Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The Ones Who Got You There
We writers may not practice our Oscar speeches like this cute little kid, but we do have a spot in each book to thank the ones who got us where we are.
Still, some thank yous are worthy of the Oscar-type speeches we'll most likely never give. I thought about one of them when I read a blog by agent Suzie Townsend. She talked about what to do (and more importantly what not to do) when pitching. It's absolutely spot-on advice.
It brought back memories of chilled pasta salad that I couldn't eat and the sharp edge of a 3x5 index card digging into the palm of my hand. It was my first pitch.
The editor, Jen Green, isn't (I don't think, anyway) in the business anymore, which is a loss, because she was a terrific editor. She had come to do a workshop at our Georgia Romance Writers chapter meeting and to listen to pitches for the now defunct Harlequin Bombshell and NeXt lines (insert funeral dirge here.)
I'd practiced my pitch until I could recite in my sleep. (The Husband has offered corroboration on this point, and swears I actually did recite it in my sleep.) I was psyched. I was ready. And thanks to a wise and wonderful author friend, I had done the wise thing and left my pages at home. (Oh, yes, I was that green.)
Picture all of us at a table, the little circle of hopeful writers. Ms. Green smiled at us and gave the signal for someone to start the round-robin.
My turn came. My heart raced. The pasta salad in my stomach lurched. And my mind went blank.
So I gulped, looked at Ms. Green, then looked down at my card, gulped again, and read straight from the card.
And she said the most beautiful words in the world: "That sounds like it might work. Why don't you send me a partial?"
That book, after two gut-it-like-the-trout-that-it-was revisions, wound up selling -- not to Jen Green, but to the lovely, lovely Laura Shinn (who is now onto greener pastures herself.) It was my first sale.
And it was all because Jen Green didn't mind that I had to read the pitch off my index card.