A week ago, I was freaking out. I had been handed a scholarship to attend a local writers’ conference and I was going to meet an agent and pitch and…yeah.
I had no pages. Nothing. Because I knew that I had some things I wanted to iron out and what I had been re-writing, when I looked back at them…well…frankly…they sucked.
Over the course of the week, I surrendered myself to the reality that I was going to have to meet an agent and I was going to have nothing to pitch. I went from feeling like a failure to realizing that this was not the end of the world. This was merely going to be a weekend during which I was going to learn but not meet every single objective that I was hoping to meet.
So I wrote my lesson plans and took the day off of work and prepped my students. Of course, in my world, nothing can go as planned. The lesson plans were perfect if I had remembered to set up the google document to be shared with the world. I have some explaining to do. Hopefully, I will still have an intact classroom.
Friday, I attended three great classes and learned, quickly, that my suspicion about my pages was accurate. I wasn’t ready to pitch. I had too much info-dumping in the first fifty pages. I had too many subplots. I had too much of too many things. But I asked good questions and made good connections and won a complete collection of a sci-fi book series which lead me to make a new friend with the writer.
Saturday, I went from panel to panel, seminar to seminar and I just couldn’t stop taking notes. I learned so much, just gleaned from each and every person and couldn’t stop feeling like I was somewhere in between euphoria and a triumphant sort of dream. I was going to conquer the world.
And then, today hit.
The day began with a stray dog. I’m serious. A stray dog. The main road right by my subdivision has a bad, blind curve. And at the apex of the curve, a dog was standing by the edge of the road, clearly distressed, clearly lost, and clearly about to try to chase a car or get into a car because it was so distressed and so lost. The car ahead of me barely avoided hitting the dog and I knew that I could continue to drive and arrive at the conference early like I wanted.
And possibly have a dead dog on the side of the road when I returned.
Or I could take a few minutes and figure this out. I stopped my car, turned on the emergency lights, and opened the door to try and encourage the dog to come to me.
Turns out the dog didn’t need any encouragement. I hadn’t even opened my door wider than eighteen inches and she (yes, the dog was a female) was crawling over my lap and into the back seat of the car.
Given a car was rapidly coming up behind me, I resumed driving and pulled over into the subdivision where I assume the dog lived. Thankfully, the owner had put her name and phone number on a tag on the dog’s collar so I called. And was directly sent to voice mail.
Crap. Crap. Crap.
I had a meeting with an agent and the dog, in her exuberance at no longer standing on the side of the road, was walking all over my legs. I had deliberately dressed professionally and now I could see the barest outlines of dog prints. And I really didn’t have time to change.
Thankfully, I have an amazing husband and son. I drove home, put the stray on my dog’s leash, walked her upstairs, assured my husband that this was temporary and that I had already called the owner, and woke up the Boy.
Rather, the dog woke up the Boy and he stared blearily at me while a stray dog licked him and I tried to explain to him what I needed him to do.
Long story short, I was able to go to the conference. The Boy accepted the responsibility of the stray dog and my cell phone since that was what I used to contact the owner. And I scurried to the conference, all the extra time I had built in now gone.
But good deeds do have their own cosmic karma that come back every now and then. God must have smiled on me today because I attended several sessions that were amazing. And then I hit this one that took my confidence and drop kicked it into an abyss. I attended a panel discussion in which four agents discussed their daily lives. They receive 100-150 query letters a week. One agent said that of the 100-150 people who query her on a weekly basis, she might request pages from 2 of them.
In the last year, she has signed 1 person.
I write literary fiction, or writing that might be considered literary fiction. Apparently, this has the smallest readership of all the genres.
One agent said that he will not consider writers who have no credentials.
I have no credentials.
I was done. Exhausted and sad and truly believing that I had done nothing more than squander years of my life dreaming. I could edit. I can write great letters of recommendation. But a writing career? Over.
And then, lunch happened, and God sent me a poet named Ken who sat beside me and was able to make me stop being shy and scared. In the space of an hour, I went from discouraged and despairing to showing a complete stranger a poem I had written recently. And he pointed to four lines and talked about how lovely they were. And he said that I was “lucky to have such talent.”
I nearly started crying. As this man and I talked about poetry and Elton John and the Dalai Lama, hope surged through me. And as the lunch time ended and people entered the room for the next session, I had to excuse myself to prepare to meet with my agent.
However, sometimes, God has a great sense of humor. Because the agent I was supposed to meet wasn’t there. I don’t know if she had mis-read her appointments or her schedule or if an emergency had happened. However, one agent out of the six was still in the meeting room. And because I was the last one and was lonely because the original agent was absent, I was invited to meet with the one agent who was still talking with people.
I pitched. I can’t throw, but I pitched. I confessed to being nervous and that this was the first time I had ever pitched. But I did it. I told the agent, Linda, about my novel and my character. And I stumbled and stared at my hands making circles like I was cupping a crystal ball. And time stopped and Linda asked me questions about my novel, my main character.
And then, she asked for pages. Even after I told her that I didn’t have pages because in listening to the agents and writers I knew the mistakes I had and wanted to repair.
She said that she didn’t care if it took me a year. I was to send her pages. 20 pages.
The time ended. The day’s sessions concluded and I was done. I was done and I had to go home to check on the stray dog that I picked up off the side of the road. The dog who put paw prints on my clean pants but reminded me that good deeds are just that, good deeds.
At home, my own dog stood on the front porch and bayed as I pulled into the driveway. Inside, my children were curled on the couch, watching My Name is Earl. The stray had been picked up by her owner.
The Boy and I went on a seven mile walk, and I as we walked circles around the neighborhood across the street, I kept on looking for the stray dog. But I dreamt about twenty pages and the fact that maybe I can defeat the numerical statistics that are against me.