#TBT Post – Tackling the Elevator Pitch

I wrote this #ThrowBackThursday post for The Great Noveling Adventure blog and it was originally published on May 18, 2014. 


 

Big City

READY TO PITCH IN THE BIG CITY? photo by Wojtek Witkowski via Unsplash

 

Back in March when I attended the SCBWI OK spring conference, some of you may remember that I won a couple of face-to-face critiques with speakers at the conference. During one of my sessions, I took the opportunity to ask Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle Books, what she thought of my 40-word pitch for my manuscript, which was included as part of the program. I’m fairly new at writing pitches and I knew that I could use some guidance. I’m very glad I asked. She was so generous with her time and her insights. What she said next really clarified the whole concept for me. I’ve been meaning to share that bit of wisdom for awhile, so here it is.

First of all she said my pitch was something to the equivalent of “Meh”.

Here is the pitch I submitted:

A childhood prank gone wrong leaves Will Harris crippled by fears and homebound. During an outing for his recovery, he witnesses a crime. No one believes him. He must find the courage to solve the mystery and prove his sanity.

I think by ‘meh’ she was being kind.

Next, she said, rethink the whole idea of trying to get the point of your story across in the length of an elevator ride. For a middle grade story, she said to try this:

Pitch your story like you’re telling it to a bored eleven-year old on an elevator.

Bored by Raul Lieberwirth via flickr cc

And then lightning struck my brain.

I got it. She expanded this thought to say you should tell your pitch to this eleven year-old with the idea of convincing him this is a book he’ll be so excited to read, he’ll want to grab it right out of your hand. Get to the good stuff; the action. Kids don’t care about the backstory or character motivation when you’re trying to convince them to read a book, they want the main events.

Hey, I know this story that you are going to love. It’s all about this kid who gets locked up in a museum at night and then he finds these thieves stealing some of the paintings. He sets off the alarms, but when the police arrive, there’s no sign of the crime and no one believes him. He decides to solve the crime himself and that’s just the beginning of even more trouble.

That pitch is a little less “Meh” if I do say so myself. Sure, it’s a little longer than it’s supposed to be, but now let’s put it into a more refined form and see if it still works when we distill it back down to a 40-word count. (Just FYI, pitch lengths can vary. I kept mine to this length because that was the guideline for this particular conference submission. It’s not a bad idea to have a few different pitches on hand of varying lengths – some even Twitter length as many pitch contests arise and you never know, that agent or editor you’re dying to pitch to may one day participate in one.)

Will Harris gets locked up in a museum the same night thieves break in. Will triggers the alarm and police arrive. They find no sign of crime. The trouble gets started once Will decides to solve the crime himself.

Much better than the first one. And who knows, we might get that bored eleven year-old to snatch that book out of our hands, yet.

See if keeping your audience in mind helps when you write your next pitch.


This is a timely topic as I just served on a pitch panel for this month’s meeting for our local Tulsa SCBWI group as our members prepare for our spring conference. I spoke about this same experience with Melissa Manlove before we got into the pitches. I still use this idea – that and knowing the stakes. If you can convey something about your character and what’s at stake for them, you’ve pretty much got your pitch nailed.

What do you think? Are pitches easy for you? Do you have a successful method that helps you write them?

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SCBWI OK Spring Conference 2016 – Let’s Go the Distance!

SCBWI OK Banner

 

Spring is just around the corner and that means our Oklahoma SCBWI Spring conference will be here before you know it! This year’s theme is  “Go the Distance”, and with the outstanding line up of speakers, I’m sure we’ll all be ready to take our projects to the finish line.

As always manuscript critiques, private pitch sessions, and portfolio critiques will be available in limited numbers, so hurry and register now!

 

Let me introduce our speakers:

Sara SargentSara Sargent – Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Sara acquires picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction and nonfiction with a focus on pop culture, social media, and digital platforms. Previously she was an Editor at Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

Sara has worked with New York Times bestselling author Abbi Glines, National Book Award finalist Deb Caletti, Jennifer Echols, Julie Cross, Aaron Karo, and Martina Boone, among others. She also received her Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University.

Learn more about Sara and read her Acquisitions Wish List here.

Follow Sara on Twitter here. Follow Sara on Instagram here.

