After the Writers Conference: not taking advice
Contributor

The ability to attend the writer's conference in San Miguel de Allende was due to luck, fate, and determination coalescing at the same time. a willingness to invest in myself as a writer, to invest in my professional development. Anyway, I love Mexico, and to leave behind 20 below weather to be in sunshine was a blessing and worth every penny of the trip. The conference itself was spectacular, with inspiring speakers Calvin Trillin, Yann Martel, David Whyte, Laura Esquivel, and Ellen Bass, and workshops ranging from how to begin personal essays to how to up one's ratings on Amazon. The panel that included shewrites publisher Brooke Warner about new options in publishing was stellar.

Part of the conference package was two pitches to agents. With publication of two books of poetry and poetry and prose in national journals and anthologies, I was ready to pitch my memoirs and one of my novels. 

As I prepared the pitch of my memoir to Jeff Kleinman, I overheard how the market was saturated with memoir and no one was interested in another baby boomer's life story. I began my pitch by asking him what he thought and his response was, "It all depends on the writing. Good writing can be published." I gave the two minute elevator pitch: my memoir is about living communally for ten years. We took in the homeless, traveled around the world, and experienced miracles but as one person became more and more powerful, were disillusioned, betrayed and eventually broke up. It is a story of faith, grief, transformation and self-identity.

Jeff read a few lines from the pages I had brought (and this means in split seconds, he is the fastest reader I have ever witnessed) and made a couple of suggestions. Your writing is good but needs more show instead of tell in this section. Have it edited and send it to me, he suggested and gave me his card. 

As soon as I got home, I contacted an editor.

But here is where I lost my way. I had attended several workshops at the conference about how to create dynamic first pages and catch the attention of editors. My memoir begins with the influence of the '60s. I cut it. My style then became stilted and aimed at pleasing someone else, rather than authentic to my own voice and my way of story telling. 

My proposal came back with a very nice rejection letter. He said the idea is fascinating but he didn't "fall in love with the writing" as he had hoped.

Although disappointed, I am not sorry the proposal was rejected. It made me stop to take another look and do another rewrite. I do want the reader to know the back story of how the music of the times, the ideals of the times, the civil rights and anti-war rallies and protests affected me. 

Since then, I have sent it to a publisher, but one with a mission in alignment with my own. Of course I want to be commercially successful...if possible. But I don't want to ignore the reason I write: to build a bridge between us with story, to inspire, to share the journey of transformation. That it is possible to experience both miracles and betrayal, to lose one's way and get one self back. That we write to tell the story first to our own souls and then to the ears and hearts of the world. Jeff assured me I would find the right niche and I am confident I will, too.

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