Friday, August 17, 2012

Write, Submit, Commit

Rather than regurgitate my notes from the Willamette Writers Conference, here are the distilled lessons I took away:

If you want to write for a career, then write as often as possible.

To make a living at it, you must submit. And submit. And submit.

The only one holding you accountable is you.

Of course, I left the three-day conference fired up. I even filled out the Take Twenty-Five Actions grid from writer Christina Katz to keep me on track. Except I only came up with 15 of 25 actions. And this post is step #1. Step #2 I can't do because I waited too long. Not doing so hot. Ho hum.

But all is well. I'm thankful that two agents and an editor have asked to see samples of my work. The pitching went smoothly, so smoothly that I stopped being nervous about it. I also squirreled away names and contacts to send more queries. That is step #12.

Besides my plan, I met some great people. I must praise a couple, number one being Jennifer Lauck, who gave two presentations for non-fiction writers, specifically those writing memoir. She was engaging and funny and an all-around good gal. Because she's a Buddhist, she's also generous with her knowledge. Check out Although I'd never thought about writing a memoir before, I was convinced I should try after a session with her.

Some great quotes from Jennifer: "Memoir is spiritual practice. It's higher consciousness." Also, "Just keep asking the question: 'What am I trying to say?'" She says to be a master, you have to write copious amounts of work; be prolific. Don't ever stop. Wonderful stuff. She knows what she's talking about because she's written best-selling memoirs.

I also enjoyed hearing Melissa Hart talk about travel writing. This is one well-traveled lady. It sounded as if she had just gotten off a plane and swept into the conference before hitching a ride to another exotic locale. She emphasized taking any travel event and shaping it into something unique for magazine or newspaper publication. She joked (not really) that bad vacations can be great stories. For example, she showed us a picture of a truly frightening spider she encountered recently, much too closely. She also teaches and blogs.

A down-to-earth agent also was memorable. Andy Ross gave a session on how to negotiate a book deal. He's a funny guy who knows the business from all sides. He's a writer and formerly a bookstore owner. he was approachable, entertaining and admitted when he didn't always know the answer, and he got stumped by a few questions at his session, which he handled with aplomb.

And lastly, I give a shoutout (I hate that word) to a new friend and Oregon writer Marjorie Thelen, who writes and self-publishes mysteries. I struck up a conversation with her after a session on self-publishing where she mentioned her satisfaction using, which is a Portland-based company that publishes ebooks for a minimal fee, no royalties. Although the panel didn't endorse BookBaby and Marjorie was not a panelist, she said her experience was positive and affordable. She and I have enjoyed exchanging emails since then.

Now, Sharpie in hand, I may X out Step #1. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pitch Fever at Willamette Writers Conference

It's put-yourself-out-there week if you are a Portland writer. The Willamette Writers Conference starts tomorrow, and it is full of opportunities for rejection.

Okay, so I'm being a tad negative. Let me screw on my happy face and get a better attitude (I'm on my second cup of tea for fortitude). The entire weekend pairs would-be and working writers with agents who could change their lives. That sounds too overwhelming, but it's true. One of last year's attendees pitched her book in 2011 and made good. Book deal, movie option, etc., etc. She's been given a coveted lunchtime speaker slot. The reality is her story is the exception. Most of us will walk away with (hopefully) a nice pat on the head and a "try harder next time" glance.

Inspirational aside: My book is ready! I will do it! I will walk away with a few requests for a full MS. 

Notwithstanding, the conference is a wonderful chance to hone skills at selling yourself and your work.It starts Thursday night with the nerve-rattling "Pitch Practice with the Pros." From what I gather, it can be a humiliating experience in front of professionals and a large crowd. My anxiety spikes at the thought, but I have been crafting a pitch for it anyway. My crit group says it's too long and not enticing enough. My eraser is toast.

I will also see three other agents over the course of the weekend to pitch my book, Blood, Love & Steel. I've opted for group "consults," which is basically sitting around a hotel roundtable with seven other nervous writers who get three minutes each to grab a tired agent's attention for the coveted response, "Send me the full. Next." Oh, agents! I love you! You have to endure tedium and harassment by insecure egos for days on end.

Frankly, I haven't tried very hard to put my book out there. I queried about 10 agents a year ago. Got one to read it. Twice. She passed on my project but with such grace and timeliness that I couldn't hate her. She wrote plainspoken, helpful suggestions and got back to me when she said she would. Thank you for making my book better and my skin thicker.

For more info about the conference, click here. If you recognize me, stop and say hello. I'll be roaming the halls half-dazed with the rest of the wannabes.