Day two at the New York Pitch conference.
Her name was Jackie and she was an Executive Editor at the Berkley Publishing Group. One by one in alphabetical order, we pitched our stories to her in front of our group. While I didn’t throw up during the practice round the day before, I had another chance to do it right here in front of a real live editor. Although with my racing heart, I was hoping that I’d pass out instead. If I was going to make a dramatic impression, I’d prefer the cleaner option.
Our chairs were arranged in a semi-circle stemming from the hot seat area, and I counted each person off as they went…The inspiring woman with the spinal cord and brain injury turned whirling dervish, the preacher’s wife who pulsed with personality and light, the girl who looked like sunshine and whose characters were named Orion and Graffen, the mother writing about mothering a bi-polar child, the bra-tender, the unassuming woman from Singapore with the beautiful prose…
They all took their turns along with many fascinating others, and I while I was slowly learning some names, I began to associate them through their stories.
Jackie listened attentively to every one of them. She took her time, re-reading the pitch page put before her, considering her words and advice carefully. She was kind; suggesting cuts here or there, asking clarifying questions, offering gentle critique.
“I am completely unintimidating,” she said, and as proof showed us her glasses which had been scotch taped together. I did breathe easier in her open, unassuming way, until I considered that she was one of the four people we would see in this conference who held our dreams in her hand.
I was number 10 and when my turn came, I walked to the seat next to her and smiled. I forgot all about the 17 other people watching me as I introduced myself and my novel. I dove into my pitch, channeling the practiced voice I reserved for elementary class readings and my old advertising copywriter days.
When I finished, I gave a brief account of any relevant writing experience, flashed a broad, hopeful smile and then sat back relieved it was over and knowing I had done as well as I could.
She said nothing and I watched nervously as she re-read the presented copy of my pitch and bio. It was one of those extra-long movie minutes where you’re holding your breath, gritting your teeth and waiting on edge for the climax.
Finally she looked up at the class, turned my paper around towards them and said, “This, people, is a perfect pitch.”
Cue internal fireworks and champagne bottles popping. I beamed, giddy with pride and happiness. I wanted to take the moment and frame it. I could go home now. There was no topping this. I was done. Thank you very much.
“This is really great.” She said, leaning back in her chair. “I have nothing to ask you.”
Kvell. Blush. Glow.
“Well you can ask to see my manuscript,” I joked.
And she did.