Monday, April 28, 2008

PPW conference part 1: Read and Critique Xtreme

At the Pikes Peak Writers Conference this past weekend, I put my work in front of agents and editors three times. At the first session, a Read and Critique Xtreme, each participant got to read a first page of a book in front of an editor. The rationale behind the Xtreme part of the R&C: editors and agents often decide on a manuscript based on a first page. If they aren't compelled to read on, they will pass.

I thought the session had more value than merely having my work critiqued by an industry professional; I would hear other works and see how close my reaction came to the editor's and maybe learn how to craft a better beginning.

Who was I kidding. I couldn't concentrate on what the others read because I kept worrying about how mine would go. Isolated sentences struck me as being good in between thoughts of how I could escape and whether I would fumble and how I would hold my head up high if I were to crash and burn.

When my name was finally called, I stood up to deliver my first page. And then: silence. Not a good sign. It was time to put into action my plan to escape, but I couldn't move. Finally the response came. It was not horrible, but basically she said she wouldn't read on. I mumbled a thank you, allowed my head to hang, and wondered if the hotel would give me a refund since I'd only checked in less than an hour ago.

When the session ended, I took off my name tag, which listed me as a winner in the contest sponsored by the parent organization of the conference. I could imagine everyone in the room who'd heard me read thinking, "She is a winner? With that lousy writing?" Instead of going to the next session, I went back to my room. I wondered why I came. Worse, I wondered how I was going to keep writing. This was the first time I'd shown my work to someone besides other authors and my critique group, to someone who knew what was publishable, and I'd failed.

All right, I hear you. Quit the pity party already! I did, because even when I was feeling sorry for myself I could tell how pathetic I sounded. So I picked myself up, put my name tag on, and proceeded to my second session, which I will write about later.

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