Elevator pitches work like headlines in the newspaper by creating a hunger for more information. I remember in Working Girl when Melanie Griffith stepped on the elevator with the boss and had the ride to the top to convince him that the idea belonged to her and not the character played by Sigourney Weaver. That was an elevator pitch in every sense of the word.
I have used the elevator pitch in areas not related to writing. Several years ago, the PTA in our county wanted every child to have a certain vaccine free of charge. I was fortunate to be a part of Leadership Chattanooga at the time. The CEO of the hospital spoke to our group one day. While he was speaking, I sat staring at him trying to think of a way to talk to him about this impossible task—a free vaccine for each child at school sites. When he finished speaking, he quickly exited the room. I hated for this opportunity to pass, so I got up to follow him. By the time I reached the hall, he was almost to the front door. I quickly shouted his name and he turned. I had about 45 seconds to tell him what I wanted. I spit out my elevator pitch. With his interest perked, he invited me to his office the next day to discuss the matter in more detail. Eventually, every child in middle school had the opportunity for the free immunizations. Somehow I would like to think the elevator pitch had a lot to do with it.
The elevator pitch is short and easy to memorize so that any prospective editors, agents, and media can easily take note of it and hear the enthusiasm in the voice.
I think if I had recited an elevator pitch like I was reciting something from memory with no feeling, there would be many unvaccinated children today.
The lobby is like a jigsaw puzzle with 300 people trying to figure out where to go next. Books go from one hand to another, and tables piled with printed material decorate the area.You stand there and it occurs to you, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”
Many conferences take place each year for writers of different genres. A good writer’s conference offers a nourishment to the writer—the kind that feeds the soul and brings new life to the fingers that perform the special magic on the keyboard.
So why should one spend the money on a conference?
I have been going to conferences for several years and have come up with five reasons why every writer should consider going to a conference.
You learn something. If you have written the next bestseller and want to know as much as you can about the craft of writing, a conference is the place to be. Workshops exist on everything from character, plot, grammar, submission guidelines to internet research. Even if your ideas haven’t made it to paper quite yet, the knowledge that comes from the sessions and the speakers helps to organize your thoughts.
The next reason you should go to a conference is to network. Always take business cards with email information. Distribute them to everyone who will take one. Networking is not for the shy and quiet. To network effectively, be proud of your work, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
One of the best reasons to attend a conference is to market your work. Memorize a one or two sentence pitch that tells about your book. Be enthusiastic when others ask about it which they do at a writer’s conference. Market yourself. That markets your work. Participate in the workshops by commenting or contributing to discussions. Be personable and friendly. Editors and agents want authors that people will like and will connect to the readers.
Does being personable and friendly really help market a book? It doesn't hurt, and it gives you an opportunity to show that you will do anything and everything you can to help promote your book.
Many people go to a conference to meet with specific editors and agents that might have an interest in publishing their manuscripts. If you do not have a manuscript ready now, set a goal to have one finished by the conference. Take advantage of the opportunity.
If the other four reasons aren’t enough draw to attend a conference, then go to be with those that are like-minded. There is a comradery among writers. You find a place to belong with people who have something in common with you.
Writers share some of the same problems. We juggle personal lives with an imagination that is always in warp speed. The words we give birth to are products of our minds and hearts.
To get the most out of a conference attend one to learn, to network, to market, to meet with agents and editors or attend to be with other writers.
Conferences are where we can learn from the best, take our best with us, be our best and show and tell to others about our best.
If you haven’t ever considered attending a conference, research one in your particular genre and consider making the investment. Conferences help to feed the writer inside of you.
Maybe I will see you at one.
(currently trying to finish "Sweeping Up a Murder" before my next conference)
Erica Spindler and Paula at the recent 'Murder Goes South' conference in Smyrna, Georgia.
Part 1 of Is this the “write” conference?
I attend writers’ conferences of different genres. I leave some feeling inspired. Some give me hope that the stories born from my imagination have a chance to sell. Other conferences make me question whether or not I should ever attempt to sell anything.
