Pitches, Pork Chops, and Portraying Passion

Because I’m such a loud-mouth and told everyone and their aunt that I was going to Storymakers and that I had a pitch and had won dinner with the agent of my choice, I’ve had multiple inquires about how “IT” went.

{My pitch was with Lizzie Poteet of St. Martins press and dinner was with Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary.}

I’m going to talk to you like we’re friends.

As a timekeeper this year, I volunteered to miss class in order to–get this–keep agents and authors on time. I was originally scheduled to run a room upstairs, with a sweet agent I instantly liked. Jen Rofe was taking pitches and there I was, to make sure everyone stayed on schedule. Secretly, I was relieved that I wasn’t a timekeeper for the agents I was meeting with later on that night/the next day. I thought it would be better if our first introduction wasn’t a quick, “Hi, I’m your time keeper. How’s the temperature of the room? Doyouneedcoffee?”

After arriving at my post, I was reassigned. Some mix up, I guess. When I arrived at my new post, I discovered it was the very two agents I’d been “fearing.” Well, that was dumb of me–they neither bit me or turned into bloodsucking vampires. But, there went my brain. And I did the quick “Hi, howyadoing?” thing, but my nerves had kicked into gear. By the time Suzie Townsend had her last pitch, I needed a fresh shirt and another layer of Secret.

The brief intros were fine, and I can’t explain why my nerves kicked in based on those meager hellos. In hindsight, I’m glad they did, because by the time I had my pitch with Lizzie Poteet, my sweat glands had given up on ruining my wardrobe. I was left to run on pure excitement and adrenaline, which courses through my veins on a day basis.

But let’s back up, shall we?

I should’ve had a bigger lunch. Because, like normal, I talked the sweet and funny Suzie Townsend’s ear off. I had an appetite, but didn’t care if I starved–even if those pork chops were pretty tasty. All I wanted to do was to talk to her and listen to everything she had to say. I introduced Serene, my BestFriendforDinner and then fired away the only pressing question I really had for Suzie.

I wish I could remember the exact wording, but it was something like this:

Will you tell me where you think new adult going, in the sense that will it fan out become more than just contemporary romance?

I’m not going to go into a She Said, and I Said play by play, but I will tell you she was super awesome to answer my question. And the truth is it’s impossible to predict the future of a genre, which I knew, but she’s very aware and up to her eyeballs in what the industry is doing right now, and can see far enough out to know what is selling, what isn’t, what’s overdone, what’s not, and what she’s hoping to find in a manuscript.

I did not pitch my story to her at dinner, but I did share some basics–like Lenox is 22 and I have a fantasy story. She shared some fun and helpful thoughts about fantasy, which put my mind to rest about where my story fits. It’s fantasy. Don’t worry so much about age. And that lifted my spirits, to say the least.

I learned all kinds of beautiful tidbits about Suzie, things about her private life that wouldn’t necessarily be on her bio, but that made her a real person and unique. We had some good laughs, and there’s a part of me that wishes I would’ve hit the voice recorder on my phone, stuck it in my bra, and then went to dinner, because my brain is mush now and I can’t recall everything we talked about–but it doesn’t matter. I remember how I felt.

And that’s what matters. I felt like I’d met a new friend and had we been college roommates I would’ve tried to set her up on dates, gone shoe shopping with her, brought her home to ride horses and meet my family. And no matter where my story goes, I’ll forever consider her a friend. That how great it was to have dinner with her.

Sunday morning, after staying up ’til 4 am, Serene and I were in the lobby and Suzie ended up coming down while we were milling about. She was headed to hike the Y, which I’ve never done. Instead of taking off right away, she stayed to visit longer. And that conversation I remember much better. Which is odd, considering that lack of sleep and overload of information from three days of conferencing. A part of me wanted to skip going home and hike the Y with her, but my carpool passengers were all depending on me to get them home. And I wasn’t invited.

I loved learning that Suzie is an editorial agent–and that changed my perspective on what I want in an agent. I know I’m not perfect and that MS has things that can be improved on. Having someone on my team, helping push that MS to be the brightest, best, and most impressive it can be before going to editors, is a big deal. I’d just never seen it in that light. I’ve been through beta readers, more beta readers, two editors, and multiple revisions, and I’m willing to go through it all again, if it means taking the story up a notch.

I don’t want to birth a story that’s premature.

Since returning home, we’ve become friends on Facebook, and I’ve sent her my query and pages. I look forward to what she’ll say, and while I wait for that day to come, I’ll keep querying, keep writing, keep pushing forward.

Now, my pitch on Saturday ended up being right in the middle of Suzie’s class, which was a bummer, but Serene and Michelle were good to take notes and fill me in. Again, I felt really excited and enthusiastic about sharing FOR THE LOVE with Lizzie. As an editor for St. Martins, she doesn’t usually acquire manuscripts, but all my research and cyber stalking was worth it. I felt as if I did know her, going into that pitch. I kept having a dream I’d say so, too, and then break into song.

ME: I feel like I know you, but ♫♫ YOU DON’T KNOW A THING ABOUT ME! YOU DON’T KNOW A THING ABOUT ME! ♫♫

Yes, not the most professional way to introduce one’s self, but certainly memorable. Maybe if I’d had back up singers…

A part of me wishes I would’ve gone with it, and fulfilled the dream/nightmare, because after attending her class, she made more song references than I can shake a stick at, and she broke out into song–just like I did in my dream. Just short one-liner, but still. And she loves Taylor, which was cute and fun.

