I've acquired a new respect for anyone who auditions for American Idol because that's what the editor pitch sessions reminded me of. An unpretentious sign points the way to an escalator. I'm not sure what I imagined in my head, but it wasn't the cavernous exhibition hall that opened up dramatically in front of me about halfway down. The hall was full of tables spread out at regular intervals with a chair on each side. The editor or agent sat on one side, and the hot seat on the other was for the pitching author.
RWA is nothing if not efficient. They had a system in place that kept the appointments on-time and moving. Once I checked in, they herded me over to a designated holding area. Have you watched the Idol audition shows? The holding area looked just like that. Instead of nervous singers practicing or rocking back and forth, you had nervous authors practicing or rocking back and forth.
I was okay until I sat down in that holding area. I thought I had a zen attitude about the whole thing. "I've had a great conference. This will be good practice. This editor is just a person who is looking for good content."
I don't know if it was the intimidating setup, the nervous energy in the holding area, or the lady practicing her pitch in what can only be described as a sort of whispering moan, but suddenly I was scared shitless. My friend, Linda, told me to tell myself that nobody there was smarter than me and to imagine them in their underwear. Yeah, Linda...that didn't work.
Five minutes before go-time, they lined us up in alphabetical order by who we were pitching. Then a tone sounded, signaling time was up for the previous appointments, and we were led to our person. You know the really bad singer on Idol they put in front of the judges just for entertainment value? Or even worse, the good singer who forgets the lyrics? I will NEVER make fun of those people again. I marched across the hall in a panic, trying to remember what my book was about. I had spent months writing, editing, revising, polishing, querying, blurbing, and breathing that book, and for a moment I had no clue.
Then I sat down, shook the lady's hand, and started talking. I'm pretty sure I babbled at first. At least, that's how I remember it. But at a certain point, she started nodding her head, and then instead of me giving a speech, we were having a conversation. I can pinpoint the moment in the pitch where I became Kathy again. I'm glad I found myself. I'm not a fan of scared, babbling girl. The pitch ended on a very positive note, so we'll see what happens.
I rode back up the escalator in a daze. It was almost time for the first workshop I had marked, so I went in and sat down. The session was called "Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know." The presenter, whose name I did not write down, but who has a PhD in English lit, traced the characteristics of the Gothic Villain Hero...you know, the bad boys to whom women are perpetually attracted. I took a bunch of notes and it was interesting, but the adrenaline was still pumping, so that session is a bit of a blur.
The part that did stick was her theory that all bad boy heroes trace their roots to Prometheus (the over-reacher who does good through rebellious acts, but is chained inside himself), Lord Byron (aristocratic, suave, moody, sexually dangerous, secret wound), or Satan (from the Romantics misreading of Paradise Lost...obsessive, brooding, egotistical, flirts with the dark side). Most romance heroes are Byronic. My Raphael is Byronic. A pop culture example of a Promethean hero would be Batman, and a Satanic hero would be Anakin Skywalker. Interesting stuff, but like I said, I spent a good bit of that workshop replaying my pitch session in my head.
I skipped the next group of sessions to ship my books. I had to lug 35 books, weighing 20 pounds, all the way from my room in the Swan to the conference shipping center in the Dolphin. Thank god for Jazzercise, or I never would have made it. As soon as I sent my package off, I got in line for the NAL/Signet book signing. Yeah, I know, I'm a lost cause. I did exercise some self-discipline and only helped myself to 8 more books, bringing my grand total to 43. I paid for 5 of them and spent $20 shipping them home, so I'm thinking I came out ahead. Factor in the autographs on over half of them, and I really did come out on top.
The coolest part of the autograph session was meeting Jessica Andersen. She writes the NightKeepers, a paranormal series about the Mayan 2012 myth. I already had the book she was giving away at home, but I took another copy because I wanted her autograph. I gushed like the fangirl I am and asked specific questions about the book. I knew Jessica was a good writer, but I didn't know she was a freakin' rock star. Seriously, she looks like Joan Jett, but prettier.
I was more impressed when I went to her workshop called "Crime Scene Imagination." Jessica has a PhD in molecular genetics. She is not only a rock star, but she can run a DNA test. The heading I wrote across the top of my notes said "Cool. As. Hell." And oh my god, she is. My Jessica story gets even better. At the Rita Awards, I discovered I was sitting next to her publicist. Jessica stopped by and we talked again.
I'm willing to put this not-so-great picture of me out here because she just rocked. I wish you could see the pants she was wearing. Cut-outs ran all the way up both legs. A molecular geneticist who writes steaming hot paranormals and dresses like a rock star...freakin' awesome!
Jessica did the crime scene workshop with her best friend's daughter who is a senior at Sam Houston State. She is a biology/criminal justice major and works on the body farm there, one of only four in the U.S. A body farm is where scientists study how the human body decomposes in a variety of situations. So we learned tons about decomp and DNA. Guess what? CSI is a pack of lies. They get almost everything wrong. On some level, I knew it wasn't realistic, but I didn't realize how wrong they got it.
My last workshop of the conference was on point of view...ten pages of notes. It's not a sexy subject, but if you screw it up, you screw the whole book up. The session made me feel good about choosing third person, limited for my book.
The Rita and Golden Heart Awards closed the conference. I knew it was a dressy event, but I didn't realize just how dressy. About half the attendees wore ball gowns. I didn't really feel out of place in my regular ole dress because that's what the other half of the attendees were wearing. I wouldn't have gone out and bought a ball gown anyway.
It was quite the fashion show. I played a game in my head where I guessed who wrote big sweeping historicals and who wrote gothic paranormals by what they were wearing. I'd like to know what my accuracy rate was.
My table was fun. I was with Jessica Andersen's publicist after all. Her name is Leann Lessard, and she's Canadian. I also had a good conversation with a writer from Chicago named Elizabeth Harmon. She is a journalist, but currently unpubbed in fiction. She had a successful pitch session as well. It was interesting to compare notes.
So that's my conference. I'll probably do a wrap-up blog in the next couple of days. There is so much I haven't said because these blogs have already been long. Tomorrow (actually later today at this point), I have to get back on a plane. I'm not fired up about that after my near-death experience on Wednesday. Say a little prayer for me, and I'll see you on the other side.