Yesterday I participated in the UNpitchFest at ThrillerFest. As you know, I think pitching is an abomination and should be banned from conferences, but so far, not much luck in persuading conference organizers of this.
The good folks at ThrillerFest however have instituted the No Pitch Zone. The NPZ is a place for writers to come and get help on their queries and first pages. Sort of like QueryShark in person. In the NPZ this year were four agents and two editors. One of the agents was LaSlitherina Herself, the amazing and terrifying Barbara Poelle, and of course me.
Let's just say WE had a good time.
I'm not sure if any of the writers actually survived.
They are so very tasty.
This year something odd and interesting happened. I'm not sure why or how. I didn't plan it. It wasn't something I even thought about ahead of time. It just ... happened.
Here's what it was: the first writer sat down with all her papers and pens, hopes and fears. If I could read auras I think she'd be a throbbing rainbow.
"Hi," I said. "I'm Janet."
She told me her name.
"How can I help you today?" I asked.
She needed help on her query. She fumbled a bit, found the paper, had it in her hands.
In years past, I might have taken it from her hand, feigning grabbing it at to demonstrate my eagerness to read. I thought that would make the writer feel encouraged.
This year without much thought I just said "May I read it?"
She handed it to me.
I asked "May I make some suggestions?" and she said "Yes, please do." Of course, we were in a room specifically designed for help on queries, ie suggestions, and I would have been startled if she had said no.
But it was interesting to see she instantly seemed more calm and more in control.
By asking her permission, by giving her control of the interaction, she felt better.
Well, the heavens didn't open, and angels did not descend to sing my praises (and honestly if they had I would have fallen over dead with shock) but it did feel like a bit of an epiphany.
So I kept doing it. I didn't make a big deal about it. I just ... asked.
Now that I've slunk home from the bar, and had some time to think I really like this approach. I can't quite put my finger on why yet (I haven't had time enough to ruminate, cause I'm still trying to fumigate!) but I just thought I'd share this with you. [And that's cause I forgot to do a real blog post for today and I have to be back at T/fest today at 9am for Patrick Lee's panel. He's more of a night owl than I am, so two coffee IV poles will be wheeled in!]