Monday, July 26, 2010

Agents Provocateur :: PNWA Conference

Another PNWA conference has passed into history and people I adore but only see once a year are homeward bound once more.  Safe journeys to all of you.

I haven't heard any numbers with regard to headcount and the like, but the statistic for the conference that would most interest me is the Gallons of Coffee Consumed (GCC).  You get a thousand or so mostly introverted people in one place and social lubricants rise from luxury to necessity.  Every time we are told that the current publishing world requires authors to be as adept with marketing and self-promotion as they are with crafting stories and you can hear a thousand introverts die a little inside.

Don't get me started on guessing the probable bar bills.

The dream scenario at one of these conferences is to get on an elevator with an agent or editor and have that precious moment of silence in which to pitch your idea or finished novel (preferably the latter).  We have sessions to teach budding writers how to do this.  The agents and editors know this and I'm sure the additional exercise some of them get from taking the stairs is welcome in what seems to be a largely sedentary job profile.

Nine out of ten elevator trips I took this year had either an agent or an editor in the car.  And not once was it an agent or editor that was buying what I came there to sell.  Fate can be a real jerk sometimes, but it gave me a chance to observe my fellow writers.  On every one of those elevators, I was accompanied by other writers who stood silent, casting sidelong glances at these people who had the power to grant them their hearts' desire (publication).

Wasted opportunities abounded and I hated to watch it. The past month or so, my weekly supper club commented that when I wasn't there (due to a hospital stay) the conversations tended to die with greater frequency.  Talking is something I'm good at and I'm more thankful than ever that I spent some time in sales, forced by economic necessity to transform from my default position of shyness to a more boisterous mindset.

I spent a great deal of those elevator rides breaking the ice with those agents and editors and writers, cracking jokes and trying to provoke these shrinking violets into some sort of action or interaction.  My results were mixed, but at least I tried.

 Anyway, during the conference I kept two notepads going.  On one of them, I was taking notes on whatever the speakers were talking about and on the other, I was jotting down thoughts, ideas and random tidbits that occurred to me for stories and blog posts, including "EVERYTHING THE INTERNET TELLS YOU ABOUT WRITING CONFERENCES IS WRONG!"  And yes, I wrote it in all caps just like that, so look forward to that post.

In the meantime, I have query letters and a synopsis to write, so I'll wish you well.


  1. Y'know for only going between three floors, those two elevators were excruciatingly slow. Maybe that's a plus in a conference center to provide more opportunities for people to connect. Probably even more reason for agents and editors to flee to the stairs. :)

  2. So true. I had to wonder if the PNWA paid Hilton to slow down the elevators or if it's just a little service they provide.


Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).