Writing and Wracking at the Agents Conference

I just returned from the Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference, and although it was often a nerve wracking experience of epic proportions, I am very happy I attended. I can’t complain: 3 NY agents expressed direct interest in my 30 second pitch, and at least that many more were open to submissions. I also met some smart and fun people whose writing I look forward to reading. People who are in somewhat the same position as me, or in some cases a little further along the spectrum of writing to publishing, and many who are experienced and prolific bloggers.

I don’t have a great gauge of how it went with other writers, because once the pitching began in earnest (Saturday), the mood and attention span of writers shifted. Maybe no one seemed too comfortable being specific about their success to avoid making others feel badly, or maybe they were the ones disappointed. The flavour of discussions was less fresh than it had been at the Friday night cocktail reception, when it had all seemed like a big lark. By Saturday night, writers were snaking around wary bug-eyed agents in long circular lines. Not one of them seemed willing to leave their coveted spot in the queue to buy a beleaguered agent a much-needed drink.

I understand this was fair game. The agents weren’t accessible at every moment – they did have some down time, and this two hour period was meant to be an opportunity to speak with them. I just didn’t have the heart for it. I couldn’t imagine any good could come from a conversation with an agent whose eyes had been hunted or dead for at least forty five minutes. I did hover close enough to hear some of the exchanges and make the decision that it was personally in my best interest to stick to the more formal one-on-one format.

In the end, I had a couple of agent appointments and a couple of professional editor appointments. I won’t mention their names, as I’m not sure they’d like that. Both the agents were very receptive to my ideas, and one – I lucked out getting scheduled with my first choice – actually said she thought it was the best pitch she’d heard all day. Now, she didn’t mention how many pitches she’d heard that day, but I have given myself permission to believe it was untold numbers. In actual fact, it may have been less. We’ll see how their opinion of the writing compares to their enthusiasm over the pitching.

The editors were encouraging and offered useful and concrete suggestions. I may end up working more closely with one of them.

And finally, a note about the workshops and panels: I was impressed with the few I could attend, but given the agent and editor appointments I had scheduled, there were quite a few I had to miss. I had underestimated how much stomach churning stress I would need to pace off prior to any given appointment and how much time a celebratory pint would take afterwards.

Was it worth it? Definitely. Well worth it.

Moving Meditations – To The Power of 40

I’ve been swimming a lot. It’s too hot to even contemplate exercise in any other form, and my left Achilles hasn’t let me run in years. Texas heat can only be compared to the Tokyo variety. So, it’s swimming. Mostly indoors at my fancy pants club cool pool, and then I move outdoors for a couple laps of soupy Vitamin D. I need to credit my friend Jill for the term Moving Meditation, which is how she refers to her runs. I now think of it as any time when I’m unplugged and moving and my brain begins to toss up ideas and answers like my subconscious has been unleashed. But, given the almost lifelong nature of my many geographical moves, there’s a connection there as well.

Lately my swims have gotten longer as I’ve gotten stronger. I’m still slow but I’m up to 40. Very recently, that number was knocking and I was backing away from it, protracting my adolescence the best I could. Now, I find myself counting laps and reliving best/worst memories from each of those years, adding up to a tidy 40 laps or 1 km. It used to take me an hour to swim that, and now it’s only taking 45 minutes.

Maybe not coincidentally, my novel in its rewrite is 40 sections/chapters long (should I even admit this, given just how much that indicates will need to be hacked out?) and I find myself rethinking each of them as I count laps, and with some magical alchemy, finding solutions to problems or simply better insights.

I am a word person, and not typically fond of numbers, but this one has a meditative, even, roundness to it that I find myself embracing. For someone as chronically and infamously untidy as me, it is odd to embrace symmetry and balance, but that’s how I’m finding forty. And it’s finding me.