I attend at least two conferences a year, but I am selective in the ones I attend. They are expensive, and I fight the urge to attend conferences just to recharge my writing battery because I usually don’t write anymore than I did before I attended.
I ask myself several questions before deciding to attend:
Is this conference for writers in the same genre in which I currently write? Even though I write in different genres, if I am not currently working on that particular genre of the conference or do not have a manuscript ready to publish, I will skip it.
Will there be editors, agents and published authors there in my specialized category? If I am writing a thriller and the agent reviewing my manuscript considers only cozy mysteries, then I reconsider.
Will there be authors there who have recently been published for the first time? When most of the presenters have been published for years, they sometimes have limited knowledge on current trends, marketing and social media.
Is the guest speaker someone that can inspire me? I like hearing famous authors tell about their success. Knowing their struggles helps me to believe that I can be a bestselling author.
What about food and lodging? I like to stay in a hotel that hosts the conference if cost is reasonable. I do not want to travel far or in bad weather after a day of conferencing. I am also directionally-challenged, which means I will probably get lost despite the GPS on my dash.
I follow my nose to food if I am hungry. I do not like to spend an hour in the evening looking for a place to eat. The parking may be difficult, weather may be bad and the nearest available food is not what I like (I am not a fish eater).
Do the workshops look beneficial? No matter who the speakers are, if the topics are not anything that could benefit me, I may save my money for another conference.
Does location make it cost prohibitive? If there is a similar conference closer to home, I compare to see if I could benefit as much from the one closer to me.
What do you look for in choosing a writer’s conference?
Next: How can we make the conference worth our time?
They look like a normal pair of cardboard glasses but with lenses of different colors. Once I put them on, I am drawn into a world much different than the world I know and a world I want to stay in for a while.
The writer in me wants to take those glasses apart and see how they work. The tech in me knows better.
Different images are fed into my eyes with the lenses to create the 3D effect. I want to duck when the airplanes fly at me. I want to hide when the monsters want to come at me.
I know what pictures look like in 3D but what about words? Can I see words from a book in 3D?
That’s not something I ask of the glasses. That’s my job as a writer. 3D writing reflects different perspectives coming together to make pictures with the words.
A 3D picture comes to life with scientific principles and a pair of glasses. Words are made 3D with writing that draws a reader in like a high-powered magnet. I want my readers to reach out and grab the pictures. Better yet, I want the characters to reach out and grab my readers and pull them into the story. I want my reader to become another character.
So how do I make my characters 3D?
I find that 3D characters share these three “D”s:
Characters put in danger leak fear to the reader. Danger does not necessarily imply physical danger or a physical threat. Emotions and relationships add a deep dimension of danger. The character may not know of the danger or the reader may know of the danger before the character does. A well-written 3D character draws the reader into the danger. The more engaging a character is the more involved the reader is.
Once the dangers are revealed the characters are “dared” to draw from their weaknesses and not just from their strengths. This challenges our characters. They rebel. This rebellion adds another dimension to the story. Friends, coworkers and family may help solve a crime, but main characters need to be “dared” to draw from within and challenge themselves to find resolution.
In finding resolution, characters discover something --but not before they have been on this incredible journey. This leads to the growth of the character. The growth that comes from this discovery allows for reader satisfaction. The discovery brings the reader full circle and gives her permission to go back into the real world because something has been gained on this journey.
Stories in 3D don’t just come alive on the big screen. Stories and books can become 3D with characters that find themselves in danger, that are dared to draw from their weaknesses and discover something from their incredible journey.
As writers we face the challenge of making our words 3D by wearing the glasses of creativity and imagination. I am challenged to write so that my readers leap into the pages, duck at the planes coming and hide from the monsters that come at them.
They may not be Dorothy’s ruby red slippers, but the right pair of shoes makes a difference in my writing. Some writers write propped up on pillows in bed. Some writers grab a few minutes during lunch at the office where they wear their office-appropriate shoes.
When my children were babies, I stole every nap time minute to write in my workout shoes which I needed to keep up with the demands of motherhood. As soon as I was able, I traded the attire for my “Good morning” apparel to wear while writing which consist of a robe and fluffy pink house shoes.