 

CarterHasegawa-257x300Carter Hasegawa – Associate Editor at Candlewick Press

Carter came to children’s publishing in a roundabout way. After a decade of working in grocery, followed by a two-year stint in textbook publishing, he left everything behind to follow his passion for children’s books, and he went back to school to get his MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College.

Since 2008, he’s been a children’s bookseller at various independent bookstores in Seattle and in Cambridge, which he still continues to do part-time when not at Candlewick. Some of his favorite non-Candlewick books include: The Notorious Benedict Arnold, Jellicoe Road, Ready Player One, Three Times Lucky, and many, MANY more. Basically anything that has a great voice, is a good story, and is “unputdownable.”

Follow Carter on Twitter here. Follow Carter on Instagram here.

 

KarlJonesKarl Jones – Associate Editor with Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin Young Readers.

Karl works on a variety of licensed and original middle grade and activity books, as well as some early YA projects. He acquired and edits the Just Jake series from New York Times best-selling kid author, Jake Marcionette and edits a middle grade/YA transition series by established stage and screenwriter, Justin Sayre-the first book in this series, Husky published in September 2015.

He also develops, acquires and writes unique original activity books like Day of the Dead Activity Book and Build A Boyfriend, as well as hiring work-for-hire authors for several licensed book programs for entertainment and gaming properties including Star Trek, Powerpuff Girls, Uncle Grandpa, Regular Show and Shovel Knight.

He is particularly interested in realistic middle grade and YA fiction and format-bending storytelling projects. In his free time, he enjoys comedy and storytelling events, outdoor adventures, and live music. He is a native Oklahoman.

Follow Karl on Twitter here.

 

JodellSadlerJodell Sadler – Literary Agent with Sadler Children’s Literary

Jodell is a pacing geek or guru who earned her MFA in Writing for Children & YA from Hamline University, 2009 and jumped into agenting in 2012. She hosts workshops and presents on pacing, which includes Picture Book Pacing, Editing, and Avoiding Burnout tutorials and Webinars with Writer’s Digest.

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI) and passionate about helping writers pace their stories well because it allows writers the opportunity to enhance emotional resonance, tension, and find exciting ways to improve story arc with jumps and twists and pauses and stops that garnish editorial attention and help them get published.

Follow Jodell on Twitter here.

 

Victoria SelvaggioVictoria Selvaggio – Associate Agent with The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency.

Victoria has a strong background in business ownership, and she worked for over seven years as a volunteer and Regional Advisor for SCBWI: Northern Ohio. Drawn to the publishing scene first as an author writing all genres, with her most recent publication in the 2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market, Vicki’s passion for honing the craft carried over into reading manuscripts for the agency in 2013.

Currently, she is excited to read compelling manuscripts that will resonate with her long after she’s done.

Follow Victoria on Twitter here.

 

Jason HenryJason Henry – Senior Designer with Dial Books For Young Readers

Jason is also an illustrator. He designs a wide range of formats including picture books, non-fiction, YA novel jackets and interiors, and has also contributed illustrations to award-winning published titles.

He began at Dutton Design as a design assistant and was subsequently promoted to the position of Senior Designer.

Follow Jason on Tumblr to view his artwork here.

 

This year, Oklahoma City is the host city for the conference. Mark your calendars for April 16th. It’s going to be another fantastic event you won’t want to miss!

To learn more about our conference and to register for this event, CLICK HERE.

I hope to see you there!

SCBWI OK Fall Retreat Now Open for Enrollment

 

SCBWI OK Logo

Our SCBWI Oklahoma fall events keep getting more exciting every year. Just when you thought we couldn’t top last year’s Agents’ Day, along comes this year’s Fall Retreat. You pay one fee and attend as much or as little as you’d like, but trust me, this will be so packed full of literary goodness, you’ll want to be there for the whole thing.

OKLAHOMA 2014 FALL RETREAT
Three Days of Workshops and Speakers
September 26-28, 2014
Friday: 9:00 am – 8:30 pm
Saturday 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Sunday 10:00 am – 1:00 pm

Best Western Motor Lodge, Stroud, Oklahoma
Exactly between Oklahoma City and Tulsa

LIMITED TO 90 Participants (AND ALREADY HALF-FULL!!!)


REGISTER NOW

The Speakers
Brett Duquette – Editor, Sterling Publishing

Brett Duquette

 

Tracy Daniels – Founder of Media Masters

 Tracy Daniels

 

Minju Chang – Agent, BookStop Literary Agency

 minju_chang

 

Christa Heschke – Agent, McIntosh and Otis, Inc.

