For the past three years, I have attended the Surrey International Writers Conference as a volunteer. (SIWC: My Volunteer Experience)
This year, because I wished to include Blue Pencil and Pitch sessions, I paid the price of admission (Saturday only.)
My day was rich with many events: riveting keynote speech by Cory Doctorow, an agent/editor insight panel, SiWC Idol panel, Rookie Mistakes workshop, and a Creating Kick-Ass Characters workshop. In addition, I became reacquainted with conference buddies, and met up with author friends.
I’ve been writing for several years now and feel very comfortable walking into Blue Pencil and Pitch sessions; in fact, on Saturday, I did so without a twinge of anxiety. (It helped that a wonderful post jumped into my Twitter feed on Friday: How to Rock a Writers Conference. It was a reminder: have a goal, but have fun, too.)
Prescheduled on my agenda were two appointments: one Blue Pencil, one Pitch. Once at the conference, I lined up to sign up for a second session in each (first-come, first-served basis.)
My two Blue Pencil sessions were back-to-back, one at 11:15, the second at 11:30. For my prescheduled session, I chose a writer who was familiar with the Celtic world: I wanted to see if my second chapter, which references the Great Famine, rang true. She was lavish in her support of what I was doing and offered suggestions, such as the addition of a third element, to enhance it.
I lucked out in the line-up-to-sign-up for my second Blue Pencil. My appointment was with a writing professor/accomplished author. I deliberately showed her a different chapter, the opening. Once again, I received great feedback and suggestions ( i.e. use more internal reaction of narrator.)
After I finished my Blue Pencils, I lined up for a second Pitch session. Not one of the agents I wanted to see was available, but there was one free “now.” I jumped at the opportunity and switched to ‘pitch’ mode. After initial introductions, the conversation, paraphrased, was:
Me: “They just offered me this slot and I jumped, without knowing what your area of expertise is.”
Him: “I am looking for stories to turn into screen plays.”
Me: “So you’re looking for another Gone Girl?”
Him (eyes bright): “Do you have that?”
Me: “Nope. Do you mind if I just practice my pitch with you?”
Him: “No problem.”
So I pitched my historical fiction trilogy. He offered advice that would improve my pitch. I listened. During lunch, I received and overheard tips about presenting a pitch. Here’s the rundown:
Memorize, don’t read, your pitch.
Focus on story.
Insert history afterwards (if, like me, you’re writing historical fiction).
Be prepared to say who the comparable writers are (I floundered a bit on this one. Know better now.)
Know your word count.
Be prepared to answer the question “why are you writing this?”
I incorporated all of the above at my 1:40 session.
Overall advice? Go with a goal. Be prepared. Be open to everything. Enjoy the opportunity to have professionals offer advice. Be determined to have fun.
My thanks to all at SiWC, including those amazing volunteers, who made my experience so enjoyable. I left feeling inspired!
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My best to you,