Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Queries, Conferences, and Canada’s Got Talent


          Recently I accompanied my good friend, Eva Turkoni, to try out for Canada’s Got Talent, in Vancouver. Ironic, since next month she is coming to Surrey with me, where I’ll be attending the Surrey International Writer’s conference. It appears we are “moral support” buddies. Someone to celebrate with, or a shoulder to cry on if it all goes terribly wrong.  The “Canada’s Got Talent” experience was mostly one of waiting. We got there just after 8:00am and proceeded to sit in a long line up (Or “queue” as Eva puts it) filled with the hopeful, and the crazy. We got to hear quite a bit of “talent” as we sat there snarfing our breakfast.
Many contestants were warming up their voices, some were good, some I would compare to the sound of a disturbed child torturing a number of stray cats. We met quite a few interesting people. A “big band” singer, who at first stood in awkward nervousness, fiddling with the cuffs of his pinstripe suite, until he realized we didn’t bite, and opened up, proving to be a nice sort of fellow, a suave magician, who dulled the pain of the long wait with a number of mysterious and baffling card tricks, and a tall, rather loud man who did impressions so astonishingly accurate, that people were ducking down and casting their eyes to the ceiling as he made bird noises.
At last we entered a second room, where Eva had to stand in yet another “queue”, and I joined a triad of nervous mothers waiting for their kids to finish the auditions. About 90% of the people that tried out in Vancouver were singers, so much so, that the news cameras were trolling around looking for any other sort of talent to film.  I was asked several times, what my talent was, to which I replied “nothing” or “my talent is supporting the talent”. In truth, my talent would be thoroughly unimpressive on a show like “Canada’s Got Talent”. Nobody wants to see someone stand there and read a story, or, as my sister suggested, just sit on stage and read a book (and she didn’t mean out loud). Of course, I still got a picture with the “Canada’s Got Talent” sign, even if that makes me a bit of a faker.
            So many nervous, excited people waiting around in one room! It got me thinking about waiting to see Suzie Townsend at the writer’s conference. I’ve heard you have to stand and wait out in a hallway, or that it’s in a huge room full of people sitting at tables (speed dating style) and that you can barely hear one another. None of that makes me feel any less nervous, but I guess it’s better than what I was secretly picturing in my mind.  I had this mental picture of Suzie Townsend, sitting like a literary queen on some huge throne, crushing insignificant little writer’s dreams under her heel, like a winemaker crushes grapes. In my mind she looked something like the ice queen or “white witch” from Narnia, beautiful and terrible, casting down cold judgment on those who trembled before her. Of course, I realize that’s ridiculous. A pitch session is a business meeting, nothing more. It’s me, pitching a novel to her, to see if she would be interested in trying to sell that novel. There will be no throne, and no ice queen. She will not smite me if I stumble over my words. There will be no smiting.
Right now I’m struggling to format a perfect query letter, since every piece of advice I have come across says not to put all your eggs in one basket, (if you happen to fall on your face and break all the eggs, you have backup). So I’ve been trying to write a perfect query letter to send to other agents as well, before I head out for the conference. So far…it’s frustrating. It’s like saying, “Okay writer, you’ve just finished your 100k novel, good job. Now compress it down into one page, and make it perfect. Go.”  Erm…..
            I figure I’ll write one, and let my wonderful editor, Angela Cragg, take a look at it to make sure I’m not making a complete idiot of myself before  I send it. I hope to write the perfect query letter, one that makes the agent say: “Sweet Jesus’ beard! It’s two in the morning, but I MUST read this book! Email me the entire manuscript without delay!”  
In closing, for those that are wondering about my friend’s rise to stardom, Eva will hear back from Canada’s Got Talent in October. So now, it’s a waiting game. There are few things similar in the writing and music industry, but waiting for the payoff is definitely one of them.

       "Your pitch disgusts me, sniveling mortal."

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