Last weekend, we presented at the University of New Mexico Summer Writers’ Conference in Santa Fe. We heard great pitches; we met fantastic writers. One of those writers blogged about the conference and pitching David. Thanks to R.A. Schneider and Beyond Belief for allowing us to share UNM 2016: Counting Chickens.
It reads like a fairytale: A man, afraid of pursuing his dreams, takes a leap of faith toward them. He attends The University of New Mexico Summer Writers’ Conference in Santa Fe, on the wings of his wife’s benediction, “I just want you to be happy.”
The conference goes well; beyond his wildest dreams, in every aspect. Keynote speaker Sandra Cisneros reaches into his chest and wrests convulsive tears. Workshop peers share trust and experience with genuine good will.
Reactions to his workshop writing sample place him in a state of shock: “Real-Deal” “Killer” “Reminds me of Bernard Cooper.” “At its best, reminiscent of ‘Glass Castle’.” “Can you get a full draft ready for the Master Class next year?” Surreal.
Friday night holds one last opportunity to extend the enchantment: “Pitchapalooza.” Billed as the American Idol of the literary world, lucky writers’ (names drawn from a hat) have one minute to pitch their book idea to an expert panel. The winner receives, along with a critique of their pitch, a package of prizes including introduction to an agent; a gateway to book deals.
“Why not,” he thinks? Then he remembers Mary. She flies in to Albuquerque Friday at 6:45 PM, in the heart of Pitchapalooza’s time slot.
An epic dilemma. Conflict in act two?
There has to be a way to pitch and pick her up. Think! Ask Mary to sit in the Albuquerque airport for three hours while he pitches? She would not be happy. Wasting her night would be bad enough, but there’s no guarantee his name will be drawn from the hat. Worst and best case scenarios both fail. An airport shuttle? $145 one-way. That’s out. Light Rail? Last train leaves for Santa Fe before her touch-down. Damocles laughs.
Forced to choose priorities, the pitch must wait. “Besides,” he tells himself, “my writing’s not that good; delusions of grandeur.” He sleeps, resigned to missing Pitchapalooza, while preserving the happiness of she who makes him happiest.
Friday. The man shuffles to the hotel breakfast bar, with its promise of self-made waffles, over-ripe fruit, and guests in Crocs, or worse — bare feet. What kind of people come to a breakfast bar in bare feet? He scans up from the man’s wiggling toes, past ragged shorts and sleeveless faux-frat T-shirt with a mock coat of arms: “Reed College: “Atheism. Communism.Free Love.” Barefootie is writing in a composition book, making a public show like all the wannabe’s; like the man himself has done. His eyes come to rest on the face, the wild shock of gray hair. He has to say something.
Carpe mother-fucking Diem.
“Excuse me, but Could I e-mail a pitch to you? I can’t make it to Pitchapalooza tonight. I have to pick up my wife in Albuquerque at the same time, and marriage comes before art.”
David Sterry, co-inventor of Pitchapalooza and one half of “The Book Doctors,” puts his pen down and looks at the man. “Wow…sometimes the universe conspires against you, eh? But sure. Here’s my card.” The man begins to thank Sterry for the opportunity, turning to leave.
“So what’s your book about,” Sterry asks? The man stops dead, along with his heart, turning back.
“Seriously? You’ll let me pitch you?” He sits and pitches. It’s a flawed pitch. It’s a spiked change-up, a slider in the dirt, but he completes it in the allotted minute.
Sterry sits back, rakes his fingers through his electric mane, and exhales, eyes bugging…”Whoooo! That’s a hell of a story! That’s something one of the major houses would be interested in, if you can get it right. That’s got a lot of ‘Running With Scissors’ to it.”
Always an if. A huge if. Twenty-five years of “What if?”
But this is the second time this week published memoirists have looked him in the eye and said this: Potential for major publishing-house interest. If. Twice more the man tries to rise and thank the Book Doctor, attempting to minimize the breakfast imposition.
“No, wait…let me tell you how to fix the pitch.” Sterry spends 10 minutes teaching, more than the five minutes promised at Pitchapalooza, finishing with this: “…and when you’ve perfected the pitch, get it to me. Memoirs are our specialty… we have a huge network of agents, and it’s in our best interests to make you as successful as we can.”
The shock has returned. The man stands, shakes Sterry’s hand, and walks away to prepare for the last day of workshop. The magical, the enchanting University of New Mexico Summer Writers’ Conference. He warms to the thought of meeting his wife at the gate.
Sometimes the universe conspires with you. He is happy, and he will return. No “if.”
Here are just some of the testimonials we’ve gotten from Pitchapalooza. We’ve loved every second of it. Thanks America!
I am still resonating from the experience. — Larry Kirshbaum
I just wanted to drop you both a quick note to tell you how much I enjoyed the event last night. You two are incredible! I learned so much and just thought it was tremendous.