Christa Heschke

 

The Workshop begins on Friday with the basics.

Want to brush up on core skills? Getting started on your writing  journey? Not sure where to begin? This will cover everything you need. You’ll get to choose from several sessions and pick the ones that are just right for you. Here are some of the topics for the Friday craft sessions:

        • Creating Graphic Novels
        • Picture Books that Sell
        • Romance/Friendship in MG and YA
        • Query Letters
        • Writing Nonfiction
        • Creating Easy Readers
        • Successful School Visits
        • Unusual Techniques for Developing Character
        • The Real Difference in First and Third Person POV
        • More than Pronoun Use
        • Plotting That Works
        • Digging Deeply Enough for Story Ideas
        • Using Acting Techniques in Writing
        • World Building Elements for All Genres
        • Showing Character
        • Proportion Issues
        • Lessons for Beginners

– PLUS: A Creative Coach will give tips for conquering
procrastination and self-sabotage.

Doesn’t that look great?

Saturday and Sunday the guest speakers will give in-depth talks on various subjects like voice, publicity and promotion, and much more.

There will be manuscript critiques and editor/agent pitches available as well.

For details – and to register for the workshop – head on over to the SCBWI OK website.

UPDATE: On July 24, 2014, NewsOK wrote an excellent article on our conference which really gives a complete picture of what to expect. Great information.

 

Questions and Contacts:

– Anna Myers: amyers_author@yahoo.com
– Helen Newton: helennewton@cox.nt

 

An Exercise with Elevator Pitches – a TGNA Post

tgnalogorevampIt’s my turn to post over at The Great Noveling Adventure and today I’m sharing an amazing tip that Melissa Manlove, editor at Chronicle Books gave me during my face-to-face critique at the SCBWI OK spring conference.

It’s all about elevator pitches and it really helped me understand how to make mine better.

Want to know what it is?

Then hop on over and see what I have to say. You be the judge to see if this bit of professional advice made the difference between a “meh” pitch and a marvelous one.

Pitch Madness – The Clue Version Begins

pitch-madness-1The lovely and gracious host of many a pitch contest, Brenda Drake, is hosting a month-long Pitch Madness contest with a fantastic Clue theme. The agents are being revealed today. If you have a COMPLETED AND POLISHED manuscript that is of the Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, or Adult variety, you can enter the contest beginning on March 10th. Your entry will consist of a 35-word pitch and the first 250 words of your manuscript.

Here’s the Pitch Madness schedule …

  • Hosts and their teams Introduction on March 3
  • Agent Introduction on March 4
  • Rules of the Game on March 6
  • Formatting Instructions March 7
  • Submission window will be on March 10 and will be open for 24 hours
  • The first slush round will be March 11-12
  • The final round will be March 13-17
  • The top 60 picks for the agent round will go up on the blogs on March 18 at 12:01AM EST (NY time)
  • March 20 at 12PM EDT (Noon) the agents requests are revealed, and right afterward is the tying agents challenge round
  • There will be a #PitMad Twitter Pitch Party on March 25 from 8AM to 8PM EST. Check here for rules of the Twitter Pitch Contest.

Stop by Brenda Drake’s blog for full details.

Good Luck!

Things You Should Never Catch with Your Head…and a belated #writemotivation check in

Consider this a cautionary tale.

Be wary of testing the law of gravity; it exists for your own protection. For what goes up does indeed come down. And sometimes it does so with a vengeance.

Back when I was in first grade, my brother decided to test Newton’s big theory. For some reason, I decided to witness this event. So when he threw this up into the air…

Photo credit: Roger H Goun via Flickr
Photo credit: Roger H Goun via Flickr

…I caught it with my forehead.

Good old laws of physics passed the test. Still have a small scar above my right eye to prove it.

My younger brother was playing in the the outfield on a hot summer day when a pop fly came right overhead. Glove ready, he reached out to catch it, but the sun blinded him and the ball slipped over the top of his glove…

Photo Credit: Jason Empey via Flickr
Photo Credit: Jason Empey via Flickr

…BAM!!! He caught the ball with his mouth.

Gravity was a cruel mistress on that day. His lips were swollen like two bruised plums bursting off his face for weeks. He now plays soccer.

