Posted By 1st Turning Point Guest Columnist on September 20, 2010
By Don Harkcom
1st Turning Point Guest Columnist
Copyright © 2010 Don Harkcom
Last year, 2009, I invested in and entered the PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association) conference ready to make my mark on literary history. I was going to wow every agent, and have them bidding for the very right to represent my writing career. Don’t get me wrong…I knew I didn’t have the next Harry Potter. I had someone better: Thorn A.A. Storm III, America’s next and greatest action hero.
I brought a copy of every manuscript I had to date: ”finished,” started, and all points in between. I lugged around a very unnecessary extra 50 pounds all weekend.
I enlisted the help of some online writing friends to help flesh out my pitch. My pitch was plastered on business cards, note cards, stationery, and anything else I could think of to impress the agents with the professionalism and drive I had to become a published author. Oh, the visions of grandeur. In my head my multi-million dollar signing bonus was as good as spent. The only point I was still struggling with? Who to cast as my hero in the movie version. Everything else was but a mere formality.
Things didn’t work out quite that way.
Sticking point. You must pitch your idea, to a live person, who doesn’t know you, and do it in under a minute without looking like a bumbling idiot. Epic fail. I was as complete a bumbling idiot as any bumbling idiot could be in the history of mankind. I hemmed. I hawed. I stuttered. I forgot to breathe. I felt my face flush. I seriously doubt I was coherent.
It was, after all, the holiest-of-holies; the demi-god known in most circles as the all-powerful purveyor of dreams; the random agent who seemed to be a good match for my genre of choice.
Random agent said, “Here’s my card; send me more.”
Yes! Damn, if that wasn’t easy…this getting published thing…not a problem.
Guess who was walking ten feet tall? Yep. Me.
So bliss and I walked hand in hand around the conference for quite a while after that.
With that confidence, I walked into my ten-minute sit-down-with-an-agent meeting. I stole at least 13 minutes of his time and gave him a prepared packet of my work to date. (I have since learned the packet is frowned upon.)
Sit-down agent said: Yes.
Yeah, baby…I got this in the bag!
Two for two. Batting a nice, even 100%. No real need to stick my neck out further…
At some point, I met a fellow Marine. An old crusty salt with bushy white eyebrows and an office downstairs. He invited me to join him at his “office.” We walked down to the bar and got a beer. Arguably the best decision I made during the entire conference.
Between a dozen “sea stories” and another beer, he critiqued some of my work. As we worked our way through the beer, a group of published authors who were presenting at the conference joined us. I was smart enough to shut up and listen. By mere happenstance, I had been thrust into the circle of the most elusive and mysterious creatures rumored to walk among men—the New York Times bestselling multi-published author.
Fast forward ten months; I have signed up for my second PNWA conference, and have journeyed north to the exclusive monthly meeting. Not only do I recognize some of the previously discussed authors and strike up a conversation, but they remember me!
Zen moment for me…I was among my people. Writers. And I was accepted as one. In the movie version of this article, this is where the clouds part, the light shines down upon me, and angelic voices sing.
July 2010, I returned, a bit more humble and not completely prepared, but eager and ready to open a new chapter in my writing career. To my surprise, this year the agents sought me out (it’s my story, I can tell it anyway I like.) An agent did sit next to me at the dessert reception. She was even looking for my genre! We will see what happens.
That’s the heart of this article. Why should you go to PNWA’s summer conference? What can you expect to get out of it?
Friends. Colleagues. Mentors. Knowledge. Fun.
Motivation…the single most important thing I needed this year. It hit me about half-way through the conference. Everything I needed to be successful was here. All I had to do was apply it, and if I couldn’t figure it out on my own—I now had fifty+ business cards of the very people who can help.
Why should you learn the publishing business the hard way? When there are so many people eager to help you? Your manuscript doesn’t publish itself. It doesn’t miraculously show up at the local B&N amassing countless fans worldwide without a little help.
So I’ll see you next year! Bellevue Hyatt, PNWA 2011. Allow your journey to begin.
Don Harkcom is a Swedish Massage Therapist by day but by night he visits the dangerous, action-packed war zone of his mind and bleeds it all onto paper—with attitude. He is currently working on The Storm Chronicles series.