Sunday, June 7, 2009

What To Do While You Wait and Other Ways To Get Into Trouble...

Hopscotch seems like a good idea in theory. I'm on the playground all the time with Jaden and see little tykes jumping around and really enjoying themselves while they try hopelessly to stay in bounds of those tiny, mischievous squares, bend down to pick up some ball or something, and then turn around and clumsily do the same thing on the way back. I tried it myself and quickly discovered it did not twist my mind away from wondering when I'd hear back from Faye.  

What to do while I waited? There's always the usual - read books, watch movies or the basketball playoffs, do something real sweet for my wife (that's always been her favorite usage of my time). Nothing - I mean nothing kept my thoughts away from Faye, her feelings toward the manuscript, if she had read the new draft, if she hated it and decided never to email me again - the usual flurry of demented insecurities that would have ripped a lesser man apart. Though I still had my limbs intact, I was jittery, nervous, and couldn't sleep. 

I discovered very quickly that the very best thing to do while waiting on something like this is to pretend you don't even have a shot of getting it.  What would I do if Faye had never given such a positive review?  I'd keep sending out queries and doing everything in my power to get the MS read!  BEA (Book Expo America) was coming up in the next couple of weeks and I would be able to actually pitch my story to a fine smelling cornucopia of seasoned agents.  After researching who would be there, I realized I had a very good opportunity in front of me.  

I am very good when you put me in a room. Not solitary confinement, mind you (though I suspect I'd do just fine there as well, as I enjoy talking to myself immensely. You may see me walking down the street talking on the phone.  I have no friends and am generally just speaking to myself) No, I'm talking about a room full of people that I have to entertain. For whatever reason, my energy picks up and I get going quickly and seem to get my enthusiasm across. This doesn't work on everybody (see the future post on BEA for further details there). But it sure does open a lot of doors for me.  

My wife agreed this was a golden opportunity for me. I began working on my pitch immediately. Boy did it suck! Couldn't really figure out what I wanted to say about the story exactly. I knew I had only 3 minutes with each agent. That meant I had to get the pitch down to a minute or so, so I would have time for questions and advice afterward. 1 minute, only 60 seconds of sweaty, nervous energy to try and explain a 402 page manuscript without stumbling over my words!

I'd rewritten my query letter and went there to seek out what I might want to say in an actual pitch. After all, a query letter is really just a written pitch. You tell the agent or editor what the genre, title, and word count is - MG fantasy/adventure novel The Kringle Khronicles Volume 1: The Legend of Winterdale, completed at 89,000 words. That sure sounds like a great way to start a pitch! All right, I was thumping away now! Probably should give them a  teaser about the  story - who is the main character, why do I like him/her, what is the conflict? What is the action??? Most important - why is someone going to drop $15 and 4 hours of their time to read this thing?  And why do I keep sniffing?  The answer to that one was easy - they are, as I mentioned, a fine smelling cornucopia of agents!

My legs were working just fine. It was nearly a year since the accident, so I was more than ready to get my epic walking on and let the ideas flow. Lucky for me I live halfway between Central Park and the Hudson River,where they've really built up an incredible park with piers and lots of grass just under the West Side Highway, right along the water. I love water! Particularly when working on stories. Just the sound of it, gazing out across it. So I went down to the water and began building out my pitch.

It didn't take long, and soon I found myself rehearsing it - over and over and over, and then breaking to sunbathe, and over and over and over, and then breaking to get a red bull, and then over and over. It got repetitive, but you gotta know what you're going to say to an agent and you want it to come out naturally, like you're having a conversation with them. The only way to do that is to know the pitch inside and out so when the questions come up unexpectedly in the middle of your pitch, you're free to break off from the tale you're telling, and then get back to where you were without a lot of stuttering or uh, uh, uhs, or um, ums, or any of that ilk.

I finally had it.  This was the pitch that would sell my story to all those super cool, fine smelling agents I would meet at BEA!  I was a rockstar.  I was incredibly prepared to take on all comers.  

Within the first 2 minutes of the second panel of Pitch Slam Day, I knew I had to COMPLETELY rewrite my pitch!       

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