I give my elevator pitch to Fellow Writer A, a woman. She says, “Oooo, nice.”
I gain confidence and give my elevator pitch to First Agent. She nods, appears interested. I give very brief summary of story. When I get to the part where ex-husband shows up as female protagonist’s new boss the agent stops me.
“No. That is too much of a coincidence for me.” I explain how the plot line makes it plausible. “No,” she smiles, “He would already know who the employees are in a business he is buying.” I tell her the story does not make that clear, whether he knows she’s there or not, it is not a story point. “No,” she repeats still smiling, pulls out a pocket dagger, swings it in front of my eyes for emphasis and details further, “I can’t find anything likeable about your female character.”
Nothing? The glint of the steel flashes and I sit back in my seat. I swing my head toward the exit and try to judge how far away I am.
“I like books with very strong female protagonists. Rethink your pitch, recast it in a way that describes the genre, what and why—why would she marry him?” She says things like explain plot device and ends with, “I have a disdain for characters who get themselves into a fix.” She stabs the dagger into the table top for emphasis.
I am in a fix. She has disdain for me.
Rewrite the story? I can’t just make something up.
Oh, right, I made it all up.
It sucks. I suck.
I my lips pull into a wavering smile and I thank her for her time.
Day Two, Morning.
I give my elevator pitch to Fellow Writer B, a man, “Wow, I’m intrigued.”
Second Agent says, “Pitch me.” I give same elevator pitch. She stops me. “If she’s learned not to depend, why does she?” I explain the circumstances that make it plausible. She asks, “Is this you?”
“No. why do you ask? Does it sound like it happened to me?”
“No, but if it had happened to you, I would ask why you married this guy and tell you to turn it into a memoir.”
I wonder briefly if I can find and marry Jae-Chun Lee. I must discard this thought, after all, he is already married and…and…he is fiction.
I realize I am insane.
My plot is insane.
Day Two, Lunch.
I decide I will not share agent feedback with my critique group, because one of them will tell me that such-and-so always bothered them, too, and I will quit, actually quit writing because…
I’ll give them a good excuse, as soon as I write one that does not suck and sound insane.
Day Two, Afternoon.
I am thirsty. I leave my volunteer station in the agent consult area and grab a seltzer water can out of my car. I slip back into the banquet room and glide past an agent twiddling thumbs on a break.
The Agent grabs my arm and asks,“Where did you find the sparkling water?” I size the situation up. I hesitate. I do not snap the metal circle-tab. “You will be my new best friend,” she declares, “if you divulge your source.”
I hand her my can.
“No, I can’t take your water,” she says, and struggles to maintain her composure. She’s likely very thirsty after telling all the writers how much they suck. She swallows and chomps down on the inside of her cheek.
“My treat,” I say. “I have a whole case in the car.”
She looks doubtful. I plant the can on her table. She relents. Her shaky hand reaches out. Her fingers close around the metal cylinder, red-glazed fingernails flick at the ring-top. It pops open and the water gasps, sparkling and plinking of Northwest freshness. She takes a long draw.
“You owe me a pitch,” I suggest, and it doesn’t sound like I’m kidding. I mentally check my internal resources and steel myself for rejection.
“Send me your stuff,” she answers, “No,” she decides, after taking another gulp. She wipes her mouth with the back of her sleeve. “Send me your entire manuscript.” She scribbles her email on a scrap of paper.
I realize my value is measured in the drinks I keep in my car.
Later that evening, I wonder if it is required to cry everyday of a writer’s conference, and realize I do not suck at everything.