Within the past few months I’ve received more than 150 pitches for guest posts on Write Naked. I typically schedule one guest blogger per month. There is a backlog of queries and contributors. This means if you pitch me now and I accept, you won’t be posted until November. However, when I received Kimberly Bunker’s pitch in late February about her forthcoming time at the New York Pitch Conference, I decided to squeeze her in between our March guest blogger on freelance quiet periods, and another contributor’s day-in-the-life post this April on balancing the trifecta: Freelance work, a full-time job, and evening classes.
Today’s contributor, Kimberly, had the opportunity to attend the NY Pitch Conference last week and shares her (super exciting!) experience below. Among many other accolades, she is the first place winner of Glimmer Train‘s Very Short Fiction Contest and will receive her MFA in Fiction from St. Joseph’s college this spring. Oh – and she freelances too!
Day in the Life at the New York Pitch Conference
By Kimberly Bunker
In March I attended the New York Pitch Conference in Manhattan – a four-day event that brings writers face-to-face with editors from major publishing houses such as Penguin Random House and Berkley. Writers come from around the world to practice their pitch – and to entice the editor to request their manuscript.
6:45 am: Wake up at my friend Susanna’s, where I’m staying for the weekend. Deep breaths as I make coffee and oatmeal and try to quell my racing nerves.
Today is what the NYPC staff call “American Idol Day” – the day we pitch to two editors. My goal is to come away with one editor request.
9:40 am: Get off the subway at Penn Station. I actually feel calm. I can do this.
9:45 am: Step out of the elevator. Calmness turns to abject nervousness.
9:46 – 10:45 am: Wait, pacing, hands wringing, for my turn.
One great thing about this conference is that during the pitch, all you do is read from your paper – there’s no song and dance – and the staff really makes sure you’re prepared. We spent all Thursday workshopping our pitches with Susan Breen, a literary angel who helped turn my verbal sandstorm into a coherent synopsis, complete with hook and sinker (I hope). Yesterday, we met with the first editor, then revised our pitches further. By today, mine feels pretty solid.
Also, as I wait, I’m surrounded by my wonderful colleagues of Group C. (There are 4 groups, categorized loosely by genre, of about 12-15 people each.) By now, I’ve gotten to know them a bit, and I just know that each of them will get requested. They’re bright, astute, compassionate, and brilliantly talented. I feel like the odd one out.
10:45 am: Here I go. My voice shakes. Thankfully Susan is here, sitting next to the editor, to make sure we don’t embarrass ourselves too much.
“My name is Kimberly Bunker, and I’ve written an 80,000-word upmarket novel…”
I read it. The editor says thank you. I leave.
10:52 am: Wait to hear the results. It impossible to know what she thought. We of Group C agree.
1:45 pm: Susan informs us that the editor requested every single manuscript from our group. This is unheard of—usually they ask for 2 or maybe 3.
1:46 pm: Process the information that an editor wants to read my manuscript.
1:47 pm: Celebrate by texting everyone I know.
2:15 pm: Second pitch. Same as the first. More nerves, more waiting.
3:00 pm: Group C reconvenes. Susan congratulates us for our collective “win” of the first pitch, then reads the names the second editor chose.
I am busy composing my face into gracious excitement for the Chosen ones, sure I am not one of them – when she calls my name.
For the second time today, I am unconvinced that I’m not dreaming.
3:45 pm: Susan explains our next steps: finish our manuscripts, contact the editors, and query agents. My mind reels just hearing these things. Until now, those were things “real” writers did. Not me.
It’s funny—with every goal I accomplish, the same thing happens. First, it feels impossible. Something inside me says, “Someone else can do it, but not me.” But I start working toward it anyway. Then, once it’s done, I think, “If I can do it, it must not be a big deal.” And I look ahead to the next goal, and believe it to be even more impossible than the one behind me. And so on.
9:00 pm: Something’s different about this one, though. I lie in Susanna’s bed, savoring the news I received today. I am jazzed. I am drained. I am terrified. There is still so much work to do. But I knew coming into this what I wanted – and I did it.
Kimberly Bunker is currently living in upstate New York while she finishes both her novel and her MFA from St. Joseph’s College. Recently, her short story “Number 41” was published in Glimmer Train as the first prize winner of their Very Short Fiction Contest, and her story “Pieces of Art” will be published this summer in The Story Plant’s Authors First Anthology. Also a freelance writer, she is currently ghostwriting a memoir. When she’s not writing, reading, or pitching her novel, she is trying a new vegan recipe or learning moves in the aerial silks. Follow her on Twitter @kimberly_mb