I’ve decided to get realistic. I probably won’t win an Oscar for my screenplay, even though it is my dream to meet Charlie Sheen. WINNING! I bought my red carpet gown and shoes at Walmart, but I returned them at JCP because I saw on TV how they never ask for a receipt. Already winning!
My critique group was blabbering on about going to this conference to pitch their work to actual agents and editors, which I thought sounded like fun, so I signed up, too. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been strengthening my pitching arm in the back yard. The hardest part is throwing a 483-page manuscript without all the pages going flying. But I had an idea how to resolve that problem .
The first night of the conference was unforgettable — what I remember of it. I probably shouldn’t have swilled four carafes of wine, but hey. It was free. People told me later how much they enjoyed my tabletop Dougie.
On the first day of the conference, there was a session on First Pages. Participants were supposed to submit the first page of their manuscript for a live reading, and then an editor would give immediate feedback. I submitted page 81. That’s where all 12 of my main characters finally show up, and I felt it was a much more interesting read-aloud. Especially since my characters are all from different planets and have names like &Unia^%4jia, UUUUUnbbn, GR8XLR8R, lmaoGOg, and SpongeBlob. After reading my page, both the reader and the editor asked the audience if anyone had an XXL bottle of Excedrin.
Then we got down to the real pitch sessions. The instructions said we could only choose one agent or editor to pitch to, but I thought that was a gyp, since we’d paid so much money for “networking.” So I signed up with every agent and editor using different pseudonyms. Whiney Writer always plays the odds.
First up, this really cute agent I saw during the opening ceremonies walked by me and smiled, which I took to mean, “Pitch it, girl.”
I waited until he was about 100 feet away, and then called, “Hey, you.” He turned around and I threw my steel case at him. (Wasn’t it clever of me to buy a suitcase for my manuscript? I can always write it off as a business expense.) Obviously, the agent had never played catch or dodgeball because the case hit him square on his well-sculpted pecs. I hurried over to see if he was battered or bruised, but he dashed into the restroom.
For a minute, I thought I’d chase after him, but then this other agent slipped into the ladies’ room. Fortunately, the stall next to her was empty, so I shut my door and scooted my steel case to her with my foot. She scooted it back. The game was on. Back and forth, back and forth. She caught me off guard when she flushed and tore out of there.
My first official pitch was with Big Apple Agency. I sat across from Grumpy Agent and waited. And waited. She said, “Whenever you’re ready.” For what? I wondered. I began by telling her where I was born, how many pets I’d had as a child, what my parents did for a living, how my grandfather was the town drunk… She glanced at her watch and said, “Your time is up.” I said, “But I didn’t even get to the part about dying my hair in junior high and it turning orange.” A door sentry came in and yanked me out.
I figured I’d shorten the life story details for the next pitch and get right to the heart of my manuscript. The editor from ABC Publishing House was barely out of diapers, and as soon as I said, “Dystopian Supernatural Sci/Fi,” she said, ”Next.”
Only one pitch left, so I had to make it count. This agent was adorable. Brown, wavy hair with designer glasses. He’d obviously researched my favorite cologne and used a box of white strips before our session. “So tell me why I should buy your book,” he said. At last! Someone who understood why I was there. I told him, “It’ll sell more copies than the Hungry Games, Twilight Time, and Harry Patterson, all put together.” I set my steel case on the table and shoved it at him, along with my personal business card. “Call me tonight after you’ve read it. I’ll be waiting.”
I stood and left, tossing him a coy wink over my shoulder. It was a sure bet I’d be getting “the call.” Yessirree, Bob. Conferences are the way to go.