Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Lunch with Three Writers Digest Editors in New York (part 2 of 2)

Okay.......Where was I? Oh yeah we were walking into the lunch room.

Michelle and I probably looked like a couple of starving nomads in search of sustenance....okay it wasn't that bad. But we still couldn't find any open seats.

I turned to a man who looked in charge, and asked where we should sit.....

To our relief, he directed us to a table occupied only by one person. We strolled up, introduced ourselves and sat down.

The lunch consisted of three generous plates of turkey sandwiches, a heaping basket of fruit, another basket of assorted chips, soda's and even a plate of cookies.

It only took a few moments for me to fill my plate, and then a few moments more to be GLADLY EATING.

The three of us chatted while we ate, exchanging what our stories were about, (he had written a thriller) then after a few minutes, we were joined by another writer. Our fourth guest was a smaller man with glasses, untidy hair, and rather cynical smile. We exchanged writing preferences, and he stated he wrote educational poetry.

Really? What's educational poetry again?

I was about to ask him, when four others joined the table. They weren't introduced, but I noticed one of them looked very familiar. Then the little guy with glasses asked a question to the lady sitting next to me. Alice.... he had addressed her by name. By the dialogue between the two, I could tell they didn't know each other. He had asked something about Twitter and Facebook, and was an obvious ploy just to talk to her. She politely answered and the conversation was over.

She made a comment about the sandwiches, something about them being turkey I think. I had said something about the fact that I was starving and it was perfect.

Then out of nowhere from my right, a banquet worker handed Alice a specially made sandwich. That was when I realized I was probably sitting next to someone with a little stature.

Then I realized she had made the comment about the turkey, due to the fact that she was.........a vegetarian, I think. I found that out after watching her dissect her grilled eggplant sandwich on the plate next to me. Yeah that was instead of listening to the lunch speaker.

I did listen to the speaker, but Sarah Nelson took a cynical and slightly depressing angle on the book publishing industry. Not a very motivational speech to say the least, but probably partly due to the fact that she had been laid off from Publishers Weekly a few months prior.

Switching of from watching Alice dissect her sandwich, to spying at the name tag affixed to her lapel, I managed to find out her name was Alice Pope. It sounded familiar, but couldn't place it yet. (Sorry Alice) So I kept glancing over, all the while hoping she wouldn't catch me looking and think I was looking down her shirt........

I managed to read the word editor on her name tag, but that was all. I thought that was cool, George the writer sitting next to an editor, a real live editor! I'm proud of myself for not asking for an autograph and then shouting out to the room......I'm never washing this hand.....ever!

Yeah I know, writers are a strange breed.

She left the table, so I had resort to listening to the speech again.

Later I was informed that she was an editor at Writers Digest. Wow, even cooler. The whole time she was next to me I thought about trying to strike up a conversation, but decided against it. I figured she would rather dissect her sandwich in peace. Besides, I didn't want to sound like the little guy in glasses with the silly question about Twitter.

Come to find out, after looking at the conference pictures online, we were all in the company of two other writers digest editors as well. Zac Petit, and Melissa Hill.

Now I can say that I had lunch with three editors from writers digest....... It's too bad I couldn't manage to mumble anything intelligent to any of them.

So after the depressing speech, a text to April (my wife), and a cookie, they gave away door prizes. The editors had left the table already so it was just Michelle, myself and the two other writers. They read off names for each prize, and each time someone won it just happened to be a woman. I didn't even notice or even care until the little guy in glasses kept making a comments about how come no guys were winning anything.

I wanted to say... are you serious......... your poetry must be really fun to read.

The last prize was for three people to win a years subscription to Writers Digest magazine. I was shocked when my name was drawn. I smiled as I walked up to get the card.

So after lunch was over, we went to the last breakout session. This one was was informative for me because it was with Anthony Flacco and his agent Sharlene Martin. They didn't turn it into a book pitch but more of just general information about publishing nonfiction. They opened it up to questions, which was really nice.

When the breakout session ended, it was almost time.

The moment was almost upon us all. A writers moment of truth. Three minutes to pitch our books to prospective agents. We all had to exit the rooms, regroup and stand in line. Some lines were longer than others, but the line I chose was long. The room had four agents I wanted to see. Of course Donald Maass was in that room, and of course a lot of people wanted to pitch to him.

