Conference Riches, Blue Pencils, and Pitches

by @AnnieDaylon

SIWC 2104 camera 004For 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.

shutterstock_107880212 manuscript 2

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!

Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by placing your first name and email address in the space provided on the right. Many thanks!

My best to you,

Annie Signature Light Blue


10 thoughts on “Conference Riches, Blue Pencils, and Pitches
  1. Thanks for this one, Angie. You’ve given me more of a clue to what goes on there. I felt like I should attend, but without a definite purpose I didn’t want to spend the big bucks. Practicing pitches, eh? Sounds good.

    • You are most welcome!
      I walked into this conference knowing exactly what goes on, right down to where to find the washrooms that are ‘less-traveled.’ Learned that as a volunteer. Didn’t cost anything but my time and a smile. The rewards? Invaluable. Highly recommend!

  2. Excellent summary of your day, Annie. I was glad to see you there and to share some of the classes. I learned so much, too, and will be prepared to pitch next year. The blue pencil experience with Anne Perry was a highlight, just fifteen minutes of conversation. I’ll share some of what I learned at CWG tonight, but I was inspired by the SIWC Idol workshop, and by Donald Maass’ insightful and kind evaluations of the twenty-two competitors’ submissions. The agents and editors were good human beings, and I felt that there was no need to be nervous . Great conference.

    • I didn’t realize how inspiring the whole day was until this morning when, still filled with the glow of the event, I sat down to write. So much ease!
      I also loved that SiWC Idol concept. Would attend one of those again in a heartbeat.
      You are right … a “great conference.”

  3. Happy to hear you enjoyed your time at SIWC. I’ve been attending for years and still feel refreshed. At my age, there’s so much to learn and I’m still learning. When I was much younger, I knew just about everything. Must have forgotten a helluva lot. Good to see you there. Ben

    • The conference was indeed refreshing. Inspiring, too.
      Ah, the foibles of youth. Good thing we all smarten up! 🙂
      It was great to see you again too, Ben.

  4. Awesome post with some great tips, but I really want to thank you for volunteering. Without volunteers like you, this wonderful conference wouldn’t exist. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I’m glad your sessions went so well. And I’m envious of your secret bathroom knowledge.

    • Hi, Holli,
      Glad you liked the post!
      Re volunteering… You’re welcome. (I loved doing it.)
      I just read your blog. A BIG congratulations on getting published!

  5. Thank you, Annie, for sharing your SIWC experience. I shall take the tips you received and put them into writing, and into what to plan for next year. Maybe I can volunteer for one day and attend the next? This could work for me. I went to the SIWC five years ago, but only on the Saturday. (Couldn’t afford more.) It was early in my writing adventure; therefore, I was a bit overwhelmed and wondered “What the heck am I doing?” Donald Maas (many thank yous his way) encouraged me to forge onwards and I have slowly. In doing so, I have met some of the most amazing, wonderfully talented writers like yourself. Congrats on your accomplishment. I’m so excited for you, as I trust your trilogy will be published.
    Best wishes,

    • Hi, Fran,
      I’ve attended the SiWC three times as volunteer (well worth the time) and twice as paying participant (well worth the money.) Both adventures have enhanced the writing journey for me.
      Re: tips… you’re most welcome. Re: encouragement… many thanks!

Leave a Reply to Ben Nuttall-Smith Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *