Hello Fellow Children’s Writers and Friends,
It’s good to be back. While a reblog or guest post is certainly a good option in times of need or when they’re so inspiring you find you just have to share them, it’s great to write your own too. There are many reasons for this, however, today is not the day I plan on discussing them. What I do want to do today is change tack a little. In these early posts, my aim has been to share with other emerging writers some of the resources I have found to get us started on that ‘long and winding road’ to publication (sorry couldn’t resist, it was either that or a road of the ‘yellow brick’ variety) however, today I want to share an experience I have had on my own journey to publication. Hopefully it may be of assistance if you find yourself in a similar situation. First there’s something you need to know about me. I like rules. They keep me focused and help me understand the new and unknown. It is largely this trait which turned out to be my undoing a couple of years ago now, when I had the opportunity to enter a pitching competition in front of a panel of editors and agents.
So picture this, I’m sitting on my hands in the audience to avoid fiddling with my manuscript and pitch, while I try not to fidget and listen to the others. I’m feeling a combination of emotions; one hopefulness (names were picked out of a hat, I might not even get to pitch) fear (what if I don’t get to pitch? What if I do? Ahhh!) and annoyance (why aren’t they following the rules?! – bad punctuation, I know, but the question mark really doesn’t adequately cover how I was feeling) combined with general excitement. The others are pretty clear, but why was I so annoyed? Simple, the rules had said, introduce yourself and give a NO MORE than a three line (or was it three minute… Uh oh) pitch summarising for the panel what your potential book would be about. Some writers read their entire ms (Picture Book, not novel, don’t be too outraged) some gave what seemed like their life history and one did a complete advertisement, with dramatic voice changes and hand gestures to involve the rest of us as she read excerpts from her ms to highlight her point. She answered editors questions enthusiastically and confidently. She annoyed me the most. She won. Of course. And possibly even got a contract, I don’t know I didn’t hang around to find out. I had to meet a friend who’d been in another session. Honest! OK maybe there was more to it…and there was my final mistake.
Let me take you through it again, this time telling you about my disastrous, ‘stick to the rules no matter what’ fail of a pitch. I found out about the competition. I polished my manuscript. I read the rules. I followed the rules to the letter…as I saw them. Simple. What I failed to see was that this was an invaluable opportunity to do exactly what it said- PITCH my Picture Book manuscript. Pitch, as in advertising pitch. What the rules had asked for was my elevator pitch, but the whole point of an elevator pitch is to gain an editor/agent/publishers interest and once gained to further engage them till they can’t resist you, your work in general and of course your manuscript, all of course without being rude or pushy. It’s a lead in. I failed in that pitch not because I didn’t follow the rules, which are important. The first thing any published author will say about succeeding is to follow submission guidelines. No, I failed because I didn’t give my ms it’s best shot. I had my beautifully written elevator pitch which I READ not pitched. I didn’t engage anyone much. I didn’t know my manuscript intimately enough to answer questions about it or to know that the type of manuscript I had written (a Palindrome- way too smart alecky anyway) would have benefitted from being read first from one side and then the other to demonstrate what I was trying to achieve. But worst of all, I failed to be interested in my fellow writers, be pleased for their success and stick around to hear how they did it and what those agents and editors were looking for. In short, apart from lacking any professional courtesy and camaraderie, I was not only ungracious, I was effectively shooting myself in the foot for any future pitching competition opportunities.
Thankfully, I have learned since then from many truly generous and sincere authors and editors who genuinely want me to succeed and have happily advised me, sometimes even on a manuscript. This sometimes involved a financial cost, which I happily paid. Publishing is a business after all. I have learned that writing can be lonely and that the success of quality literature opens the door even further for the rest of us, so we need to be there for each other and celebrate with each other. In fact, the writers I ended up sitting with on that fateful day (who I didn’t and still don’t know) did exactly that to me; pats on the back, ‘that was brave, well done’ and ‘I loved your idea,’ comments were what I experienced when I sat down feeling dejected, silly and because I hadn’t grown up yet, still annoyed.
Did you notice? The funny thing is that I beat myself up about that experience, but others saw the positive in me and my manuscript. I must have done something right! Another thing we writers do…we’re ridiculously hard on ourselves. So, be kind to yourself fellow travellers, even when you ‘stuff up’ and make sure you learn from each and every experience, positive or negative.
Farewell fellow travellers,
Savour the quest,