Big time agent! He wasn't on my list.

My first pitch went to Michael Larsen.

I sat down, introduced myself and he said :

"Tell me what it's about."
"Don't you want me to read my pitch?" I asked him.
"No." He said. "Just tell me about it."

So I told him the title and explained what I wanted to do with it. He was interested, and then he asked if it was written yet.

I said no. I explained that I thought it was better if a nonfiction book was proposed first. He told me that in my case with the book I'm writing, it would be better written first. He gave me some great ideas and advice, and besides slurping (very loudly) the bottom of his iced latte from Starbucks while explaining my story, he seemed to be a very genuine, approachable guy. He would be someone I would like to represent my work. (when it's done)

Next I pitched Stacia Decker:

She looked different than in the pictures I found on line of her, and as I approached her saw that she sported a close trimmed hair cut that looked very professional and attractive. (sorry that shouldn't have slipped in here)

As I sat down, I introduced myself and she asked me to explain my story. I asked if she wanted me to read my pitch and she said, just tell me about it. So I did. She made good eye contact, and listened to what my story was about. She asked me a few general questions and seemed genuinely interested. She told me to query her at the agency. That made me happy. She did have the same advice as Michael Larsen did, about it being a finished work. So I will wait to query until it is finished.

Next was to Michael Bourret:

I didn't wait in line too long, and was chatting with someone else the whole time. When it was my time to go up, I sat down and introduced myself. Michael seemed to be having a hard time concentrating on me. His eyes kept shifting to what was going on around the room. It wasn't until I made him laugh did I hold his attention for a few seconds. Even then, he still seemed somewhere else. He told me to query him because some of my ideas made him laugh, but I don't think I would query him. Nothing against him, I just didn't get a good feeling.

Next was Meg Leder, a penguin publishing editor:

Again, I didn't wait too long in line and was chatting with someone so it went quick. I introduced myself again, and explained my story. Now Meg held the best eye contact out of all the people I talked to. She really did a phenomenal job at making me feel listened to. She also had great advice, and said it should be completed first and would be wise to get some publishing credits for my work. She spoke with sincerity, and said it would be best to get an agent first.

It was nice to see these people as real live people.

By then, I had some great advice and was ready to get going on my project. I met up with Michelle and told her how it went. She was happy to tell me she had some requests for her manuscript, which is awesome.

We were done for the day and ready to go.

We did our three minute walk back to the car. I wanted to go out and walk the city, but I knew I had to start home so not to get back to New Hampshire too late.

We drove back to Michelle's, ordered pizza, and had a few slices before the trip home. She made me a cup of some strong coffee and I was off to New Hampshire by 6:30pm.

I called April as soon as I was on the highway, and we chatted for a while as I drove up highway 87. I have an earpiece, I can't stand holding the phone that long.

Anyway, as I was talking away to her, I saw the exit I was supposed to take pass me by.

With a few curses......okay, okay, a lot of curses, I complained about the signage or rather lack of it. It was the same spot I missed coming down. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the driver, or the fact the driver was talking on the phone. NO WAY!

So April got off the phone to finish cleaning up dinner and I got off the phone to finish cursing. I glanced at the map and saw I could take a different route So I said what the heck, why not.

I set my MP3 player to play Mat Kearney and drove, drove ...........and drove. I didn't get tired till about 9:30pm . It was foggy out as I was going through the mountains in Vermont. That made it for a long drive, a curvy foggy road. Oh boy!

I nursed the rest of my cold coffee in the cup and blasted the radio.

After propping my eyelids open with a bunch of candy, I finally stumbled through my front door at about 11:30pm and was very happy to be home.

I want to do it again. It was fun, exhilarating and helped me feel like a real writer.

Now I just have to get published.

Those are the Thoughts of a George,
Until tomorrow,


Michelle said...

I LOVED this brought back memories of the day and filled in the gaps of your drive home. It really was a great day!

George The Writer said...

Thanks Michelle, It was fun. Let's to go to more writing events. To bad it's in California next year. We'll just have to find somee others to go to.

Alice said...

Nice recap George. Next time I sit next to you at lunch feel free to chat.


George The Writer said...

Sure thing Alice. I can only imagine the barrage of pitches you must have to dodge when people find out you're an editor.