Summer ILC, Week 4: PNWA Conference

What an adventure! I knew that at PNWA I would learn about the industry and make some professional networking connections. What I didn’t know was how much FUN I was going to have! Anything where a bunch of people who are all geeks about the same thing get together specifically to geek out about that thing—Renaissance fairs, anything ending in -CON—the energy and spirit of community is amazing.

I rode up with two other NaNoWriMo folks living in my area, and I used AirBNB to find a place to stay. We arrived around lunch time on the first day, Thursday. After my rideshares and I split up to do our own thing, I began feeling lost, frustrated with my phone, and overwhelmed. So I decided to put down the technology and go make some new friends.

Which is exactly what happened. At lunch, at the first presentation I went to, at pitch practice—everywhere I went, I seemed to make new friends. I have absolutely no idea how people with social anxiety deal with these types of situations, but I was absolutely in my element. “You like a thing?? I like a thing, too! Let’s be friends!” Imagine Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, but with Twilight Sparkle’s OCD. That’s me.

I learned that hanging out with other writers in my genre doesn’t feel like competition—it feels like community. There we were, pitching to the same agents and cheering each other on.

As for the “pitch block” I’d signed up for, it was an hour and a half long and there were five agents in it who were looking to acquire books in my genre. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t get to talk to all of them, that I’d spend most of my time standing in line. So I only got to talk to three. The next day, I planned what events I’d go to based on who was hosting them. That way, I got to talk to five more agents. By 3:30 on Saturday, I’d gotten to pitch to seven out of eight agents I wanted to talk to, and of those seven, they all asked me to send them my work. High fives abounded among my friends.

Even though we’d been talking about nothing but writing for the past two days, my new friends and I still couldn’t stop talking about writing on our long lunch break on Saturday. It was that vibe of “Yes, other people who get it!”

The hardest part was “The First Page” presentation, where dozens of writers submitted the first page of their books, the pages were read aloud (anonymously), and a panel of five judges listened. Each raised their hand when they got to the point where they would have stopped reading if this had been in their slush pile, or if they heard a red flag. Very few pages made it all the way to the end before everyone raised their hand. It was utterly terrifying, but they gave great feedback. At the end I asked the two agents in my genre if I should still pitch to them, since they didn’t get to the end of my page, and they said yes. I explained the weird this-doesn’t-work-without-the-visual-cue-of-quotation-marks situation that made everyone say my first page was confusing. After I gave my pitch, they both said yes and thanked me for being brave.

Other highlights included:
– Someone recognized me from a tweet I wrote that the conference retweeted (and I’d been on Twitter for less than a week).
– Drawing Ampersands with a new friend and fellow writing tutor who got super excited when I told her I had a character named Ampersand.
– I shared my snacks with someone and he gave me a copy of his book for only $5.
– Surprisingly tasty gluten-free vegan dinners.
– I won the “Wallowing in Self-Pity” gift basket in the raffle, which I will save for the next time I need it:

– Coming home with a stack of business cards and a heart overflowing with joy and inspiration.

Next steps include:
– Finishing up this revision for Camp NaNoWriMo
– Letting my new friends see it and give me feedback
– Writing query letters and a synopsis
– Querying agents!!

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