Thursday

NYC Pitch and Shop - Don't Go Away Mad!

Midtown Manhattan, New York City, from Rockefe...Image via WikipediaBy Michael Neff

Why do aspiring authors with the least experience often make the most problems at a writer conference? And who do we blame for this strange and persistent phenomenon? Writer's Digest? Spouses and friends? Their writer's group? Their relentless egos? All of the above?

Emotions and expectations run high at a conference where writers interact directly with decision-makers from major publishing houses. Regardless, between copy on the website and materials emailed to future attendees, the NYC Pitch and Shop makes it extremely clear that the conference does not exist for the purpose of slapping writers on the back and sending them on a flight home with a sense of false optimism about the potential of their novels to break into the mainstream market.

For some reason though, a certain type of writer makes an appearance (at least one per conference) who cannot take the least bit of criticism--and as any workshop leader or teacher will tell you, this type can quickly become a disruptive force of one, especially at such time the NYC Pitch and Shop editors and workshop leaders do not swoon over the quality of their work.

Being an experienced workshop leader, I usually spot the signs of ignorance and ego mania fairly early. First, their novels always sound confusing, cliche, and often boring (they should have been screened out in the first place!). Next, the "writers" with this condition refuse to make any changes. Under no conditions, will they compromise their great American novel by considering rewrites, edits, or any plot or premise adjustments that might make their work more competitive. Finally, once the conference reaches the twilight hour and no single editor has requested their work, the hunt for victims begins. After all, they can't possibly be responsible for their own failure.

A few examples are necessary to make the point, but the names will be changed to protect the guilty. There was Maria from Arkansas with the novel about an oversexed Kmart store clerk. She was rude to the editors, complained to everyone, bounced from group to group in an effort to find someone fool enough to accept her worldview, then later wrote the group organizers and claimed she would accuse them of abuse and sexual harassment if she didn't get her money back. No, really.

Then came Manley Milfree flipping his literary business cards at everyone, the cards ugly and splattered with horrible prose--as if by this very act he might impress seasoned editors. We asked him to stop, but of course, he would not. He knew better. No one at the NYC Pitch and Shop could convince him otherwise!

There are more, but in 90% of the cases, these types are all terrible writers. Where do they come from?

The more experienced writers are the more humble. They've taken their lumps and they understand the pain. They are willing to learn, and they are all tenacious.

A good example of this type of writer can be found on the "News" and "Commentary" pages at the NYC Pitch and Shop website.


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1 comment:

  1. Some good points in this posting, I ran into one of these "types" at the conference I attended. I did come away with useful information which helped me to ultimately get two other books published-nothing to do with the novel I pitched at the conference. Unfortunately, I also caught wind of some of the high school antics of one of the, shall I say, more celebrated leader and their groupies post conference. I would suggest a bit more professionalism on the part of all-leaders and attendees. No need for churlish behavior by anyone!

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