Smug as a Bug in a Rug (Back on the Chain Gang)

The Blog Chain has circled back to me again, so I’m postponing my usual “In Deep Smit” posting (unless y’all will buy the deeply-smitten-with-the-chain-gang thing two weeks in a row. 😉 )  This chain’s topic was selected by Kate Karyus Quinn.  If you didn’t already find your way here from Leah Clifford’s blog, be sure to check out her post.  And Mary Lindsey will be up next.

The topic this time:

How as a writer do you find the balance between having too much or too little confidence in your work?

So, I’ve titled this entry, “Smug as a Bug in a Rug.”  And by “in a Rug,” of course, I mean “wearing a toupee.”

Rubber Tree Plants aside, have I done what the topic question asks?  Well, I will answer that with a strong, confident “Maybe.”

If you’ve followed our chain since it started, you’ve seen that most of us don’t really have a “balance”– more like a teeter-totter of ups and downs.

I have to say, this blog topic is not the first time I personally have pondered about my confidence.

In April, I attended my first writing conference, The Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling. (Posts about that here, here, and here.)  I did NOT anticipate the nervousness I experienced there.

I’m a physician and the director for a hospitalist program.  I think we can safely agree that a 35-year-old woman does not get where I am without a healthy portion of professional self-confidence.  I am an experienced public speaker.  From Speech and Debate teams in high school to delivering medical lectures, I’ve never been uncomfortable talking to anybody.

So I was as surprised as anyone to find myself picking at my conference lunch, envisioning myself puking on the agent’s shoes during my pitch session.

I’m a powerhouse, I told myself.  Why am I terrified of a 7-minute conversation?

The answer to that, I think, comes from the blurring of “professional” and “personal” that comes with writing.

To write a great story, you need to pour yourself into the work, so professional detachment gets a bit harder.

There are some components of writing that I am quite confident about.

  1. Professionalism. Business letters come easily to me.  I interview well.  I’m comfortable with public speaking.  My work requires skill in starting and conducting much more difficult conversations than any I could have about my writing. I know many authors are less comfortable on the networking/business side and would prefer to stay comfortably behind the keyboard.  This is thankfully not a concern for me.
  2. Stories. I love the story of The Edge of Memory.  I may need to revise some of the nuts-and-bolts of how the story is told (and I am always willing to consider ways to tell it better) but the story itself is solid.  I think about my stories for a long time before writing them, so the web of connections is already well-defined before the first draft.  This helps me weave in the details that eventually come together more naturally into the narrative.
  3. Communication skills. I’m not talking here about my writing, but more about my comprehension.  It is a running joke among my family and co-workers that I translate English to English.  Quite frequently, I am called upon to explain when folks have “a failure to communicate”.  I’m fluent in Mother-in-Law to Son translation, as well as Resident-Physician to Nurse.  When I receive feedback on my writing, I believe I’m good at understanding and then acting on it to improve my story.  Beyond a good story foundation, that might be the most useful skill I have.

Every writer has crisis moments. I know I have. All of us have reached the point where we’ve announced we were ready to give up.  We didn’t.  That makes all the difference.

I once read a quote from Erma Bombeck.  It’s not really about confidence per se, but more about perserverance:

~

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything you gave me”.

~

I’m a writer.  I am going to have crises of self-doubt.  I’m going to think what I’ve written is the worst drivel ever to be strung together.  I’m going to believe my test readers are just being nice when they tell me they stayed up all night to finish my novel.  I’ll convince myself that I’ll never be good enough to make it in this industry.

And then I’ll get over it and write.

Perfecting a Pitch Blurb

Kristin Nelson rocks. Seriously.

I attended her workshop on Query Pitch Blurbs at the Chicago-North RWA Spring Fling. Using her suggestions, I crafted a query letter and sent out an equery on Monday night.

Tuesday afternoon, I got a request for a partial.

She has been blogging on the same topic. Well worth reading.

You can find most of the information here. Or if you visit her main blog page, the entries from April 21 – 28 address this topic. And there’s more coming. 😉

My Pitch for The Edge of Memory

Warning! The following post is slightly spoilerific. So you’ll have to click “continue” to read it. 😉

In case you read about my first agent meeting and wondered what my 60-second pitch was…

Continue reading

All Flung Out: Chicago NRWA Spring Fling

Well, I’m back to my regularly scheduled doctorhood today.

I got in late last night and I’m working a 24+ hour shift today. So I didn’t have a chance to finish blogging about the conference.

Wow. What a crazy, wonderful experience that was!

Saturday, I drove in early for more workshops. I had a great session on writing query pitches with Kristin Nelson, which was highly cool. She had us share parts of our pitches and then helped us know what to focus on. Awesome… seriously worth the price of the conference all on its own.