I then noticed that my creativity began to suffer. I had more writer’s blocks and seemed more distracted. My mind wandered to the calm and peaceful dwelling usually reserved for the stressful times. My productivity at the keyboard consisted of a number of words on paper. The characters remained “two-dimensional.” I felt my writing career start to die.
Then one day I put on my cushion-heeled, arch-supported running shoes before I began writing.
Wow! What a difference! Suddenly my creative juices flowed and my fingers typed.
Some consider me to be an over-analyzer. Being an over-analyzer, I started to ponder why a simple pair of shoes made such a difference.
House slippers sent a comfortable message to my mind causing laziness. I wanted to rest. I wanted to watch the birds fly. I wanted to plan my day. I didn’t want to write.
The house slippers took away my writing routine. I lounged around, took my time to dress then started to run behind schedule. When would I write? The right shoes put me in a routine.
I am not as tempted now to lounge around fooling myself into thinking I have oodles of time only to realize that the sun has gone down. I put the shoes on before I sit at the computer and let my feet take my characters where they need to go.
I also use shoes to help my characters. If a female is in an important meeting wearing a nice suit and 3-inch heels and suddenly finds herself being chased, she is not likely to be running through an alley, climbing a chain link fence and running down several flights of stairs without taking off those heels first. I can write “shoe reality.” If a character is wearing shoes too small, I might put on a pair too small for me to help make my writing more plausible. I literally walk in my character’s shoes.
The “write shoes” do not distract me. They compliment me and are an important part of my writing team. I still have days that I sit down and my fingers freeze blindly looking for the words to type.
On those days I can stare at my shoes and brainstorm. What if aliens wear sneakers? Look at Cinderella. The shoes made the difference with her. What if two lovers meet at freshman mixer looking for their shoes thrown in a pile?
I met the first guy I dated in college that way. The two lovers in my short story mystery met looking for shoes in a pile. Of course, one of them is murdered.
The importance of the “write shoes” may sound trite or even stupid to you. But if your writing has become stale, if your characters have trouble coming to life, if the cogs in your mind are turning slow, consider finding the “write shoes.”
Then click your heels together three times and repeat, “There’s no place like the top of a best seller list.”
My Nana Paula Petty is working on her bestseller during NaNoWriMo this month, and I—her adorably handsome grandpuppy of the miniature long-haired dachshund variety—am her guest blogger today.
NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and is the month of November when writers start and complete a novel.
Writers need discipline. The writing passion has to be disciplined with time and word organization.
I am content with a chicken-flavored chew stick and a doggie toy during this time. I can always take more naps and watch birds.
Writers work best just knowing you are there and giving them your support.
Writers need lots of coffee to keep them writing. They still have to do the other things they normally do during the day, too. They need the coffee to stay awake, and some say they need it for creative thinking. Don’t drink the coffee. Leave it for them.
Protect your human writer from other bothersome pests during this time—crickets, cockroaches, cats and shoes annoy writers—that’s my opinion, anyway. Help them to keep their work area quiet and comfortable.
When at all possible, help the human writer with writing. I don’t role play too well, but I love kissing scenes.
Does anyone need to find an environmentally-safe way to get rid of leftover food?
As you can tell from the picture, I am helping Nana with a scene from her mystery. I wanted to help with that scene longer, but she wanted the arm back after I started chewing the stuffing.
Show your human writer that you love and support her when she is writing. Your support means a lot to her. Who knows? She might put your picture on the cover!
Until next time…Your Keyboard Kanine
The dying red leaf provided inspiration.
I receive inspiration in all seasons, but the autumn colors perform magic in more than one way.
This past weekend my husband and I drove through the mountains near our home in Chattanooga for a bit of "color enhancement."
The colors give me an opportunity to reflect on what I have done as a writer and what I can do. The serene scene gives me time to enjoy God's creation. I think the old adage, "Take time to smell the roses" is an accurate description. Only in my case it is , "Take time to see the leaves."
