SW-MWA Conference News

I won that manuscript contest.

Okay, the agent chose three winners. She asked to see all three of our full manuscripts. I don’t know the other two winners, but I have their e-mail addresses and we’re going to keep in touch about where things are going (not tattle-tale stuff about the details, but just whether she takes each of us on and how things proceed with revisions or whatnot.)

I have my annual physical today at 9:20 and Mama has hers at 10:20, so this will be very brief. I’ve gotta shower, dress, feed the dog, etc. I’ve been too exhausted from the convention and related activities to post until now.

On Saturday, the day they announced the winner(s) of the manuscript/query contest, I dragged out of bed at 7 AM to find that it was pouring rain and thundering. I had a slight headache and felt terrible. I got all dressed anyway and fed the dog and ate some oatmeal (a Medifast version–mostly soy filler and cinnamon flavoring!) and then had a bottle of drained Green Giant mushrooms for good measure (which was a mistake.) By the time I got on the road, I was nauseated. Nerves? The usual writer-recluse reluctance? Mushrooms for breakfast? Diabetes? Hmm. A few crackers (soy snack, Medifast again) and a diet Coke and two Gas-X tablets helped a bit. The rain was so hard that it was tough to drive, and the wipers seemed to be making me dizzy.

I got to the conference registration table at 9:30 and told them I felt terrible, and I intended to stay only through lunch to hear David Morrell’s keynote speech, so I wanted to release that late appointment (the one that they’d changed to 4:20) for the agent pitch so that someone else could have it. I knew that with my stomach the way it felt, I would never make it all day.

They looked me up and the official guy said to the woman with the list, “Oh, look, Bob told us that 11:30 was open. Put her there.” I thanked them and toddled over to sit on a chair until the next panel talk began at 10. I sat through the talk (and got a few people’s e-mail addresses so we could exchange notes) and took notes, feeling only slightly better. At last my stomach settled. At 11, I returned from the mezzanine level to the area where registration was, determined to collar someone and rehearse my pitch.

Cindy, the contest organizer, was at the desk. She said, “Give me your pitch!” So I pitched her the Kay/Whit Pundit’s Corner novel. She said it sounded good. I sat in a nearby chair and the next couple of victims who wandered by (wearing the conference badges, I mean, not just everyone who passed) agreed to hear my pitch. One fellow, Earl Stagg, a published author, said it was good but asked me further questions, which I answered, and he thought of a good line for me to add. He worked up a better pitch for me, in fact, which was darn nice of him (go buy his books.) I muttered the new pitch over a few times and also rehearsed the pitch for the old faithful Jacquidon novel. Remember that one–the one where she gets fired and then the boss is poisoned and she has to prove she didn’t do it? The one that finaled in Malice Domestic’s contest in two different years but lost to Donna Andrews and later to David Skibbins? Yeah, that one.

So finally it gets to be 11 and I approach the Inner Sanctum where Agent* is waiting and the Gatekeepers say, “Wait a minute–Cindy is having a word with Agent, and then you can go in.” I got slightly suspicious that they were talking about my having moved my appointment, and what a prima donna I must be, but everyone kept grinning, so that was even more suspicious.

Cindy strode out and sang, “You can go in!” I did the “dum-dum-da-dum” Chopin Funeral March and they laughed . . . I felt intimidated, thinking that this agent would definitely be tough, but that I could leave soon afterward and go feel sorry for myself. But instead, she seemed to know who I was as I walked in, and we chatted a moment about Dallas weather, about the various events at the con, and so forth.

I asked if I could pitch a novel other than the one I had entered in the contest, and she said that was OK, so I pitched Kay and the Pundit. She said it sounded cool, but that right now New York has a bunch of terrorist novels and they’re not selling (some are not so great, either), so her advice was to wait on that one and we’d think of something else “evil” that these people could be. “Commies,” I suggested, and she laughed. “Vegetarians?” I thought we had a good rapport going.

Then I pitched Jacquidon. She said, “Send me that one. That’s the one I want to see. I think it’s a cozy with an edge, and it has the sex clubs and innocent maidens going in there to find the killer.” I explained that I also had the Ari series and that I’m sending it to a contest, adding that she mustn’t tell anyone about the contest, as I want to be the only entrant. Her eyes widened, and she said, “Marfa lights! My goodness, I just heard about those. Someone here just pitched me a novel with Marfa lights in it. By chance, have you talked about your plot here or on the Internet?”

*BOOM* I confessed to having talked wildly about it on my LJ. She nodded. “I suspect they have seen that. Here’s what you do. You send this novel immediately to the contest and if they choose it, you’ll know in September, and yours will be out first. If they don’t, you can send it to me then, or send it around. That’s only three months from now–not time for anyone else to get things really moving. If you can beat them, then they’ll be the one who loses out. But if you don’t hurry, you won’t be able to place yours, because there’ll already be one with Marfa lights.”

[I assume she didn’t ask for the full on that stolen–I mean, that other person’s Marfa book. I don’t want to jinx myself by wishing crappy luck on that person’s book, but perhaps it has lots of typos and illiteracies and a main character that reminds editors of someone they loathe. . . .]

She asked how many agents I’d talked to, and I explained a bit. “You are sending to one at a time?” I nodded. “No, no–that takes forever! You can’t live long enough to do that! Send to more than one at every stage.” I told her that my fantasy novel had sat at agents’ desks and at Tor for months on end. She pulled out a card and wrote down the name of her fellow agent who takes fantasy and told me to send it to him. *wow* And told me to send her my bio as well as my full manuscript of _Nice Work_.

“A bio. One sentence, or one paragraph?”

