Sunday, August 4, 2013

PNWA Conference 2013: Part Two

This is the Big Day. Not only is it the fullest schedule of events, the largest crowd of the con, and the busiest day of the weekend, but it is the day that I would be pitching my book in Power Pitch Block D, at 2:00.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

I made sure to pre-register for the entire convention by the Early Registration deadline, which included tickets to all the extra events, and a few other extras, like the 90-minute workshop called The First Page. It started at 8 AM.
I arrived in the room at 8:30. Which isn't bad for me! I spotted my friend, Laura, and grabbed a seat one over from her. She asked if I had turned in my first page, to which I said, "No, I just got here!" I didn't even look it over since yesterday's workshops, much less print a copy. I did, however have my manuscript with me. I ripped the first page from its spiral binding, and Laura ran it up to the moderator's assistant, Heidi, for me. (Thank you!) Heidi held the stack, from which random first pages were drawn and read aloud by the moderator. The panel of editors and agents would then critique them. Coming in late, and having blurry pre-noon eyes, I wasn't even sure who was up there, except Paul Fedorko (N.S. Bienstock, Inc.), who I recognized from the previous day. There was also Michelle Richter (St. Martin's Press), Sally Harding (Cooke Agency) and Kat Brzozowski (Thomas Dunne Books). 

Surprisingly, my page was chosen to be read. I have been told, by someone keeping track, that of the 25 pages read. only 7 were read to the bottom of the page. Often, one or more panelist would raise their hand to stop the reading, and begin the review. Not only was mine fully read, but I was absolutely shocked to hear fairly glowing praise coming from each of the panelists!

Luckily, Laura took notes, while I picked my jaw up off the floor. Here they are:
Zombie Apocalypse
No hands raised to indicate ready to stop.
  • I like this first page because it poses a lot of questions
  • It doesn’t give me too much info, or too many character names…I would probably keep reading to find out [sic]
  • I liked how it was set up, creating that scary world where you don’t know who to trust…it reminds me of some of the better (something)
  • It might need a new title. I like it, but it’s been done.
  • It wasn’t’ too much information. We don’t need all the info on page 1. It’s better to leave questions to keep reading. (I believe they were saying that you did this right.)
  • If the writer leaves you room to imagine, you start to own the book
  • That banner, “Humans Safe Here”, after reading that, I’m going to the next page.
  • People can learn something from this person:

The Coco Chenille Rule – you put everything on, then look in the mirror before you go out, and take off one accessory.

I do remember that it was Paul who said the first four things, and some were echoed by the others. Except the title change - so far, he's the only one to suggest that. I've actually had a lot of people tell me that they love the title, and, as far as I'm concerned, it tells you exactly what you need to know to know if you should read this book or not It's apocalyptic, kinda funny, and full of zombies. But I appreciate and take into consideration all comments made. I'm not real worried about it right now.

Before moving on, a panelist asked "Who wrote this?" and I raised my hand and stood up. The room applauded! I had seen them ask two other writers to take credit for their pages, so I wasn't the only one, but still-- I felt pretty singled out!

I could tell you about the other pages, good, bad, and ugly, and what was said about them, but honestly, I think it'd just be too much info and end up all confusing. If anyone wants the notes with other examples, leave me a comment below.

9:30, we all stand up to make our way out of the room. Michelle Richter comes running over to me!
"Are you the Zombie Lady?"
"Why, yes. Yes I am!"
"Are you coming to talk to me later today? I hope you are."
"Um, no, because you didn't list 'Horror' on your bio..."
"Well, that's true. I don't usually represent Horror, but I liked your first page. Come see me," she said, handing me her card.
"Okay, I will, Thanks!" I answered, taking the card and tucking it safely into my sunglasses case.
So, now I'm really excited.

Now, the other 8:00 AM classes that sounded appealing?

  • A Writer's Inspiration: Author Master Class with Bill Kenower, Editor-in-Chief of Author Magazine
  • Agent Secrets
  • Good Grief, Who Are All These Publishers?
  • Promotion and Marketing: Great Writing! Great Story! Author Platform?
  • The Edits System (Part 1): What It Is, Why It Works
  • The Romance of Travel Writing
  • What To Expect When You're Expecting Your First Book
I had planned to hit one of the 10 AM classes, as well, but after heading into the Pitch Practice room, I ended up getting caught up in conversation, listening and critiquing pitches, and rewriting and practicing my own. Then lunch, for which I was too nervous, but did head outside to call my mom and managed to eat the hard boiled eggs, apple and cheese I had brought.

2:00 Power Pitch
I arrived half an hour early, to an already established crowd. But there was no order to the rows of seating. We were told that the agents and editors would be sitting alphabetically in a long row, at tables. We were told that the doors would be opening, albeit a few minutes behind schedule, and we were to line up for our agents and editors of choice. We'd have four minutes, when a bell would chime, after a thirty-second warning. It sounds like a short amount of time, but it turned out to be perfect: Greetings, introductions, pitch, Q&A, chat.

