Saturday, June 09, 2007

Write to Publish

I am at Wheaton College, attending the non-Wheaton-sponsored Write-to-Publish conference. My brain, as the famous yet nameless Far Side character put it, is full, and so I am skipping a workshop. Don't worry. I'll catch the last one.

Being around this many writers at once is kind of weird. Also, does anyone have any idea how funny it is to tell a bunch of introverts to network? I mean, in person? We are all trying very hard to obey this injunction, but it looks kind of comical.

My favourite (by which I might mean "most comfortable") moments of the conference were when I actually met, face to face, people with whom I've already networked here. At this blog. I had lunch with and threw way too many ideas at ZimmerMan--and he still generously gave me a copy of his book. (Buy it. Apart from good writing, it has this cool flip-book comic book character taking off in the right margin. You'll know what I mean once you purchase it.) I also got to see Stacey and Craver (whose name [gasp!] is not really Craver!) in their natural habitat. I peeked in at Al's office. And I got to see Lisa's desk.

The best unpremeditated networking experience, though, went like this. I had an appointment to pitch a novel I'm trying to write, to a publishing house where I know no one. Except that once I did sort of know one of their authors. She is a missionary with the same organisation I used to work through.

I wasn't, by the time my appointment came up, too convinced that I still wanted to pitch this novel, let alone write it. The day before had been rather demoralising (for reasons I may divulge some other time). I felt I had nothing to say. I almost cancelled the appointment. But lunch with ZimmerMan helped (I think I've figured out one of his superpowers), and so I told myself to buck up and go talk to this other editor, just to get some experience. How many times do you get to walk up to an editor and have them listen to your ideas?

"Hi," I said, shaking this editor's hand. "My name is Jenn, and I used to work for the same missions organisation that [this author you already publish] works for."

"Really?" said the editor. "So did I."

At the end of my pitch (during which I confessed the need to go back to the drawing board with this story and do a lot of research), the editor said, "Well, when you've done the work and got it written, write up a proposal and send it to me with the first three chapters, and we'll see what we think."

What? My pitch actually worked? I mean--it worked! Let me clarify, just in case, that a request for a proposal is not a contract. But it is the goal of pitching a book. I guess I'm going to have to do some work now . . .


The Cubicle Reverend said...

that is awesome, I hope it works out for you. Now you gotta actually sit and write it.

Barry Pike said...

Cool! Congratulations!

mysterious person said...

Golly! That "Craver" is one good lookin young man!

Every Square Inch said...

Writers are introverts?!!? I didn't know that. Well, so are technology people and I'm a writer of technology stuff so that makes me doubly introverted.

In any case, what I've found about networking is that I most often "fail" when I'm concerned about:
1. Getting my agenda across
2. Getting rejected either courteously or otherwise

Here's a link about networking Guy Kawasaki that offers practical advice - perhaps you'll find it helpful. It's called the Art of Schmoozing.

Happy schmoozing!

Stacey said...

Adds ten pounds I tell ya (wait, I'm celebrating that, huh :)

Mark Goodyear said...

Hey, this means I can post my pics of Craver. For some reason, I thought Craver was semi-incognito or something. He's a cool guy, although not nearly as mysterious as he thinks.

Stacey's cool too, only I didn't get to meet her : (

I hope you had great fun at the conference! Be sure to tell all soon.

Al Hsu said...

Sorry I missed you on Friday! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed visiting the office.

And one of the biggest ironies of writing/publishing is that the best writers are introverts who focus on their craft, and the best marketers/self-promoters are extroverts who often don't have the time or focus to have good writing. It's rare for any of us to be at home in both worlds. But increasingly it's not enough to be a good writer - we also need to be networkers and have visibility and platforms and whatnot. At least in the age of the blogosphere and the Web we can find creative ways of extending our reach (L.L. Barkat is a great example).

L.L. Barkat said...

This reminds me of Judith Kunst's story, in how she came to write The Burning Word. It began as a simple conversation, a few ideas floating around. And the editor she was speaking to said the same thing... well, if you ever get around to... I don't remember how much time passed, but it was a long journey, and now there's a book. Which I like very much.

Hope you enjoy the journey!

Jenn said...

Jenn, I love reading about your adventures in the world of writing and publishing (perhaps I'm living vicariously?). Even the thought of "networking" almost makes me break out in hives. Congratulations being brave!