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First Writing Conference: A Student View

By November 11, 2016Blog

You know what they say: You never forget your first conference. My guest post below is from a new creative writing student of mine who recently attended her first conference. Her report was so funny that I asked her if I could share it here, and she generously agreed. Enjoy!


A Beginner’s Traipse Through The Writer’s Digest Conference

By: Jessica Rae Pulver-Adell


Wednesday, August 10th, 2016: 11:46am

I’ve deleted 47 and a half recordings from my iPhone’s voice recorder. The half? That’s when I stopped recording midway through and burst into tears and laughter- in equal measure. Rehearsing pitching to literary agents and editors for a book I’ve wanted to write for years, without the final book proposal? No sweat. No pressure. Those three other book proposals I want to crank out before I board the plane at 6:00am on Thursday? No problem.

It’ll be fun. I’ll test my resolve and stretch my boundaries. Like when I wrote my first play, Hounding Elias, in three months. Or when I wrote the first draft of my book, Holistic Healing for Addiction, in a month in a half; a work I swaddle as a newborn and rage against as fervently as any parenting an unruly teenager.

I’m qualified. I can do this. I have several weeks- within the course of 24 hours. I have all the books. I’ve done my research- I know exactly who I’ll pitch to at the slam session I spent an extra $100 on- because who needs to eat when anxiety will make you wretch anyway?

First Writing ConferenceI’ve worked on my proposal for Crystal Pendants – the third title iteration- for a week, precisely five days over the deadline I gave myself, and I only have a partial first draft, with the gaping maw of a “suggested table of contents.” Not to mention sample chapters.

That’s okay. I still have 21 hours and 14 minutes to kick out proposals for Hounding Elias– the novel- and Natural Healing for Addiction- a quasi follow-up to my first book.

Maybe just one sheets, then?

Work? You want me to work right now? Okay boss guy. I will not read interviews featuring the agents I’m going to meet in a handful of hours. No siree.

I’m lying. I’m sorry. You should probably fire me.

I’ve packed and unpacked. And I’ll pack again when I get home. I don’t know why I’m so nervous about this. Fledgling writers don’t get agents to represent them. Not me anyway. But I’ve got to try.  I have the business cards- the custom bookmarks, credit card sized USB flash drives to give agents when they request my proposal the second they do. I even ordered stickers for them. Working in the marketing department has paid off after all.
They’re all beautiful. Except of course where I screwed up the PNG upload, and my dragon-laced logo isn’t as sharp as I know it should be. Every person I ask keeps saying no one will notice. But I notice. I know it’s there- or rather, not all there.

I know my proposal is too long. 31 pages of desperation. Fumbling fingertips continue blithering on because I’ll edit it later dammit. Oh and the Hounding Elias proposal? I know you’re not supposed to pitch unfinished manuscripts- but I think I’ll pay myself the enervating honor of being laughed out of the pitch slam.

Maybe I’ll switch back to the larger suitcase so I can bring more books home.

Friday, August 12th 6:44pm

I only have eight books so far. But it’s only the second day of the conference. I have faith in my Barnes & Nobles Mastercard.

Thus far the Writer’s Digest Conference has been an incredible self-study like experience. Sure, the lectures are from 9:00am to 6:00pm, but every minute spent in those halls of wonders makes light in the far-reaches of my terribly wanting self.

Saturday, August 13th 6:52am

Today I pitch Crystal Pendants and Tissue Paper Skin: Self-Harm and Mental Illness Unearthed. I think I’m puking. I’m definitely puking.

Saturday, August 13th 6:54pm

Bleeding from the pathetic nibs that were my fingertips, I waited in line to the Pitch Slam chanting: Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. Red blotches of skin dethroned my milky hues. That’s just a nice way of saying instead of my normal too-pale skin, I was a lobster. With no claws.

Armed with one-sheets, the pitches I nearly memorized- giving way to casual conversation- I met with seven literary agents. I realized agents and editors are just flesh. Powerful flesh, to an aspiring author, but flesh nonetheless. Warmly greeted, and overall well-received, five out of the seven agents I met with requested manuscripts for both books I pitched. (That is, I pitched either one or the other to each agent.) But I’m still puking. This isn’t happening- and somehow, it’s still not good enough.

girl-872149_640Is this what shock is? It can’t be. Everyone’s work must have been requested. I know there must be a conspiracy between editors and literary agents who tell writers not to get their hopes up for an invitation of a proposal or manuscript. Is this a product of extensive research? Undoubtedly. I thought being invited into the secret crevices of literary agents’ inboxes would fill me with joy– but I’m mostly filled with dread. What if it’s not good enough? It’s definitely not good enough. But even though I know I’m a little girl playing dress-up with mommy’s scarlet lipstick and flowered kitten heels, I can’t stop smiling.

Bio: JessiRae is a freelance writer and editor, author of Holistic Healing for Addiction, and cat enthusiast. You can connect with her on her website.

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