Several entries have been in discussion of the opening night of the Kansas Writer’s Association’s Scene Conference. The main attraction was Pitchapalooza, put on by The Book Doctors, aka David Henry Sterry (screenwriter, actor, writer) and Arielle Eckstut (writer and agent).
Simple premise: You get one minute, sixty seconds, total, no more, to pitch your book. They, along with selected speakers of the conference at which this takes place, then review your pitch. The primary goal is to help you make your pitch better to, in turn, help you secure representation. The winner gets an introduction to an agent or editor who would be complimentary to the genre.
I had told you of my two options: Swansong, a contemporary hard-boiled crime fiction with colorful characters who seem to, well, die and set in an around Wichita, KS; Weekend Getaways, or Adventures in Contract killing, a dark comic story about a man’s search for something meaningful in this consumerist world.
My rationale for both: The hard-boiled crime story was good solid writing in a genre that is highly popular and successful. However, it might have been tougher to crack into it; The off-beat Transgressive piece was unique and would stand out. On the other hand, given its strange typography and non-traditional story-telling, it might be a tough sell.
My decision-making process came down to this: I already have a good life with a wonderful wife and a beautiful home and a few personal things to count as successes. Taking a chance was not a worry because I still had my life.
I pitched Weekend Getaways.
All who wished to enter signed up on a sheet. But the sequence was not going to be determined by the sheet. Oh, no. The names were cut up and were pulled randomly. The first pitcher would be called and the next person would be waiting in the so-called on-deck circle.
I had come into the evening with an extreme amount of confidence. Ny pitch was based in part on a query letter from two years ago; i watched videos of Pitchapalooza on You Tube; I rehearsed, standing up and moving around but not in front of a mirror, until I had it memorized.
What I didn’t count on was randomization. Luck. Chance. Fate. The draw of names. There were but twenty people entered. We got through the first ten without hearing my name. Then up to fifteen. Finally, number seventeen was called and the on-deck participant was me. Number eighteen.
I came up to bat, took a few warm up swings, and hit it out of the park. I felt good. And I got some excellent feedback to the extent that I revised the pitch after the conference was completely over. It seems good enough for a new query letter.
All the judges but David stepped out of the room, returned for a brief tete-a-tete and then the comment was made that there was an “unusual situation.” We all thought it was a tie.
They announced the winner. I did not hear my name. But…they indicated that they wished to give an honorable mention. That’s when I heard my name. I graciously accepted the applause.
So…I didn’t “win” in terms of the parameters of the contest. However, I was able to learn what I was good at, what needed modification, seemed to impress a few people, and am encouraged that the piece I chose might not be the unpublishable behemoth that I once thought it was.
Final thought about “winning”: Jennifer Hudson did NOT win American Idol. And yet she has several Grammys AND an Academy Award.
I’m good with all that.