I was fourth in line to speak with Laurie McLean, founder of Foreword Literary. I gave her my card. I pitched. She gave me her card and asked to see the first ten pages (actually printed on her card). She asked her assistant what her current turn-around time was, after receiving pages, and she answered "two months." Pretty fast, in publishing!

Next, I went to see Michelle Richter, since she'd asked me to do so. The pitch didn't follow the script, it was much more round-about and conversational, but that's okay. Luckily, I'm gregarious and good under pressure. She asked me the most about "comps" (comparison books) and I hated to admit that I hadn't read her comps of Zone 1 or The Passage, although I do own a copy of the latter and plan to get to to it this year. I was honest (as always) and told her that my reading list is very eclectic, from non-fic to classic lit to independent horror. She asked me to send her the first three chapters.

Rachel Letofsky (Cooke Agency)'s line was long.

I went to see Ethan Vaughn, with Kimberly Cameron and Associates. He said he wasn't really into zombies, but a good story is a good story, so send him the first fifty pages.

Kat Brzozowski (Thomas Dunne Books) was next. I told her Kat was the name of my protagonist, and we chatted, along with Renda Dodge of Pink Fish Press, who was seated next to her. I had met Renda years ago; took a Plot workshop form her. She was/is a liaison for NaNoWriMo Seattle. Anyway, Kat liked my pitch and asked to see the first three chapters. 

Rachel Letosky's line was still too long.

I decided to speak with Holly Ingraham, who also is an editor at St. Martin's Press. I was sure to tell her that I'd already talked with Michelle. Holly asked me if I'd talked to Miriam Kriss, an agent (not attending the con) with Irene Goodman Literary, to which I said no. She said that my novel was tight up her alley, and gave me her email address. She told me to send both of them the first five chapters and a synopsis.

(Holy Crap. I have to write a synopsis!!)

So I now had six requests!

4:00 I had planned to sit in on the Query Letters: How To Get An Agent To Beg To Read More... workshop, but another writer suggested I check out the From Apprentice To Master forum, with Sally Harding and Rachel Letofsky of the Cooke Agency, and two of their authors, Kat Richardson and Brian Mercer. It was interesting, but I wasn't entirely clear on the premise, other than the sharing of experiences, which is always informative in some ways. At the end, I walked in front of the speakers's table, and Rachel Letofsky waved me over. 
Rachel: "I'm so glad you're here. I saw you come in, and I wanted to talk to you."
Me: [thoughts: You did? o.O] I don't remember what I said, but I was basically glib despite being flustered. 
She gave me her card and asked me send pages to her and her assistant. \(^_^)/ Yay!

That makes a total of seven requests that must be filled very soon with pages and synopses and cover letters. Yipes! (So why I am spending an hour or more blogging this?!? LOL)

7:00 Literary Contest Awards Celebration 
I would like to enter this contest next year.

Dinner was good - I sat at a table in the rear of the room, therefore was served first. Food was hot for a change. I had the vegetarian option, which was a baked bun stuffed with mushrooms-- sort of a mushroom wellington--  served with broccolini.

The awards were punctuated with the announcements of the raffle winners. I had five tickets, but no winners. There was one prize to a random Tweeter, of those all weekend that used the hashtag #PNWA. It was won by my new friend, Mariah! We were both sitting there tweeting when it was announced, which I thought was funny. She got a Kindle Paper White. Pretty cool!

The whole day couldn't have gone any better.

Slept through the alarm.
Missed the 8:30 AM Literary Contest First Place Contest Winners Reading.
Missed half of Mary Bisbee-Beek's 10 AM speech.
Arrived bleary-eyed at 10:45. Sat at a table in the back and drank coffee, listening to the Q&A, and playing Words with Friends on my phone.

Afterwards, I was invited to lunch at 13 Coins with six other writers. We shared notes on various workshops and forums attended, talked shop, and ate. Fun was had by all.

Home to a three-hour nap on the couch.


  1. OK, my Twitter win was exciting, but that was nothing compared to your pitch block victories! And the first page love fest was amazing. So glad someone took notes for you. You are on a role, my friend. I can't wait to cheer your inevitable success/ride your coattails to fame and fortune.

    xo Mariah

  2. Thanks, Mariah. There's plenty of room on my coattails.

  3. That is so awesome, Michele! I'm very happy for you! Looking forward to more hearing more success stories!

  4. Hi Michele. What a great experience attending your first conference! I'm glad it went so well.

    I didn't attend any of the presentations you did, but I did attend a Margie Lawson class, "25 Rhetorical Devices for Fiction Writers." She really got into the "nuts and bolts" of getting into the reader's head.

    It was nice to meet you. I hope your book publishes soon. I want to read it!

  5. Oh my... how exciting! This makes me want to go next year. I almost went this year, but decided I should not spend $500 if my book is not quite ready for presentation...

  6. @Sarah, that's exactly where I was last year. It allowed for me to plan for this year, though, and registering EARLY is worth it, both for the $ savings and the bonus events. It'd be great to see you there next year!

    Thank you Michael, Morgan, et al! I'm working on my synopsis and letters and polishing pages as fast and best as I can. I'll keep you all posted!