“No, a page . . . everything you’ve done, all the places where you worked before. We want to intrigue the marketing people about your credentials and your marketability.”

Someone banged on the door. We had talked almost 20 minutes! And we got on well. I still couldn’t believe she’d asked for the full, so I think I thanked her. . . I hope I did. I don’t know WHAT I said as I floated out the door. Everyone watched me expectantly, for some reason, and I told ’em she asked for the full, and they said, “Good! Now go on to the lunchroom!”

I went and put my stuff at a table in the rubber-chicken room and talked to a few people. None of the others I spoke with had gotten a request, but they were impressed that she had obviously read our query/synopsis packages and had told them in detail why she didn’t think the books would sell right now. She had reasons like “cozies can’t have animals or children in danger or getting hurt,” or “yours is chick lit and that is dead,” and other reasons that made sense. People felt that this was far more helpful than the standard “just didn’t love it enough” answer that typically comes in the mail, and I agreed.

Various people went up to the podium/lectern and gave out some door prizes, talked about various conference events, and then announced the results of the query/manuscript contest. They said there would be three winners, as the agent had found three that she wanted to see. They called out two other names first, so I thought, “What the heck, she asked for mine anyway, so it doesn’t matter.” But then they called me, and my table all stared at me. Then they applauded. I went up there for my little certificate–no check, as the prize is sending your full manuscript to the agent with her go-ahead. But that’s enough!

The short story contest winner got $100, as some private donor had arranged for the money to be given. We all applauded. Then this David Morrell guy spoke, and I thought he’d just be some Green Beret who wrote action-adventure because the only book of his I’d heard of was the one that got made into Rambo, but instead he bared his soul and explained about how his childhood experiences had been used in each of his novels, using the emotion and events and putting them into a different context, making the stories more powerful. I think that’s the same thing that most of us do. He said that he had an epiphany in which he discovered (with the help of his mentor, a professor) the emotion that drives his fiction. What he described he called a “vivid daydream,” but of course it was obviously a vision . . . though I do understand why he wouldn’t have wanted to use that term (loaded as it is with religious/philosophical/woo-woo baggage) in front of the audience. Perhaps he himself doesn’t accept that it was a vision, but it was definitely a message from not just his subconscious but also what Jung calls the collective unconscious, or from the Universe, as I see it. Anyway, if you have the opportunity to hear him talk, you should go. He brought the house down. I was the idiot who asked a question at the end, and I think we discovered the emotion which drives MY fiction. In front of 200 people. *weak grin*

I was just exhausted by the end of all that, and shook a few hands as I limped out to the car. I called home to announce I had won, and Mama said, “I knew you were going to say that–as soon as you didn’t call right at 1:20 when the lunch was over, I got this ESP thing!” She said she was sorry I wasn’t sending the Marfa lights mystery to this agent, as it is the best so far, she thinks. I’m pretty nervous that the Jacquidon novel might not be as good as I think it is . . . and I could blow this all if it stinks! *sigh* All she read was my query, the synopsis, and the first PAGE. I only hope it doesn’t go into the toidy on page two. Some people don’t like the setup that I use in that one.

Also, I hope that my Marfa story beats the other guy to the punch! Now I feel like a dummy for talking about it too much. On the other hand, had I not posted it here on my LJ, I would *not* have such a strong opening scene, as I was against starting with the sisters, believing that would be a weak opening. So I have several of my LJ readers to thank for that input. It MIGHT still be a coincidence about the other Marfa lights book. Stuff happens. Perhaps I should make a pilgrimage to the Lights so as to cause the magic to put my book into print first, eh?

*Agent. Being deliberately vague on that for now. Hubby and Certain Other Knowledgeable Types warn that maybe I should keep very VERY low-key about it, such as don’t name the agent and don’t say too much, so as not to bring out that voodoo doll again. The old voodoo curse that I’ve had for a while seems to have broken in half, so let’s not get them going on it again.

I hate going to the doctor, though I love my doctor. Go figure.



Author: shalanna

Shalanna: rhymes with "Madonna" and "I wanna," and is not a soundalike with "Hosanna" or "Sha-Na-Na." Aging hippie with long hair, husband, elderly mother, and yappy Pomeranian. I've been writing since I could hold a crayon. I started with fiction, which Mama said was "lying." “Don’t tell stories,” she would admonish, in Southern vernacular. “That's all in your imagination!” When grownups said this, they were not approving. So, shamed, I stopped telling stories for a few years--rather, I stopped letting anyone read them. I'm married to a fellow computer nerd who doesn't really like hearing about writing, but who reads sf/fantasy and understands the creative drive. I'm actually a nonconformist/hippie still wearing bluejeans and drop earrings and the Alice-in-Wonderland hair with headbands and sandals. Favorite flavor is chocolate/orange, favorite color is either Dreamsicle orange (cantaloupe) or bubble-gum pink, favorite musical is either Bye Bye Birdie, Rocky Horror, or The Producers . . . wait, I also love The Music Man. Is this getting way too specific and irrelevant yet? Obvious why I don't sell a ton of flash fiction, isn't it? To define oneself, I always say, it is good to make a list. How about a booklist? Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth, Cheaper by the Dozen C.S.Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all the Narnia books) J.R.R.Tolkien,The Hobbit/LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy Gail Godwin, The Odd Woman F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (before dismissing it, actually read it) George Orwell, 1984 Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle Donna Tartt, The Secret History Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn James Allen, As A Man Thinketh Mark Winegardner, Elvis Presley Boulevard James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum Winnie-the-Pooh/House at Pooh Corner, A. A. Milne Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie The KJV and NIV Bible (each translation has its glories)

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