Hollywood for the Socially Awkward
I’m a writer for a reason. Well, a number of reasons, I guess. But one of the main ones is that I like staying in my jammies all day and talking to people I invent in my head. But with THE FAITHFUL republished last fall and the sequel coming out early this summer, I knew the time had come to push away from my desk, put on some grownup clothes, and try not to be too socially awkward with the other humans.
Sisters in Crime, an outstanding organization to which I belong, was hosting a conference at Universal City aimed at teaching writers the ins and outs of “the biz.” When they announced it I signed up immediately—almost on a whim. And because I was so speedy, I ended up being one of the few chosen to pitch my novel to a Hollywood exec. This caused a faint stir of anxiety, I’ll admit. I’d already been feeling the trepidation any introvert feels when suddenly exposed, pale and blinking, to the world of social interaction—but talking to some Hollywood exec about my work was screaming distance from my comfort zone.
Well, inevitably, the first day of the conference arrived. I was pitching that afternoon. Thank goodness the first speaker of the day was Pam Veasey, an Emmy nominated writer currently working on CSI: Cyber. She gave a great talk on the art of the pitch, and I took notes like my life depended on it. I’m pretty sure it did. Afterward, those of us scheduled to pitch were brought to a separate room to get some help. My group was lucky enough to get Pam. She was amazing, listening as we bumbled our way through our pitches and giving extraordinary advice on how to improve them.
Any of you who have read THE FAITHFUL know it’s a complex book, with multiple characters and storylines that eventually come together. My biggest challenge was trying to find a way to describe it in less than five minutes, in a way that not only made sense but also sounded interesting. So here’s where I’d gotten on my own:
“Uhhhhhh … so … I wrote this book?” Followed by an awkward silence.
Brilliant, right? I thought so. Well, okay. Maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but I did ramble a bit and Pam cut the nonsense and gave me several key points to hit upon. Soooooo grateful!
Five minutes can feel like an eternity, or it can flash by in seconds. My five minutes was like a lighting bolt. I’d been told to watch for my handler, who would return to the room to signal that my time was up. Being a true Canadian, I got so worried I’d inconvenience someone by talking too long that I spent half the pitch checking the door behind me, just to make sure. It may have made me look a wee bit twitchy, come to think of it.
The man I pitched to is the founder of a very successful production company, and he’s been involved in projects like Spider Man and Guns, Girls and Gambling, to name a couple. Gulp. But he was very kind and attentive, he asked to keep a copy of my book, and I didn’t feel like I was dying a slow, painful death. I flew from the meeting with the same relief I imagine those wasps feel when my husband saves them from drowning in our pool.
The rest of the conference was truly amazing and informative, and I got over my social awkwardness enough to meet some amazing authors. So much talent in one room, it was inspiring!
I came home with a renewed sense of excitement for the job I’m fortunate enough to do, and I’m more in love with Hollywood than ever. What strange magic! I hope to be back very, very soon.
Thank you, Sisters in Crime! It was outstanding.