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The Friday Five - Contests, Conference, & Pitching, Oh My

This isn't anything you haven't heard out of me before, but I'm asking you not to pass over it. As you know, if you follow along on Facebook, G+ or Twitter, ORACon is coming up September 21st. We host a fiction writer's contest and the deadline has been extended, so you've still got 2 weeks to get that entry in, and we're having live pitches in front of Laurie McLean from Foreward Literary Agency and Holly Atkinson, an editor with Samhain. So now I'm going to natter about 5 reasons you ought to do one or all of these things.

1) This is my 5th year attending ORACon. Actually, I've lost track, but I feel pretty sure it's the 5th. I'm pretty sure I went to the one in 2009. I don't think there's any photographic evidence, but  (forgive me if this story is posted somewhere else on this blog. I feel sure that it is) I will never forget when I walked into Wal-Mart to buy donut holes and the cashier asked me if I had big plans for the day and I told him I was going to a writer's conference. He grabbed my hand, started shaking it and asked if I was famous (my hair looked fantastic that day). Everyone in line turned to stare. I stuttered that I wasn't famous, but he looked right at me and said, "Someday you will be."

Um, my point here is, you can have people mistake you for someone famous too, just by mentioning you're going to a writer's conference. Actually, my point is ... um, writer's conferences are fun. That first year I went, we didn't have pitches or anything, but we did have good food, great speakers, and I got to hang with other writers. I took lots of notes and it taught me that just because I was a beginner and I had a long way to go, that I could also have a future in writing.

Photographic evidence in 2010.
It's in that envelope because I was
so  shocked I forgot to take the
award out to display.
2) I missed the contest deadline in 2009, but (another repeat story, great) I hadn't written anything since the summer of 2003 and I more or less (more) forgot everything I knew about writing, which wasn't much to begin with. You could say I had very, very, very raw talent. Actually, I was working on The Convict & the Cattleman at the time and it was awful. However, the next year, I was still working on C&C and it was less awful, so I entered the 2010 Weta Nichols Writing Contest. I had a lot of help with that first chapter, which is the chapter with some revisions that's still the first chapter today. Anyway, over the year with help from my newfound buddies at ORA and some really great online critique pals, my writing started improving. Enough that I got an honorable mention with The Convict & the Cattleman. In 2011, after I gave up on C&C because it tried to eat my soul, I was goofing off with a little story you might recognize as The Treasure Hunter's Lady. Also got an honorable mention. Just because I pushed a little
Hiding behind Jill's computer, because
why not? Hmm, someone colored
her hair. Long story behind that.
'Send' button. Not to brag, or anything, but you should know that both those books were contracted. Granted, THL's contract fell through, but these things happen. It's published under my imprint now and C&C is coming out in February from Lyrical Press, so when I say, enter a contest, it can do things for you, I'm not just saying that to hear my lips flap.

3) That pitching business. 2010 was the first time we offered pitches, but I didn't because the lady taking them ran a Christian magazine or something. books are little bit too racy to make up a Christian anything and they're choked full of fantasy stuff, so I stayed in my seat that year. But in 2011, we had a book editor and a book agent. 'Member, I'd shoved C&C into the dark recesses of my flash drive, so the best I had to offer was THL, which I just knew was the One True Book, the book above all others, the magic carpet ride to success. Unfortunately, I'm a writer, not a pitcher, Jim, so all my crazy attempts to write and present a pitch were about as successful as a whale riding a bicycle. I had a lot of help with both. And I stuttered my way through three sentences (even with notecards, c'mon, Allison!) before the agent gave up on me and said, okay, just send the first three chapters. Long story short, I took a different kind of chance later on, some things moved into place, and again, THL is published under my name, yay! But pitching was a great experience even though I really messed it up. At least I did it, right? Agents put their pants on one leg at a time, just like us. Unless they're wearing a skirt, in which case, they can probably just slip it over both legs while sitting down, or a dress which can come over the head, but anyway, experience is important. That's what I'm trying to say here. They want to hear about your book. That's why they're there.

I'm that blonde one on the left sort of in the back,
No, no, beside the one beside the one in the black.
4) You guys know how much I like food, right? Not enough to cook it for myself (or at least anything complicated, like my husband pretty much handles the, jeez. The grilling and frying of all things bovine or fowl with the occasional porcine piece), but I love to eat. So when someone offers to feed me at conference, I say, yes, thank you. And then I usually manage to drop something on my boob or otherwise stain my shirt, because I'm a writer and I have weak wrists from all that typing. That's why they make Shout! wipes people. Anyway, this here picture to the right is the banquet the night before conference when the volunteers mingle with the speakers. Good times. I not only recommend attending conference and taking advantage of everything it offers, I recommend volunteering so you can mingle. I had a double shot of peach schnapps. I was doing good that night. Except the part with the hobo. Different story for a different time.

5) Back to that contest thing. Yes, again. Bear with me. I headed up the contest last year, which had a shit ton of entries (don't ask for literal measurements on a shit ton, I haven't quite figured it out yet). And our judges were really good about providing feedback. You're a writer. You need feedback. It's there to help you, or for you to ignore. Please don't rail at us though, if it's not to your liking. Also, you have to agree not to hold it against us--it's in the fine print when you enter the contest. But I certainly got some feedback that was helpful when I entered the contest and what do you know, I have books on shelves. That deadline is close, and I really feel like it could be you who's proudly beaming at that podium this year. Or I could give you some awesome suggestions or encouraging words about your writing, because I volunteered to judge.

Writing conferences, contests, and pitching are all about putting your foot forward and moving your writing career along. If I didn't have the opportunity to attend, I'm not sure where I'd be in my writing career. I know I probably wouldn't blog as often, because I learned about how important that is at--you guessed it--ORACon in 2011. Agents and publishers want you to get in on social media because the readers want to get to know. Learned that at ORACon.

Clear your schedule, come visit, learn, and holy shit, I can't wait to meet you. I'll be the introvert writer who's too scared to talk to you unless you talk to me first, but I promise not to bite. I'll have a name tag. You can find me.


  1. Great post! I remember practicing our pitches together. You were so nervous. I kind of wish I could enter BTH in the Weta, but I'm the contemp judge coordinator. Haven't decided if I'm going to pitch or not.

  2. I remember watching you practice for that 2011 pitch at one of the first ORA meetings I attended. I left determined to pitch the next year. When the 2012 conference rolled around, I still didn't have a book ready, but I "practice" pitched anyway and had a great experience. I think I was the first person to sign up for 2013!


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