Pitching to a Literary Agent… & more!
PWC: Day 1
I had an amazing time at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference! This was my first year attending, and I am so glad I did. The conference is a good size, not too big and not too small. The schedule allows plenty of time between sessions, of which I took advantage to network and get further critique from session presenters. And the quality of the sessions was top notch–this conference is a great value, especially for college students who get their discount.
As a way to extend my experience and regroup from the typical ‘conference information overload,’ I wanted to do a few posts about what I got out of my time. I hope you find it useful as well. Here goes Day 1! (Day 2 and Day 3 are up as well.)
1) Don’t over-dissect your poor characters.
Sometimes writers (not me, of course…) scrutinize and dissect their characters to death. We fill out character profiles and think about archetype and seek out a character’s deepestdarkestsecrets.
Suzanne Palmieri, author of The Witch of Bourbon Street and others, gave advice I needed to hear in her first Creating Captivating Characters session today. If we can’t voice our deepest flaws and turmoils, why would we want to subject a character to that? Not only does attempting to verbalize such things rob the reader of deep connection with the character, if you’re doing it right, those deepest parts of a character don’t need explicitly stated at all.
2) Your first job? Entertain.
The three-day session on writing young adult literature was a selling point in my decision to attend PWC. And Catherine Stine, author of Dorianna and others, did not disappoint. I especially appreciated this reminder: The first job of a YA writer is to entertain. Not preach, or educate, or moralize. You gotta keep ’em turning pages. Of course, this is true for any writer, really, but especially a YA one.
Catherine shared Stephen King’s idea that he writes for ADD boys. I can’t find the source for this easily on Google, but it proves the point. She also gave the example of Mad Max: Fury Road as a tale that delivers a strong political message, but a tale that entertains first. (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it for this and lots of other reasons!)
3) Literary agents don’t bite.
Getting new ideas and tricks about writing is all good and well. But perhaps the biggest thing I’ll carry away from PWC is the invaluable face-time with literary agents and editors that it provides .
Live agents and editors! In the flesh! With smiles! And advice!
Today, agents and editors participated in 5-minute pitch sessions with writers. Like speed dating. For three hours. Bless you! They also ate a buffet with us and then sat on a discussion panel and took questions. Thank you!
I made an appointment to pitch to Eric Smith, an author himself of books like The Geek’s Guide to Dating. I’d followed him on Twitter a few months ago, so when I saw he would be at PWC I knew I had to meet with him. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. Missing 100% of the shots and all that. So I put on my big-person pants and signed up for a time slot. I was that nervous I even misspelled my name at first and had to cross it out and start over. Oops.
Waiting to go in to the pitch felt like a Top Model cattle call. I got my name checked off a list and got barked at to line up with the other hopefuls. And while talking with Eric left me nerve-wracked and rambling on and geeked out, I also walked away feeling excited. And empowered. In fact, it was mostly downright enjoyable. Connecting with an agent who I felt would see my story as right up his alley… I can’t ask for anything more!