Hey, folks, I’m still stuck in non-fiction. This is fair warning to anyone who thinks they want to be a writer.
I am a writer. I am! At least I thought I was until today. I’m thinking that the hazing performed on writers at writers’ conferences is too intense for my wimpy spirit. If only it was waterboarding or bamboo under the fingernails. But no.
I paid money to join the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers Federation Inc.) In return, I get to pay more money to go to the writer’s conference held right here in OKC. I met people today from Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, and Oklahoma. I had no trouble talking to people I didn’t know. I told people about my book. I asked them about their’s.
I’ve written a wonderful book. For those of you who have read only the book I wrote before I learned to write, (The Angel’s Song), You’re going to be shocked and awed to read this book. It’s funny and touching and historically interesting. There’s romance and familial love. There’s intrigue and adventure. There’s redemption and forgiveness. I will be proud to sign any copy of the Pig Wife, (or sign your Kindle!) I’m proud of this novel. (Rasmus is funny and touching and inspiring and adventurous, too, but since only about 20 people have read it, it doesn’t help to reference it!)
But today, when I went to pitch it to a New York Literary agent, I was about as fascinating as applesauce.
I made the mistake of attending a “How to pitch your book” workshop just a few hours before I had to pitch my book. I learned that the pitch I rehearsed is too long and didn’t include the necessary elements. So the little moths that had meandered in my stomach turned into a whole flock of robins all aflutter.
“Oh well,” I thought, “I’ll just give the pitch the way I practiced it and be myself and that will have to do.”
I said and said and said those words. I said them. But I lied them.
I spent 15 minutes in the restroom as my body reacted physically to my nervous overload. It’s hard not to despise such a wimpy constitution, but there was nothing to do but bear it.
For those of you that don’t know me personally, I’m a composed person. I consider myself unrufflable. I can speak to 500 people without getting too nervous. I can teach of class of 100 adults and actually enjoy it. I love to do book clubs or authors’ panels.
But one little woman. . .thirty pounds lighter than I am. I could pin her with one hand tied behind my back. That fact didn’t seem to help.
I want it too much. I like this agent’s style. I like her book list. I like her credentials, and I liked her answers on the agent/publisher panel.
I sat across the table from her and spit out somehow, “I have a historical fiction novel that’s finished at 105,000 words, called “The Pig Wife.”
“The Pig Wife?”
“Yes, The Pig Wife. I know it’s a sexist sounding title, but it’s memorable.” I hadn’t meant to qualify the title at all.
Her impassive face screamed boredom. “What’s sexist about ‘The Pig Wife”
“UH, well, it just seems that way to me.” (Somehow, my brilliance didn’t seem to dazzle her.) My mind raced. It’s not sexist, but it’s memorable. Isn’t it? I thought it was. Maybe it’s not? I don’t think I know anything.”
It got worse. I told her that it was set in 1852 in the gold rush boom town of California. At that time, women represented only 2% of the population of California. Eggs sold in the gold camps for a dollar apiece and vegetables sold by the pound, just like the gold, for the first time in history.
Now, I think that’s interesting! I expected her to say, ‘Only 2%? That’s interesting.’ I expected her face to register something. Quiet listening. Did she have a tummy ache? I was unnerved. Did I remember to tell her anything about Little Jack? Yes, I think I said he was a slow. . .I couldn’t think of the word I wanted so she mercifully supplied it. “Processor.” (Did I gesture with my hand and she responded to my charade?)
“Yes, that’s the word I am looking for.” Do I speak English? Where did I leave my vocabulary?
She asked me if it was a romance. I fumbled around for an answer. Technically, novels are romances. The word doesn’t denote romantic love. So, by the English-major definition of a romance, yes it is. But it’s not a formula romance where the hero starts out as the antagonist and vice versa and the woman is rescued by the supposed villain for a satisfying and suspiciously unrealistic ending. How did she mean the question? Should I ask her if she meant the literary sense of the word “romance” or the genre definition?
I just said “No, not the traditional sense.” (Did I say ‘traditional’? That’s four syllables. Maybe that was okay.) I gave some info about a subplot that I shouldn’t have given.
“So what’s the point?”
I fumbled for words. Something must have come out of my mouth. How the HECK should I know?
She phrased the summary of the book the way she thought I meant to express it. She was being kind. She was sorry for the poor doltish woman stammering in some foreign language in front of her.
She was so kind that she asked me to send the first three chapters. That’s the best possible outcome of the interview. It felt like scoring a goal in soccer when the ball ricochets off the back of your head into the net.
Then again, she said she was ‘out of cards’ and wrote her address and request on a slip of paper. I haven’t tried the address yet. She probably gave me her rival’s email. Do Agents play practical jokes on each other?
Alas, Essie-the-Pig-Wife. You’re destined for oblivion with nothing better than this babbler to set you free. I’m so sorry. So very sorry!
Then again, this is the second request for the first three chapters this week. A publisher wrote that my query ‘intrigued’ him. Perhaps they can hear Essie screaming.