It's hard to believe it's been five years since I pitched at the Writer's League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference in Austin, Texas. But here I am, one novel heavier and thousands of pages wiser in my writerly journey toward publication. After my last post, some of you probably wondered if I would give up writing in pursuit of a career in environmental consulting that seems ready to break out at any moment.
Well, as I've said many times before, I'm never happy doing just one thing. I have to be neck-deep in at least two different careers at any given time in order to satisfy my need (or perhaps my birth defect) of wearing multiple hats. Perhaps I'm hopelessly divided. Or perhaps you really can have two different life passions without having to choose one over the other.
After I wrote the last post, I was thinking maybe the writing thing was done. Maybe I had gotten it out of my system and I could move on to other career choices, building my natural living sanctuary, helping others in a meaningful and significant way. But I realized every time I try to "break-up" with creative writing, my heart always returns to it.
It's a wonderful place to be--in the creative zone, spending time with your characters and getting to know them better as they reveal more of themselves through their dialogue and actions. It's a profoundly spiritual experience as well, emotionally draining and uplifting at the same time, and always in some way, satisfying on a human level. Knowing my characters better gets me in touch with the core of the human spirit. I know what is profoundly true for my characters is, in some way and through different life experience, true for every human being as well.
There is great power and wisdom in coming to these realizations. And I am richer for it.
Alas, I digress...
That said, I basically freaked myself out last week by deciding, after a set of long-awaited developmental comments came back from my editor, that the manuscript (after the last few tweaks and a stellar line edit) was finally ready to spread its wings and fly out into the world. I decided to jump into the fray and pitch my manuscript to an agent. I was nervous, but for very different reasons than the first time I pitched at a conference.
1. I had signed up late and wasn't guaranteed a consultation with an agent.
2. There weren't any agents on my running wish list of agents coming to the conference, which meant I had a lot of research to do before choosing a consultation.
3. Developmental revisions are ten times more complicated when you're writing a non-linear narrative with time travel in it.
4. I forgot to add the agent consultation ticket when I purchased my conference ticket, so I was even further down on the pecking order when I realized my mistake and finally got a ticket this past Wednesday.
5. My printer developed a hysterical paper jam, had to be replaced, and the replacement was defective and had to be replaced. Hence, many unplanned hours doing mindless power re-sets with tech support to "escalate" my case to the case manager, who opted to give me an upgraded printer. Also included are extra hours spent trying to get defective printers back into their original shipping packaging. No simple feat.
6. A big electrical storm blew out the power to the house, so instead of writing pages, I was out buying bags of ice to try to save the contents of the refrigerator and freezer.
7. When I finally got the instructions on how to sign up for an agent consultation, my internet connection went AWOL and would not allow me to pull up deal histories on my prospective candidates. So I had to go old-school: to the agency websites to glean bio information.
Literary Speed Dating
Pitching an agent at a conference is something akin to literary speed dating. I really, really hate it. It's an artificial construct. There's so much you can't convey in ten minutes, so much pressure to perform, so much riding on that one singular pitch. And it's really hard to get to know a person in ten minutes. But I suppose any kind of personal contact is better than cold querying.
Though terrifying, pitching isn't really as bad as it sounds. I guess, unless, of course, you haven't prepared and you're unsure of the quality of your work. Agents and editors are people too, and though I've heard stories about people fainting from nerves, I didn't see many folks at the last conference that looked that bent out of shape.
Sure I was nervous, about like you should be for a job interview, but everyone was really very nice. Maybe because it was in Texas.
Literary Kismet or Divine Providence?
So after reading a couple bios at different agencies, one of my top three stood out as the kind of person who might really champion my novel. And after checking the schedule, I landed the last available appointment with her at the conference. And wouldn't you know it, right after I booked the appointment, my publishers website decided to load, and I read about a sweet deal she made that boosted my confidence in her abilities.
Divine providence prompting me to read her bio on the agency website? Quite possibly. Because without that knowledge, I might have gone with one of my other top two.
You never know, maybe it won't be a match made in heaven. But whatever happens, I'm confident I've got Someone looking out for me.