Women Writing the West Conferences are inspiring and uplifting. Every year I come back charged and rearing to go. I love to visit with old friends, make new ones, and deepen all relationships with the women and men of our WWW community.
This year, the conference was in Santa Fe. I flew into Albuquerque Wednesday and met with my two roommates that night at the Drury Hotel in Santa Fe. Five days of laughing and I believe I’m stored up for a few months. We toured the town, listened to music, talked to local Native Americans, and ate lots of Mexican food. It was delicious. The Drury Inn welcomed us with New Mexican warmth.
The sessions I attended were wonderful and some I will share in the future. But first, I want to tell you about my roundtable critique session and agent pitch appointment. Now that I’ve been in a critique group for a few years and my skin is somewhat thicker, I looked forward to this roundtable session, Thursday afternoon, with ten other writers of both fiction and non-fiction and a senior editor from Five Star Publishing, Tiffany Schofield. I had no idea what to expect in this session with this format, but was excited to share with them my gentle critiques of their pieces and receive critiques on my submission. I went in knowing this would only strengthen my work-in-progress. I’ve learned attitude is everything.
After expectations were laid down concerning the three hours session, Tiffany Schofield handed one of us at a time our folder and went over her critiques and those of a couple editors in the Five Star Publishing House. Then each member of our group shared the highlights of what we found, both weaknesses and strengths, and handed over our pages. What a thrill to read their comments.
On every submission, there were a few grammar issues that came up, suggestions to smooth out rough edges, and make the story shine. I recommend this for writers who desires an honest and subjective analysis to their work-in-progress. I guarantee their piece will be that much stronger for an editor or agent’s eyes. Which brings me to Shannon Hassan of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.
After sharing my one-line elevator pitch for my agent appointment with my roommates, I was left unsettled. It was Thursday evening and my appointment was Friday morning. I had two versions and I liked them both. My roomies helped me combine them, which left me satisfied. It went something like this: A Salish teenager tries to prove her womanhood in a rite of passage horse race while overcoming a bully and anonymous threatening letters.
I went to sleep that night reciting that one-line pitch and woke up with it running through my mind. I woke up, got ready for the day, went to the first session, and then headed outside in the sunshine and fresh air and continued to recite that one-line sentence. Over and over. In my head. Out my mouth. Softly. Loudly. With a little passion. With a lot of passion. And until it was time to check in for my long awaited appointment.
I placed my Drury Hotel pad that held my one-line in my bag, said a little pray, and sashayed into the Meem Room just outside the hotel––chin up, squared shoulders, hiding my fear. Remember, attitude is everything. All participants were in one large room that held one table and two chairs for each agent/editor/writer. My table was in the back corner. I stood near the table as directed, waiting for the writer in front of me to finish her appointment. Those of us standing by a table glanced at one another with awkward expressions on our faces. Then it was my turn. Bladder recently emptied, I sat down and opened my folder. I pulled out my one sheet, slid it across to the agent, and opened my mouth. Out came my one-line pitch with grace and a smoothness that would make a rock skip deep. Practice makes perfect.
I shared pictures of the character’s art project a local teen drew for me. I shared pictures of the real race which takes place every September in Omak, WA. I shared the plot, characters, twist asked for by a publisher that is currently considering my manuscript. I shared Tiffany Schofield’s comments and willingness to consider the complete manuscript.
Then I sat quietly. The agent confirmed that the race was, in fact, cultural. I nodded. I’d already informed her it is a very controversial race, but that I believed in what it stands for. She handed over her card and told me what she wanted. It’s a start. And I hope to be able to share how it all ends. I’ve been told the best way to find a publisher or agent is to show up at the conferences and make face-to-face contacts and I agree.
Since I’ve been home, I am currently combing through those changes from the roundtable critique session: cutting, adding, and polishing even more before I submit to the agent. So next week, I will share with you some of the sessions I attended and what I came home with that is sure to improve my writing.
Until then…happy trails!