Friends, I did a thing. I wrote a book (something I said I could never do, ever) and then I signed up to attend a writer’s conference (something I said I was way too scared to do, ever). With the registration fee, you get one free agent pitch. That means you sit down with an ACTUAL real-live literary agent and try to convince him or her to read your book. And oh yeah, you only have ten minutes to try to “sell” this thing you’ve been working on for months, the thing you’ve poured yourself into so much that you’ve totally neglected your blog and all the great books about writing you have sitting on your desk. (Don’t worry, I still fed the kids!).
There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the weekend. First of all, there is no way I’d ever go by myself. You might think I was being brave, but nope, I convinced a writerly mom friend from our new town to go with me and I’m so grateful she did! For a couple weeks, I practiced my pitch in the shower and in Google docs and to my dog and in the mirror. It never came out the same and never quite did the book justice, in my opinion. Saturday morning, I was more than a little nervous and I (maybe stupidly) stopped at Starbucks for a coffee (which is still gross), so then I was even a little jittery.
But let me tell you, within 10 minutes of checking in and sitting at a table full of other writers, I felt like I was at home. You guys, writers are my people. The ballroom was full of people who love books and words and stories. Every race, gender, and age group was represented. There were people of all sizes and shapes and from all walks of life. I sat with grandmothers and teenagers and nurses and the daughter of a well-known bestseller and even a guy who does spoken word for a living (which is SO COOL!).
I learned quickly that there’s no awkward small talk because everyone you meet starts off by asking, “What do you write?” Not, “Are you a writer?” or “YOU? You write?” but, “Hey what’s your book about? Pitch it to me, right here!” As a selective introvert (maybe a selective extrovert?), the first person to ask me this was met with a nervous giggle and flushed cheeks, but as the day went on, it got so much easier. It was such a fun atmosphere.
When my turn came to pitch to the agent, I lined up with a bunch of other kind of pale, sweaty writers, wringing their hands, muttering their pitches to themselves. Lots of us had literally never done this before, so we gave each other nervous smiles and headed in. Turns out, the agent I met with was great. She was very encouraging and made the whole experience very comfortable. I was able to tell her about the book confidently, no shaking, no losing my way. It was pretty awesome.
The rest of the day was spent in sessions or workshops. I learned so much about avoiding rookie publishing mistakes, crafting an amazing first page, strategies for when you’re stuck, writing through pain or trauma, and even building a social media platform. I took pages and pages of notes and came home that very night and reworked a lot of the beginning of my own book.
A couple take-aways from my experience for other writers:
- Writers are, in general, super supportive and nice people. They are genuinely excited for you. Several people high-fived me after my pitch, just because I made it through. I felt like every person there, even the presenters and agents, were completely accessible and supportive. Everyone was eager to learn from people who came before them.
- It is great to immerse yourself in a community of people who understand the struggle of writing. It sounds romantic, to sit with your computer or journal and create made-up worlds and characters, or write to inspire others. But some days, it’s JUST HARD. And the words won’t come and you think everything you’ve ever written is garbage. So, my next step is to find some sort of critique group so that I can work on my craft and keep learning with other writers. The thought of this excites and terrifies me at the same time.
- Tell your story. Whatever your story is, if there’s lots of joy or lots of struggle or lots of blessings or lots of pain or a combo of any of those things, your story is your story. You never know who needs to hear your story because it will make them feel less alone or help them get through a painful season. Not only will you help others, but writing through your own stuff can be healing in itself.
And one take-away for anyone, writer or not: Take chances. In all honesty, going to this conference, even with a friend, was way outside my comfort zone. I felt like I wasn’t a “real writer” so how could I even justify going? I felt like I would look around and see how much better than me everyone was and feel defeated. I felt like I was so “new” in the process that I would be overwhelmed. But, I felt exactly zero of these feelings. It was seriously such a good weekend.
Whatever you’re scared of doing, whatever you know in your heart you should be doing but don’t feel like you can, you CAN! Take the chance. Invest in yourself. I’m so glad I did. I’m not sure where this attempt-to-publish journey will take me (if anywhere), but it feels good knowing that I took a chance on it, and on myself.
Currently Cooking: This copycat Panera macaroni and cheese from scratch. The only tweaks I made were that I used whole milk (way better than skim) and I used regular sharp cheddar, not white cheddar. Oh also, I added about 1/3 cup of 505 Roasted Green Chiles. It was perfection. Probably don’t make this if you’re on some kind of diet or don’t have someone who can take all the leftovers to work the next day, because it is seriously delicious.
Currently Reading: Love Does by Bob Goff. As far as Christian writers go, he is one of the most entertaining and wacky ones I’ve ever encountered. He came to speak at our church (here’s the link to his sermon on podcast, scroll down to “Love Everybody Always”- SO worth a listen) and he has this boisterous laugh and he waves his arms around and you just can’t help but be swept up in his message. He’s also one of the best examples I’ve found of a Christian leader who is completely nonjudgmental and believes everyone deserves to be loved no matter how “creepy” (his word) they are.
I also got such a fun package in the mail from my Uncle John with all these beauties in it, and I cannot wait to dive in!
Thanks for reading, and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.