Next was a “Meet the Agents” panel, where we got to ask questions to all the amazing agents that were participating in the conference. It also meant I got a chance to hear from the agent I was scheduled to meet with later, Erin C. Niumata.

At lunch, another agent, Christina Hogrebe, just happened to be sitting at my table. She was very kind and told me not to panic about my meeting that afternoon, which helped. Also highly cool.

Despite her sound advice, I was a basketcase by the time I was supposed to present my pitch. I mean, I swear… I’m a physician. I speak to strangers all day long. Often giving bad news to them. I was on the debate team and speech team in high school. I give presentations constantly. And I have never, ever been so nervous to make a speech before.

I had seven minutes total time (the volunteers were clicking a kitchen timer on as you walked through the door).

After introducing myself and apologizing for my nervousness, I sat down.

Voice-cracking and probably WAY too fast, I delivered my little speech.

“What were you nervous about? That’s a great pitch!”
My face is on fire. “Thank you. I really appreciate that.”
“How long is the manuscript?”
“90,000 words”
“That’s a good length. Is it complete?”
“Yes.”
“Well, I’d like to look at it. I need a synopsis and the first 50 pages. Can you do that?”

You bet I can.

“Thank you. If your book is as good as your pitch, it will be great.”

I shook her hand and nearly walked right into the volunteer who was coming to say we had one minute to wrap it up.

90 minutes later, my hands were still shaking.

The whole conference was just phenomenal. I met so many warm, funny, and fabulous people. I learned many cool things and got great advice. I survived my first pitch meeting. And I went home with a bag full of great books and other cool loot. I’m so thrilled that I decided to go.

To borrow a phrase from my wonderful test reader Kendra, “Two wildly enthusiastic thumbs up!!!”

Now I have to figure out which RWA chapter to join.

Still Flinging…

Well, last night got interesting.

First, I attended a great lecture on the nuts and bolts of publishing from agent Christina Hogrebe and author Maureen Lang.

After the lecture was the “Chocolate Reception”.  There, I recognized agent Kristin Nelson from her blog picture and hovered nearby like a star-struck teenager for about ten minutes, but there never seemed to be a break in conversation to approach and introduce myself.

Then, I bumped into Susan Rae again, who introduced me to DL Larson.  How exciting to meet authors who have been published already!

Honestly, I was so nervous, but I’m so glad I attended this conference.  Now, off for more…

My First Conference: Chicago RWA Spring Fling

Well, here I sit on break from my very first writing conference. A surreal experience to say the least.

After working up a vigorous lather of panic and caffeine this morning, I arrived at the Spring Fling conference muttering my 60-second pitch to myself and trying not to puke.

Much ado about nothing, like most panic. There will be no hallway pitching for me at this conference. At least, I doubt it. I would not be able to pick out the agents/editors from the sea of faces in these conference rooms, even if they were present (which I’m not sure they are.) So short of devising some ancient sit-com plan to be smuggled into someone’s room under a room service cart, I will not be pitching today.

Which is a bit of a relief, but I think I could do with going through my pitch a couple times before my meeting tomorrow.

Here’s the story so far:

  1. I got a swag bag. Who knew? Three novels, a usb flash drive, oatmeal cookies, a pen and a binder at first peek.
  2. I’ve spent the breaks sitting by myself in the hotel lobby, trying to remember my pitch.
  3. The Q & A with Authors panel was hysterical. Debbie Macomber is a hoot. So were the other panelists, Eloisa James and Christie Ridgway, for that matter. I enjoyed it immensely, even though a lot of the discussion was naturally Romance-focused (this is a RWA conference, after all)
  4. I chatted with a woman before one of the lectures who has turned out to be Susan Rae, author of Heartbeats, a romantic suspense novel about a pediatric cardiologist and an FBI agent. She’s currently writing the sequel. She asked what mine was about and I stumbled through my “hook” sentence feeling like a dork.
  5. I’m eating dinner by myself at McDonalds, cuz the “optional pizza dinner” required pre-registration, even though it didn’t say so on the website.
  6. My agent appointment tomorrow is for “3:07” which makes me wonder how long I have for the meeting.

More later as it unfolds. I must now brave the construction on Lake Cook Road to get back for the next workshop.

The Edge of Memory Cards for Writing Conference

In my continued quest to figure out how to get published, I’ve been researching writing conferences. The Chicago Spring Fling conference I’m attending at the end of this month is sneaking up on me faster than I’d expected.

In addition to cooking up a verbal pitch, I’ve read that I also need to prepare business cards. So, I whipped these up this morning

Front Side

Back, with The Edge of Memory details and description

A new hook for me, too. So we’ll see how that works out.