I’m so glad I could be there and meet you in-person, as well. Thank you again, so much, for extending this awesome event to our participants and including us in such a smart, beneficial, and fun project. You’re stars! — Lindsey Grant, NaNoWriMo Program Director
I wanted to thank you for a very inspiring afternoon at Kepler’s. Thanks for showing me the different components of a perfect pitch. I’ve done tons of query letter writing in my years as a freelancer but this one-minute pitch was daunting. But I told myself that the point was to go and have a good time and that’s what I did. — Kalpana Mohan, Pitchapalooza winner, Kepler’s
I wasn’t sure what to expect when went to Kepler’s last Sunday, but I thought the Pitchapalooza was amazing, and I hope to attend another one or one of your workshops in the future. The positive energy combined with the constructive feedback helped me feel energized and ready to continue working towards polishing my craft. I have a page full of notes from the Pitchapalooza and will continue to consult them as I write new query letters and pitches. Thank you for putting together such an amazing event and resource. I’m looking forward to speaking with you. — Jessica Bayliss
Pitchapalooza is a great concept. Fledgling authors get the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of literary experts who provide instant feedback. Not only was Pitchapalooza entertaining–some “pitchers” are funny and have great senses of humor–but participants get a chance to meet “neighbors” and discuss their book ideas with them as well. All in all, Pitchapalooza is a wonderful opportunity for average folks to learn if their book ideas have merit. — Murray Sabrin
Thank you for your appearance at Kepler’s a few weeks ago. I chickened out of pitching my book-in-progress but I learned so much from the experience and met some other wonderful fellow writers. — Samantha Rajaram
I LOVED it! I spent six months and paid $1,000 to get a fraction of the publishing wisdom you dished out in a few hours for 17 bucks. Beyond entertaining! Arielle and David were charming, hilarious and wise. You had fun, so we had fun. I learned something from every pitch and every panel response, even though you didn’t call my number. And … you softened the blow for those of us who didn’t pitch with your surprise announcement that we’d ALL get a chance to have you weigh in on our proposals … for FREE! Thrilling! I loved the energy in the room — yours and my fellow authors’. You captured the, “American Idol for Aspiring Authors,” vibe I had read about… I appreciated the clearly communicated, fast-paced, tightly enforced format. I appreciated how thoughtfully you assembled your panel; panelists brought insights from vast but varied experience… You and the panelists didn’t pull punches, but no one left with a “black eye” from too-brutal feedback. I considered it a fantastic event… — Kelly Standing
Pitchapalooza made my book go from the realm of the desirable to that of the possible. It was exciting to see so many other people wrestling with many of the same issues that I’m confronting, and getting to pitch my book forced me to confront this one obvious fact: yes, I can do it. And not only can I do it, but I should, and now. So, the experience inspired me. Thanks, Book Doctors! — Nathan
The enthusiasm of David and Arielle, from the beginning and throughout the event, was contagious. They did an amazing job at setting everyone’s nervous minds at ease immediately. I felt a definite camaraderie with the others “pitchers” as each stood bravely to try their hand at their one minute pitch. The genuine, attentive and thorough feedback from the panel was impressive. I took a few pages of notes from the critiques given and I learned something from each pitch and comment. The 17-second-recited-in-unison pitch by David and Arielle was entertaining. — Michele Dutcher
Pitchapalooza was highly entertaining and as nerve-wracking as the thunderstorm going on outside the tent as I waited to see if my name would be called. I learned a lot. It was my first experience with doing a pitch and it was incredibly helpful to listen to the specific feedback everyone was given…including feedback given to me. — Bev Smith
Since civilization began, we’ve been climbing the walls to get our stories told. This husband and wife team rocks the Kasbah! Arielle and David have turned today’s science of book publishing on its head by teaching us the art of enjoying the ride. They delete the daunting and magnify the doable, so that everyone wins. .How did they manage to write a whole Bible yet have it be such a fun read? By quantum leaps, The Essential Guide to Getting your Book Published inspires me forward and grows more valuable every day. — PM Kearns
Pitchapalooza is the most fun I’ve ever had in a bookstore. The two of you work together like a comedy team, and your advice is succinct, insightful, and encouraging. I left Pitchapalooza with an autographed copy of your new book (definitely worth buying for the new information) and with concrete ideas on how to improve my pitch and market my book. Thank you again for sharing your time and talent. — Lee Wilson
The Pitchapalooza was GREAT!! I was very entertained. It was a first time experience for me as I am quite new to the writing and publishing world. The process was interesting and impressive. I enjoyed first the positive, encouraging manner that you all began with leading into the needs or more accolades. And of course many of the pitches were amazing. — Regena Walters
Thank you so much for the highly entertaining and informative pitch session at the Northvale book store this afternoon. Your feedback on my very rough pitch about raising a child with autism was invaluable. — Laura McKenna