On a related sports note, back in Little League, my husband forgot that when you’re playing catcher, you should probably kneel behind the plate so you don’t catch one of these…

Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown, Untitled (Four Baseball Bats) 1992, Sold at Christie's Auction in 2007
Photo Credit: Photographer Unknown, Untitled (Four Baseball Bats) 1992, Sold at Christie’s Auction in 2007

…with your noggin.

And maybe you should wear a catcher’s mask. The bat hit him so hard, he didn’t register the pain. He stood there, trying to figure out how his white jersey had turned red and what was dripping into his eye. Uh, yeah that would be the blood from the big gash in your skull. He has a pretty cool scar, too.

You’d think now that we’re older,  we’d all have a better understanding about the dangers of testing gravity, of catching objects hurtling through the air and exhibit a little more caution in our daily lives. Sadly, this rarely turns out to be the case. This past weekend, while swimming with the family at the neighborhood pool, my husband forgot the lessons of the past and did something incredibly stupid. He caught this…

Sophie Smile

…with his face.

My daughter jumped in, all carefree and impulsive – like you do – intent on making a big splash. Instead, she misjudged her aim. Her knee landed somewhere around my husband’s eyebrow, giving him a black eye and her shin bone smacked across his mouth hard enough to knock out one of his front teeth.

Just in time for him to start his new job the following Monday. (With a brief detour to some serious dental surgery. ) Yippee.

So how was your week?

Learn anything cool about science?

Catch anything dangerous with your head?

writemotivation_header1Let’s review some #writemotivation goals to liven things up a bit more.

1. Submit Institutionalized (YA contemporary) to five more literary agents. I’ve submitted to two more agents this month. Still no rejections, so this makes seven submissions out. Will have to send out three more before the end of the month to make this goal. Should be doable.

2. While participating in Camp NanoWriMo, write at least 50K towards first draft of Pretty Vacant (YA contemporary). Uhh…I kind of forgot all about Camp Nano in the midst of the Christmas in July Pitch contest hoopla, the hubs changing jobs which totally threw our harmonious family schedule into chaos (read stressed everyone completely out), him then getting injured and going through major dental surgery the same week he started the new job (although my husband on nitrous oxide was entertaining at times, this injury still added more chaos and stress to the week). This goal is a total fail for the month. I’ll keep working on the story, but there’s no way I’ll make my word limit goal.

3. Read at least five more books – review one on the blog. I need to write a review up this week, but the reading is going well. I may be the cnv paperback USlast person on the planet to start reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. A Michael L Printz Honor book, among other awards – actually I should tell you what awards it hasn’t won, it’s a much shorter list. I’m bouncing between this gripping tale and last week’s book of note, Sara Zaar’s How to Save a Life.

4. Finish critique of friend’s manuscript. (Hopefully by her birthday midway through the month!) I have started this, but still extreme sad face. Will not make this goal, either.

5. Exercise 4 times each week. I did make this goal. Yay! Didn’t overdo it. This week the work outs were a little more relaxed, but still accomplished.

6. Participate in all Crit Camp activities, which include critiquing 10K samples from manuscripts from the other participants and preparing crit letters. This. Was. So. HARD! Writing up critique letters with an overview of plot, character, voice, structure, etc., was such a different way of thinking about critique. I really struggled with my final crit letters. Natalie was so helpful in pointing out when I was holding back and not saying what I meant and making me reach deeper. It was such a great learning experience, and in the end, I was able to give more specific examples when giving critiques and discuss the overall picture in ways I’ve never been able to before. I also really enjoyed getting so much helpful, insightful feedback on my own work. If this is something you could use help with, you may want to check out Natalie C Parker’s Crit Camp yourself.

That’s a wrap on the past week. I’ve got some great posts coming up to finish out the month so stay tuned. Next month week I’m headed out to the fabulous SCBWI LA Summer Conference! I’m sure to bring back valuable knowledge to share.

Christmas in July Pitch Contest Entries are Up Today! (That Means Mine, Too!)

Xmas in July post headerA quick post today to encourage everyone to stop by the two blogs hosting the Christmas in July Pitch contest, Ruth Lauren Stevens and Michelle Krys. If you’d like to read my entry, here’s the link directly to it here. Please save your comments on the contest site until the 20th. Only agents are allowed to comment for the next two days. Instead, show your support by posting comments here or by following the Twitter hashtag #XmasinJuly. I’ll try to keep everyone updated on how I’m doing as much as possible. Thanks!