Instead, I went with what I had practiced for a week, and it felt very natural for me. For someone else, maybe it would’ve sounded like they were taking to a crazy person, but for it me, it was true to character. I felt good about it, and whether or not she requested pages out of true interest or professional politeness, I don’t mind. I sent her fifty pages, like she asked, and will see where it goes. I especially enjoyed her class on Romantic Tension, because WHO WOULDN’T want to talk about that? Okay, so there’s a few men out there who might raise their hand, but if they write, they shouldn’t be scared by a little kissing scene. Portraying passion in a book can’t be overlooked–it can make or break a story, in my humble opinion. Done just right, and you’ll own me. Anyway, I laughed and laughed, and got to see a different side of Lizzie than I had previously. She seemed more at ease, more in her element, and I went back to taking notes.

She went over four things to show that tension and then put us all to writing up something using a Taylor Swift song/lyrics/image as a prompt. I love a writing exercise, but I didn’t used to. After our time was up, she chose a few participates brave enough to share with the class what they’d just written off the top of their heads. I didn’t get the chance to do it, but liked what I wrote enough that I just might see where it goes in the future. (There weren’t enough little pictures to go around, so I just went with a Swift song that’s frequently stuck in my head–22.)

The class ended, and I was super bummed, because I could’ve sat in that class the rest of the conference and listened to her teach. She seemed to have the heart of a teacher, and genuinely wanted us all to walk away having more confidence and knowledge to add to our writing tool boxes.

Now, since I’ve decided that this year was the year of AGENTSEVERYWHERE for me, I have to mention the other two agents I crossed paths with, because well, they were ahhhmazing, too!

I’ve had an eye on Mark Gottlieb for a while, and was excited to  learn from him at conference. His class was first and I remember it best–mostly because my brain hadn’t been so accosted yet. He was also a fun presenter and put pitching into perspective. I LOVE that he gave us a chance to pitch live, and while I wish I would’ve been chosen, I was thrilled that Daniel Noyes, my good friend and writing cohort, was selected. He did awesome. So awesome, that Mr. Mark asked Daniel to send in pages, just. like. that. BOOOOYAH!

I later ran into Mark when I was standing on a chair, searching the sea of 700 other authors in attendance for my friends. And then again, when two of girlfriends thought he was kinda cute and wanted a photo. Mark strikes me as a little more reserved, but something tells me his a blast when he lets his guard down and isn’t “working.” I could totally be wrong, but either way, he’s good at his job and would be an awesome agent to work with. I have sent him a query, and while I want him to take a look at my pages, I’d be more than thrilled if he offered to rep Daniel.

And the last bit of awesomeness I wanted to touch on was Jen Rofé. I didn’t know I’d like her so much. So much that I WANT to write something for her to look at. Haha. Now, that clearly isn’t how it works, but still. She was warm-hearted, easy to talk to, and genuinely so beautiful. She sat at the same dinner table with us Friday night, with her own guests, but every once in a while we all would chat together. My favorite part was when she told us all she got chills during the keynote speaker. I don’t remember the comment, but I got the chills, too. Amazing how that happens.

Overall, the answer to HOW DID IT GO? is AMAZINGLY WELL.

I didn’t puke on anyone, I didn’t cry. I didn’t start shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t forget what I wanted to say, and I had fun. I honestly had the best time sharing my story, because I love my story. I may be a little sick of editing it, but I love Lenox and Rozlyn, and Sterling, so much that to me, they’re as real as my own children. And I want to share them with the world, which sounds a little cliche, but I do. Not everyone will love them like I do, but just maybe, some will.

Now, as an added bonus, I just know you’re dying to see what I wrote in that Romantic Tention class. Am I right?
♥♥♥

Jensen’s long fingers brush against mine, not for the first time—and unless he quits his job—not for the last time. My heart skips a beat. I’m such an idiot, but I can’t help it. My lips curve into a smile as he and I lock eyes.

“Are you ever going to change your mind?” he asks.

He means am I ever going to order something besides a chia latte, and I’m considering saying something like, “as soon as I can I buy you a cup.” But I don’t. My voice would give me away if I said anything at all right now.

From behind, Jake, my fiancé, gentle nudges me forward to our regular Sunday morning spot. Jensen watches us as we leave the counter, grateful I only have to endure this torture once a week. It takes about six minutes before Jensen comes around the counter, two dollar bills in his hand. Jake was too busy texting his boycrush about tomorrow night’s game to collect the change, or notice that I didn’t.

If only I had the courage to make a move one way or another. To tell Jake it’s over or to tell Jensen we can’t go down that path ever again. He steps up close, the toe of his boot bumping into mine. His Adam’s apple rises and falls as if it holds all his anxiety.  His fingers don’t tremble as he extends the money, but mine do as I take it from him.

“See you later,” he says. I glance at Jake. He’s still texting, or something.

I sink in my seat a little, and when Jensen is back at his post, his gaze bores into me. I focus on Jake’s phone, now attached to his ear, as beads of sweat form on my palms.

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