My First Writers Conference Part 2: Terror! Sinking Feelings! Etc.!

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Now, let’s not gloss over the fact that I woke up that morning feeling like I was going to vomit from a nerve-induced frenzy. Literally all I’ve been thinking about the past couple weeks is this dreaded Pitch Slam (even the words Pitch and Slam sound vaguely violent). The last few days in particular have been spent with me sounding like a crazy person everywhere I go, muttering my pitch under my breath: at the grocery store, in the car, filling up the tank, walking the dogs, taking a shower, etc. etc.

By the morning of the conference, I was satisfied that I had it mostly committed to memory, but I’m still prone to fits of amnesia and speaking in gibberish when I’m overly nervous, and I could just imagine completely blanking in front of an agent. (In fact, I had a nightmare about this very thing the night before. Thanks for being so subtle, subconscious!)

After picking up my badge, I headed to my first panel Writing and Publishing Children’s and Teen books, which was hosted by one of my dream agents, Mary Kole.

As soon as I sat down, the young women sitting at my table struck up a conversation with me while we waited for the panel to begin. Who ever said writers were recluses? Valerie Wicks and Amanda Nuri sure weren’t and already I felt much more at ease as we chatted. We decided to practice our pitches on each other.

I was shocked by how nervous I was saying my pitch aloud to these nice young women – and I found myself glossing over some of my carefully planned speech as I rambled through a vague approximation of what my story was about.

My nerves did not fare any better when Mary Kole finally took the stage and began talking about the industry of Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. I dutifully took notes and resolved to buy her newly published book, KidLit, at the first opportunity, but my heart sank when she talked about how oversaturated paranormal and dystopian stories are, and how publishers are already committed to existing trilogies that will take them through 2014 or beyond, so there simply isn’t a lot of room for new stories of that genre.

This is an issue I’ve been struggling with. Even when I started working on Winter Wilder two years ago, I knew paranormal was already getting oversaturated. Part of me worried I shouldn’t even waste my time, that I should wait to ride the wave of whatever the next trend would be.

But it’s like they say, don’t write for the market. Write for yourself.

So I stuck to my guns, and I stuck to my story, because, simply, Winter Wilder is a story I wanted to write. It’s a story that reader-me wants to read. And I hope others will feel the same way. Is it fresh enough or different enough from all the other paranormal out there? I think so. But as much of an avid reader as I am, I haven’t read all the paranormal that’s out there to fully compare.

I attempt to cheer myself up by reminding myself that paranormal is an established market. It’s not going anywhere, and fans of paranormal will always be fans of paranormal (just like how in music, fans of Bluegrass, or Shoegaze, or Dubstep will always seek out new Bluegrass, Shoegaze, and Dubstep artists).

But, I’m not naïve. I also recognize that I face larger challenges attempting to bring my paranormal novel to a potential agent or publisher. I need to find a way to rise above the rest, to show how mine stands apart, how it fills a niche that may not yet be overflowing.

And this is part of what I was hoping to glean from this Writer’s Conference. As terrified as I was from the impending Pitch Slam, I was also looking forward to receiving valuable feedback from agents. This, for me, was key and perhaps would be even turn out to be more valuable than a business card.

To be continued…

This article was written by Tania