I thoroughly enjoyed attending your Pitchapalooza, even though I was nervously anticipating my turn to pitch. The event was entertaining as many of the authors were gifted performers and all of them were passionate about their work. One of the authors even argued with the judges which gave it an American Idol flavor. Your panel of judges was very knowledgeable and had a wide variety of expertise which they passed along and which I found invaluable. I hope you make this an annual event! — Kristin Oakley
I had the pleasure of hearing you both at the DIY Author’s Conference luncheon yesterday. The Pitchapalooza later that afternoon was great fun and very informative. — Bobbi Hahn
I loved your book. I read it over a couple of day’s time and learned a lot from it. As far as the pitchapalooza went, its been very useful because not only did I learn how to do a pitch but also how NOT to do it. Confidence is a big factor in pitching. Knowing your pitch upside down, inside out and backwards is a MUST and NOT giving away too much of the plot seems to be the smarter way to go. — Renee Gibbons
I enjoyed the event; it was interesting to hear what other writers are working on. Plus, to get the mesh of the writer’s personality with their ideas was entertaining. Usually you only get the words on paper, no actual personality of the writer before you. Evaluating a “pitch” is far different than evaluating the actual work. However, in this harried world, poor authors probably only get a minute for consideration — or not. So perfecting the pitch is a necessity. — Liz Gruder
I wanted to personally thank you for putting on the PitchaPalooza for books. It was a last minute Daddy-Daughter gig for us. Katie listened intently to the 20 pitches prior to hers and took in the advice you gave. You both inspired her to finish her manuscript. Again, thanks for writing your book and holding your seminars. The ripple effect of your genuine enthusiasm for the written word coupled with an “honorable mention” in your contest lifted the wings of a budding ten year old blond author. — Allan Mishra
I attended the Pitchapalooza this past week and loved it (despite the fact that I didn’t actually get to pitch!) Listening to all of the writers, and the panel’s incredible feedback, was worth the cost of babysitting. Warm regards. — Deb Levy
Pitchapaolooza was fantabulous—full of theater, zany humor and most of all the insightful tips from The Experts: David, Arielle and their stable of experienced agents. The book itself is extremely well written and so packed full of vital information that, I found, it has to be read and digested over several weeks time. For the writer with chops, The Essential Guide is a blueprint for success. — Peter Hensel
Pitchapalooza was so much fun! It truly proved everyone has a story to tell. I learned a lot and came away with several gold nuggets of useful information. — Robert Skead
I really enjoyed your seminar and I am really enjoying your book! What I liked about it was you all gave really good, valuable feedback that all of the attendees could use on their own pitch. So even though I didn’t get to pitch, I feel like my pitch is now 100 times more powerful! — Anthony Fasano
I was not selected to pitch at the Kansas City Pitchapalooza, but I still found it an entertaining and enlightening experience. Attending Pitchapalooza helped me conclude that my hundreds of hours of work and late nights were worthwhile and now I am working towards presenting my ideas to others. — Courtney Privett
Your Pitchapalooza innovation is such a heartening service for the literary future. You are inspirng the birth of what has been feared to be an endangered species, the published author. — Ann Rasmussen
I thought Pitchapalooza was a very unique approach to getting people energized about writing and publishing their book. The selling of the event as an American Idol for writers was a great way to describe the experience. It was entertaining but also frightening for those of us who either weren’t expecting to get up in front of such a large crowd. Another positive was getting accessibility to both of you who are willing to give honest feedback. — Andre Logan
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You folks are a traveling feast! What a simmering soup of ideas you served up for aspiring authors. Especially refreshing were the humor, empathy and the kindness of your comments. How deftly you kept the mood inviting and comfortable for all. Thank you for sharing your talents with us. I am lovin’ every page ofThe Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published! — Patty Kearn, OK
You provided a lot of positive yet helpful critiques. I think it is a great opportunity for a new writer to get direct feedback and an opportunity to work with an agent, which in my case is the most difficult part. The event was certainly entertaining, and if I had the opportunity to attend again, I most certainly would. — Glenn Snyder
The Pitchapalooza was absolutely wonderful. I loved listening to other people pitch their books, and while your advice was specific to each pitch, it was very applicable to every aspiring author. I learned a lot just by listening to what you guys had to say. My only complaint is that it went by so quickly! Thanks so much. — Rebecca Coppage
I really enjoyed Pitchapalooza. It gave me some insight to things that I would not have otherwise thought about regarding my own book and my pitch. It was entertaining and informative. — Scott McCulloch
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learned a lot. It was a wonderful event. — Kristin Oakley
Pitchapalooza was part lecture hall, part rock concert. — Lonita Cook