Ever have one of those days that just goes right?
I don’t often get them.
I usually get the type of day where you have to get a boy to an early morning hockey practice and set your alarm for 5pm instead of 5am practice, then, already late, you hit every red light on the way, then forgot some vital piece of hockey gear like the jock, then you have to race back, but find you didn’t fill up the car and HAVE to get gas or you’re not making it home, then you find your credit card is maxed and you only have nickels and dimes to pay for gas, but you put in $1.35 anyway and race off only to return to a completely empty room because the team has been relocated to another dressing room and you have to go room to room carrying a jock and asking, has anyone seen ma boi?
Well, try it sometime.
But it wasn’t one of those days at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Everything went my way. I managed to get an additional agent appointment early in the day and still had one tucked away for the afternoon. So, after my success with the first agent, the incredibly nice Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein, President and senior agent at McIntosh & Otis, I saw another opening.
Not with an agent, but with a writer who has always given me great advice. The great storyteller Michael Slade.
So I booked a moment with him, a ten-minute session called a blue pencil (where an author looks at your work, gives you criticism, then you go home and cry a lot). But I wanted his opinion on the opening of my book, especially since I had plans to submit it for a public reading on Saturday and didn’t want to be that guy who gets his stuff read and has agents rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and wondering why they make the effort to come out.
However, Mr. Slade loved the writing and went through the first chapter step-by-step remarking on all the things I’d done right. He only had one suggestion, but that one was bang on (and as soon as I left, I made that change right away.) But as much fun as that was, (and it was FUN), he didn’t have any appointments afterward so we talked about war and fathers and writing and all sorts of things.
For about over an hour!
Like we were long, lost friends.
They had to kick us out for lunch, but it was so incredible to have that time with someone who’s farther down the road than me as a writer and such a great storyteller.
Then it was back to work. I needed to find another agent at lunch, the best writing coach I’ve seen and perennial favorite at SiWC, Don Maass, but by the time I arrived, the whole ballroom was filled to capacity and I couldn’t spot him. So I ate my lunch, chatted with my writer’s group, chatted with people in line, chatted with a few of the people seated at our table, then when lunch ended, I began my search again.
Luckily, someone had nabbed him before he could leave!
Again, I felt so nervous as I approached him. I trembled like an 11-year-old girl about to meet Scott Helman (look him up, I had to!).
It’s that fight or flight thing. I really wanted to run and hide in my basement, snuggle under a blanket and read my books in the pool of lamplight, but I had put on my big boy pants and needed to do big boys things.
I marched over and sat beside him. Like an awkward orangutan fidgeting with everything he could get his hands on, I waited until he had finished talking to others, then with only minutes left before he had to rush off to a workshop or scheduled interviews, I threw my pitch at him with all the skill of someone just clubbed in the head with a baseball bat.
But he liked it. He wanted to see the entire manuscript. Entire. Manuscript!
The editor I saw after that, while challenging me on if my story was a mystery or thriller, wanted to see 50 pages after I was done sweating and mumbling.
Not a pretty one, but a win never-the-less.
Same thing happened when I pitched at the end of the day to Irene Goodman, who was so very kind and understanding at my complete inability to form complete sentences at that point.
She loved my story’s connection to the holocaust and we shared our moving experiences from when we visited Anne Frank’s house or the holocaust memorial museums.
I went home exhausted and so excited.
But an even bigger win was to come. Not a sale, cuz those things don’t happen at conferences, but something I’ll remember forever. In a good way.