Susan’s Inside Writing: More Conference Gleanings


The last post was getting too long, so here’s more…

Best Yo-yo adventures: So I ran into Alex Glass while drooling over Jenny Bent‘s iPad. This was first thing Friday morning. He didn’t know the way to the elevators that would take him to the third floor for his first pitch session. So I walked him over. Chatted with him.

I left him at the elevator and went to hear Jenny’s way cool panel on contracts. At the end, as I was about to run to my room and get the goodie bag for Jennifer Jackson, I heard Jenny say she didn’t know where she was headed, since she had to pitch. I told her to wait for me while I ran and got the goodie bag. Then I walked Jenny up to the pitch rooms.

That was trip two.

I came downstairs, intending to find Alex’s panel on literary fiction. Only, I charged right past the room and was headed toward the hospitality suite when I noticed a very unassuming looking woman. I confessed I had missed the room my panel was in. She said she was lost: she needed to get upstairs for pitch sessions.

What the hell, I figured. I’ve already only been to that elevator twice and it’s not like I know where I’m going anyway. So I told this woman I’d show her to the elevators.

As we were walking, it dawned on me that I ought to be polite and ask her who she was pitching to. She said she wasn’t pitching. “Oh, so you’re keeping time?”

She said, “Nooo…. There’s a third job up there.”

I counted on my fingers. Couldn’t think of the third job. She knew she had me, but when I told her I was stumped, she was almost embarrassed to admit she was an agent. My mind went EVEN BLANKER, if that’s possible.

Now remember, I’d met Alex and Jenny and Jennifer already. That meant this was … oh, SHIT. The woman I’d been Twittering with about her stuffed octopus the past two days.

She was even more abashed to say her name (Janet Reid, if you haven’t guessed), but as soon as she did, she saw my jaw drop and she knew we knew each other. “I’m Susan Gottfried, of West of Mars,” I said.

We laughed the whole way up the elevator. In the chaos of the hallway, I presented Janet loudly (hey, it was a bit after 10:30 in the morning. You should be awake by then!) and took off running.

And found Alex’s panel, where I became quite the question-asker, to the point he asked ME if I was on the Pennwriters staff or something, because I was keeping things moving.

The point of all this? Don’t EVER be shy about walking up to people and engaging them in conversation. You never know who you’ll be talking to.

Most gratifying moment: stealing a quiet moment with Janet and giving her the formal invite to return to our conference next year in Pittsburgh — and hearing how impressed she was with the entire group. Professional, polished, with great ideas and ready to go forward toward success. When someone like Janet Reid says that, you know it’s real. She’s a bit … stingy with her praise.

The I Can’t Believe I Did it moment: Seeing that Alex Glass had no intentions of handing the cordless mic to Janet and jumping out of my moderator’s chair, swiping the mic, and running it to the other end of the table to hand off. Don’t tell my sports med guy about the short sprint, okay?

The She did NOT just say that moment: dinner with Janet and the rest of the Mary Roberts Rinehart Sisters in Crime. Janet said something I won’t repeat. And something else I won’t repeat.

In fact, I am carrying a lot of secrets home from this conference. Don’t ask what they are. I’m not spilling.

Now, about my Sisters in Crime group: These ladies were every bit as cool as I knew they would be. Having not just one but two (I made Jennifer join us, as well) top literary agents join us for dinner would be enough to make even a cucumber lose its cool. These ladies in my chapter are NOT vegetables, boys and girls.

And a special shout-out to Joyce for extending the initial invite to Janet. She got there first. I just refused to accept that Janet wouldn’t join us.

The Moment I went Fangirl: While looking up Jennifer Jackson’s web address to link to it, I realized one of her clients is the Tour Manager’s favorite writer.

The One I Pulled on Jennifer: Telling her the Tour Manager’s real name. He shares a name with a famous dude (who she knows, which I expected) instantly. Her face was priceless.

The Hey, You Didn’t Have to do that, but Thanks! Award goes to Leis Pederson and David Pomerico, both of whom excused themselves from other conversations to tell me they appreciated the job I’d done as moderator of the editor’s panel. THAT alone would have made my weekend, without all the other stuff.

The This May Not Come Off as Intended Experience: I was laughing that after that intro to Jenny, Alex, and Janet, I kept an eye on them, as well as on Jennifer (who proclaimed me a most excellent stalker, I might add). Even though Alex, Jenny, and Janet had their own conference-goers to keep an eye on them, I seemed to be doing a lot of it.

Which was fine. What wasn’t fine was any implication anyone may read into it that the other three volunteers weren’t up to snuff. SO not true. Those three agents … they just needed a bit of extra extra attention and I found that with my background in the music biz (at least the radio, stage crew and promotion parts), keeping half an eye on the talent comes second nature. Besides, when the talent pulls a proverbial Spinal Tap and can’t find the proverbial stage, it makes the organization look bad. I’ll gladly chip in to help keep the Pennwriters organization as stellar (or better) than it already is.

And if you follow Janet’s Tweets, you may have seen this one: @WestofMars I’m attaching myself to you for PennWriters 2011 conference!

Again, the other PennPals were great. But you know what? They are there to attend the conference, themselves. To go to panels and mix with other writers. I mean, so am I, but you guys know me. Spending the whole time hanging out and chatting would have been every bit as fine as attending the panels (and that’s saying a LOT. I did not think a single one was anything less than great. Although I wish Ramona had had more time to really get into the meat of short stories.).

So. Onward to 2011, May 12 through 14 in Pittsburgh.

I KNOW you’re not surprised to hear I’ve already volunteered to run the PennPal program for next year. Go figure.



  1. Robin of My Two Blessings

    May 18, 2010 1:14 pm

    Sounds like an awesome conference and you made some great connections.
    .-= Robin of My Two Blessings´s last blog ..The Killing of Mindi Quintana by Jeffrey Cohen =-.

  2. Mariana N. Blaser

    May 20, 2010 1:07 pm

    Way to go Susan! It sounds that you’ll be agented soon if you keep up with the great connections. All you need now is a killing query letter, heh. 😉
    .-= Mariana N. Blaser´s last blog ..#FridayFlash – What’s It Like? =-.

  3. Alice Audrey

    May 20, 2010 1:13 pm

    Wow, you are having such a great convention!
    .-= Alice Audrey´s last blog ..13 Places to Sleep =-.

  4. Shelley Munro

    May 25, 2010 4:43 am

    Wow, you had a great time, didn’t you?
    .-= Shelley Munro´s last blog ..Radical Action to Limit Internet Time =-.

  5. Julia Smith

    May 29, 2010 5:45 pm

    Rock on!
    .-= Julia Smith´s last blog ..Weekend Writer’s Retreat – 9 =-.

  6. Anna

    June 4, 2010 8:50 am

    Awesome post! What a great experience for you.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..The BEA Post, or I Need Another Vacation to Recover From This Vacation! =-.

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