    It was a momentary lapse after that second pitch. I got it together rather quickly and decided to just jump right back in and keep pitching. But I sure did feel crappy after pitching him. Hey - I'm insecure! And I'm totally willing to admit it! But I harness my insecurities and nervous energy and I blast out my enthusiasm for whatever I'm working on, and I think that comes across when someone meets me.

    Anyway, it was lovely meeting you as well and I look forward to your email.

  7. By the way, I'm the dude. Glad you and Alicia helped each other so much. Somehow knew you would. Oh, my mom and dad are the real Kringles, were anyway. Here's their slightly eccentric blog of Santa Memories from 2006, some are pretty good. The one about the hospital volunteer work is my favorite.