Whether I am standing on the edge of the water looking out or on a mountainside watching the colors fade into the night, I can't help but think of new ideas for possible articles, stories or books.
What about something for children on why the leaves change colors?
What about a story of lovers who meet under the prettiest tree?
What about a story about a leaf that has evidence of foul play on it?
You get the idea. So did I--a lots of them.
For now they are in the catalog of my mind waiting for me to jot them down for future use.
Photos capture the beauty for the eye. It is up to me to capture the beauty of the autumn in pen.
What things in autumn give you inspiration?
They are not at my house. One would think that I don't like flowers. I really do. I just have such bad luck with them.
When we first moved into the house in Chattanooga, I planted the prettiest and healthiest flowers I could find. I studied which ones grew in shade and in clay.
The back yard demanded my attention first. Many trees shade my deck, but they also block the warming rays of light from the sun. Nevertheless, I babied those beds.
Then the gutter clogged. All of the goop inside spilled over in the beds and the flowers died.
But that wasn't going to stop me. Maybe I needed to start simple. I went and bought a beautiful basket of hanging sweet somethings to put on the porch. They were easy to care for and were portable. I could bring them in to feed them "dessert" and hang them back out to play.
They were so pretty. Even the birds thought so--especially the birds. Pretty soon nests started to appear, then baby birds. I tried again the next year. Same thing. I gave up on hanging baskets.
I never planted flowers in the middle of the front yard. When we moved here, my children were little. I wanted a place they could pitch and play catch without any obstructions. In other words, I didn't want the kids to trample the flowers.
The only luck I have had with flowers is a tiny square around my mailbox where a determined clematis fights my purple thumb. I have to admire the wiill of this fairly old beauty. She survives in the concrete that holds the post in place.
I think that makes the blooms even more beautiful and inspiring. When I sit at my desk pecking away at my laptop I glance over the screen out the window and see her. If she can survive living in the concrete, I can survive, too.
I keep typing.
I watch the seasons try to stomp it.
I keep typing.
The season sends word to her that its time to wake up. If she can do it, I can, too.
And I keep typing--allowing her inspiration to gently push me closer to my best seller.
It's amazing what a little flower can do in concrete.
Please don't send me tips on growing flowers. I learned my lesson. I prefer to be a spectator not a participant.
As I traveled this summer, I noticed things aggravated me more than usual.
I know that I am older and that things do tend to “get under my skin” more often. But come on! Whether I am on vacation, traveling for business or need to rest after hours of driving, there are some things that I think should be a courtesy. Some things I still consider rude.
Here are some examples:
Pressure on a guest to tour a time-share
Nothing says vacation stress like having to avoid the hotel lobby where employees lay in wait for victims, I mean guests, to take a free tour. People need to feel comfortable to ask where a good Italian restaurant is and not have to avoid employees. One can't help but think that maybe the hotel was trying to get rid of guests and not give them an enjoyable stay. Could this also be an indication on the type of service?
Do Not Disturb
Nothing sends a clearer message about not being disturbed than hanging the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. But imagine putting the sign on the door and getting a call wanting to know if you still wanted the maid to come clean the room since there was a sign on the door. The “Do Not Disturb” sign is on the door for a reason.
Updated information on the web
Many people do hours of research on the web to find out hours of tours and information about attractions.
One prints off the information, follows the instructions only to find at the last step that the information is outdated. No such tour exists or is no longer available.
The mood, how tired I am and other distractions in the mind can determine how much these things can bother me. This is not an exhaustive list. But the things on it make me exhausted just thinking about them.
Hope you have safe and stress-free travel.
I recently attended Killer Nashville where I met publishers, agents, and other mystery writers.
I was reminded of a couple of things at that conference that can help me in other areas of my life.
First, I have to have the passion. Whether or not I am writing a book or learning to ride a bicycle, I have to have the desire, the determination, the will to do it and not let up until it is accomplished.
Second, I have to develop the skills. Passion alone is not enough. But skills help mold the passion into a finished product. Skills need to be learned and practiced.
Here is hoping that whatever you do is done with the "write" passion and skills.