Sunday, January 31, 2010

The First Pitch

Back in the sixties, there weren't a lot of opportunities to play organized sports for girls. Hell, when I was in elementary school, girls weren't even allowed to wear pants to school. Seriously, we had to resort to wearing shorts under our dresses if we wanted to climb the monkey bars. In fifth grade, I had that most rare of elementary experiences, a male teacher. Mr. Parker introduced us to many unusual activities, but the one I remember best was softball.

Now, my Mom was always a big baseball fan, and believe me, being a Dodger fan in Los Angeles in the early sixties was a lot of fun. I'd listened to a lot of baseball on the radio, seen some games on television, and even been fortunate enough to go to some games at Chavez Ravine. None of that prepared me for the first time I held a bat in my hand and Mr. Parker threw a big fat softball my way.

I'd been the last one picked for the team, I'd played the sixth outfielder, stuck out on the asphalt, in case any balls got through, and I was the last one to bat before recess was over. We all knew what was going to happen, before I even picked up the bat. I selected the lightest of the big wooden bats, swung it experimentally, and smacked myself in the ankle while I was walking to home plate.

Just to make sure we all knew what was happening, Mr. Parker called out the situation to everyone… "Two outs, bases loaded, her team is down by one run, and Laura is our last batter." Swell.

I got into what I thought was the correct position, hefted the bat onto my shoulder, and stared out at Mr. Parker, full of determination.

He threw the first pitch; I closed my eyes and swung for all I was worth.

No one was more surprised than I was when, with a resounding crack, my bat somehow made contact with the ball, and it sailed over the shortstop's head.

I ran as fast as I could, my teammates cheering, as each runner on base crossed home plate and scored. The score was now tied, and I was rounding third, headed for home.

This weekend, the agents at Caren Johnson Literary Agency hosted an open pitch invitational on their website. Each author had 100 words or less to pitch their book, with the promise of feedback and some on-the-spot offers to submit their work. I found out about the invitational a scant hour before the deadline. Having never seen a pitch before, and only read about submitting queries to an agent, I knew I was unprepared to play. Did that stop this intrepid blogger? Of course not! I closed my eyes and swung hard at that first pitch.

It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about the art of securing an agent, about the importance of finding the right agent for your work, and about the wretched state of some of the competition. I also learned that really good ideas get turned down for a lot of reasons: poorly constructed pitch, not in the agent's area of interest, timing and the market, or the vagaries of personal taste.

So, in my first, rather playful foray into the world of securing an agent, I received the following feedback, "This is too long for a romance. I'm going to pass."

I struck out.

The important thing though, was I played. Even though I wasn't quite ready, I got out there and tried, did my best with what I had, learned from my mistakes, and vowed to do better the next time. Wow, those sports analogies really fit sometimes.

Oh, and for those of you left wondering about my first at bat…I crossed home plate ahead of the ball.

Till next time,



Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Greatest Gift

What do famous authors say when asked how someone could become a writer? They pretty much all say the same thing…If you want to be a writer- you have to write. I don't know about you, but that advice never helped me very much. It sounded good, in theory, but the reality of it stunk. Exactly what are you supposed to do with that giant sheet of white in front of you? I shifted writing to my "Someday List," and got on with life.

Imagine my surprise when I woke, the day after Christmas, 2008, with a compulsion to sit at my laptop and write. We had a house full of guests and the usual holiday chaos reigned, yet I ignored it all and grabbed my laptop. Sometime in the night, I'd received the world's best gift: an epic tale of paranormal romance, sprinkled with smutty goodness. Not just one book, mind you, but a series of several books, fully populated with a cast of characters, magick, Druids, and shape shifters.

It didn't matter that it wasn't "my" genre, what did matter was there was now a young woman, Elena MacFarland, living in my head, insisting on having her story told, and told her way. Who was I to argue? I started writing. A year later, I'm still at it, writing every day, and listening to an increasing number of voices in my head.

It has been quite an adventure, join me as I recount some of my favorite character moments, explore the world of publishing, and continue to speak for the voices in my head…