Who Me?

Last night I made my first appearance as a public speaker since Speech 101 at Glendale Community College. My palms didn’t start getting damp until a few minutes before the 7 PM start time, something I attribute to my cold medicine.

Overall, my husband and sister (1) said I did well, even if I looked down too much and was slow to respond when the other panelists made jokes. Mostly I did this because I was sick and feeling sick and making eye contact with 25-30 strangers made me a tad uncomfortable. But I hope I fulfilled my goal to offer useful information (2). Entertaining and witty were beyond me, plus there were some very funny and vivacious panel members who more than picked up my slack.

What struck me the most was that people were actually there to hear what we (me) had to say. Mostly we offered up our own stories, how we found an agent, experiences with editors and for a couple of the already published authors, their takes on marketing and publicity. The moderator stressed many times that she didn’t want to be a downer, as there was a lot of talk on how difficult it is to get an agent and then land a publishing contract, but I think we were all very realistic, encouraging, but didn’t sugar coat the journey. After listening to how unusual our stories were, even I was surprised that I’ve gotten as far as I have. After all, there isn’t much that separates me from a seat on the panel and a seat in the audience (3).

Since we were realists we talked about advances (4) and the general consensus is a writer shouldn’t bank on a cushy life changing advance, news making deals not withstanding. Advances can fall anywhere from $1 to $1,000,000 but like my own agent said “We won’t know what we can get until they make an offer and then we can go from there.” It was good to hear that foreign rights can go a long way to making the investment of time in writing the book a little more profitable and then there are always movie rights. Being that the panel took place in L.A. movie rights were a hot topic (5).

Over all, I didn’t find the experience as nerve wracking as I thought I would, but then again there were three other very capable writers (6) on the panel along with me and the whole weight of the audience's expectations wasn't only on my shoulders. I’m sure when it comes time to start doing readings, my jitters will resurface, but I plan to be a lot more prepared just like I was way back in college.

(1) That I had to bring two people along for moral support should say a lot about how insecure I was about the whole thing.

(2) My plugging agentquery.com as the place to go for agent searches seemed to be popular most of the audience jotted it down

(3) Other then majoring in journalism and deciding I wanted to work as a writer, I have no qualifications, special talents or connections that gave me an “in” on the whole publishing world. I merely decided I wanted to write fiction as a career and have followed the logical steps to achieving that goal, with the first being to remain absolutely realistic about my chances to make some sort of a living as a fiction writer. As I told my husband during one of my more bleak times “It’s not like I want to be a dancer on Broadway.”

(4)Talking about money is very taboo. No one wants to admit how much or how little they’ve gotten. I’ve only told very good, non-book writing friends and family.

(5) All this talk about rights and options prompted me to send an email to my agent asking “Hey what about foreign rights and movie options?” Sometimes knowledge can be an annoying thing.

(6) Anna David, author of the May 2007 release THE AFTER PARTY from Regan Books, David Israel author of BEHIND EVERYMAN from Ballantine Books, Rachel Resnick GO WEST YOUNG FUCKED-UP CHICK from St. Martin’s Griffin and Aury Wallington author of many The O.C. novelizations and the upcoming POP.

Originally published on 05-03-06 on www.margocandela.com

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