Sunday, April 03, 2011

By George! I did it

I actually got to a SCBWI event. You see, at no point did I jinx things by saying that I would be going, I just mentioned it, kind of casually, and there we go, I actually got there.

So as I casually mentioned before, on Friday, SCBWI France organised a cocktail party/literary discussion and pitch session with literary agent at New York's Scott Triemel agency, John Cusick and debut author of the book Girl parts.

We started off discussing the difference between the hook and the heart of the story. And Mr Cusick's ideas about the heart of the story weren't a million miles away from mine. He described it as something that is important to YOU as the writer. It isn't conscious and is usually buried in the first draft, but as you revise and redraft, it's something that will come up again and again and will eventually, as you hone the words on the page, drive the novel.

Now for the hook... eh, my notes are a little vague here and I'm no longer sure if this refers to the hook, but this is what made sense to me. He explained it by using the picture book Caps for sale as an example. He says that the plot should be something surprising but inevitable so in this book, monkeys steal the hat seller's hats and try as he might to get the hats back all that happens is that the monkeys in the trees copy what he does time and time again. Eventually he gets so fed up he takes his own cap of his head and throws it on the floor and the monkeys ... see inevitable.

And lastly for the pitch. Well Mr. Cusick felt that while the heart drives the story, it's not generally included in the pitch. He says you can use the elevator style pitch, that script sellers use: x + z + that certain special je ne sais quoi, because literary agents do watch a wee bit of TV in between reading. Otherwise just sell the best bits.

So, I'm going to assess my own pitch. Well, (Ooks, I hope Mr. Cusick isn't reading this) I didn't practise all of it. The beginning bit was a bit of an adlib where I blurted through who I am and why I wrote the book I wrote and then did my pitch that was full of mystery and intrigue (I thought), introduced the key elements of the plot, without giving too much away and... The first thing Mr. Cusick retorted with was: "Spoil it for me. Tell me exactly what happens?" Luckily, my darling colleague, who had let me practise on her about an hour before had made me do the same thing, so I wasn't completely thrown.

Good things is that Mr. Cusick told me that my subject was currently 'hot', but he hasn't read mine, so I don't know if I'm really hot! I'll find out within 30 days.

Personally (and again I hope Mr. Cusick isn't reading), I wanted this to be a learning experience, I had no idea how to do this pitch thing. So now I have some ideas. Mr. Cusick told me to think about my MC and make sure that my readers knew why she was the MC and no one else and why this was her story and not Morgane's (he picked up on that in a 10 second pitch!). There needed to be a public reason, but also a private reason that drove her. I think in future if I ever get to pitch personally to an agent I will have a better idea. Then again I think it's WAY to nerve racking and I may just stick to boring old query letters. Also, I won't wear noisy necklaces that I fiddle with, or tops with dangly ties that can caught up EVERYWHERE!


Nicky Schmidt (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Sounds like it was a brilliant learning opportunity and sounds like he liked what you told him! Keeping fingers crossed for you! xx

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Again, I am being completely calm and casual about this. I will wait and see. For the rest of the month the priority is to cram 77m2 in 69m2. Does that sound casual enough? *squeals and grins widely*

hereigoagain said...

This is brilliant Michelle. What an experience. Fingers crossed for you!x

Zannah said...

What a great opportunity! Well done!!

Rachna Chhabria said...

You seemed to have done well,Michele.

Keeping my fingers crossed for you. All the best. :)

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Hi 'hereIgoagain'. It was a great, if nerve racking experience. And Zannah and Rachna, there was a great discussion as well, so if nothing comes of this I did learn a lot.

Tioka said...

What a great post! You should definitely send word out to the Yahoo! Group. Hmm. Can I post it on our SCBWI regional site as well???

Michele Helene (Verilion) said...

Hi Tioka,

I'm happy for it to be posted on the site. There were a series of posts that I make reference to, so maybe I'll just do a few edits and send it your way.


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