Monthly Archives: May 2013

Newbie Writer Podcast Guest Carly Findlay

Thank you Carly Findlay at carlyfindlay.blogspot.com for being a great guest on Newbie Writers.  She had a few bits of advice for bloggers:

  • Just start writing
  • Stay with it

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend

    Gouger Cellars Grand Opening this Weekend which has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with wine

  • Write about what you like
  • Don’t let it become a chore
  • Sign up for social media
  • A writing career is 40 percent marketing, so  use social media
  • If you are using twitter, a strategy is to be considered a   trusted source, so people follow you  in order to get the information they need.
  • And of course, the twitter and the facebook and the linked in all direct followers to your blog!

And if you want to know if your book has what it takes,

Contact me for your complimentary consultation and book – Start Your Book Now

Bramkamp@yahoo.com

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Why listen to me? From an abortive interview on blog talk radio

 

I agreed to an interview on a blog talk podcast.  The podcaster was just beginning to get the hang of podcasting, and I’m happy to help fledging efforts.

Except the show was double booked.

I phoned in, and the host greeted me, then proceeded to interview someone else entirely, leaving me in that limbo where you don’t know if you should check out, mute and feed the dog, or butt in.

I listened for half hour and was never acknowledged.

The dog went hungry.Tulip Tree

What went wrong?

If you want to create a podcast about your book, go for it.  But I anticipate that you may get bored just talking to yourself, so you’ll want to invite guests, just to liven up your hour or half hour podcast.

Once you incorporate guests, you must also incorporate that most complex organization system known to writers – the calendar.  Keep track of your guests.  And while you’re at it, keep track of their information and emails.

Newbie Writers Podcast uses a Google Calendar so my partner Damien can  see what I’ve scheduled without asking.

Send a confirmation to your guests a few days ahead of time, it helps them remember and helps YOU remember who’s calling into the podcast.

That said, have a few back up shows you can implement  in case the guest bails.

In a blog talk environment, you don’t have timing control so have a clear idea of what you want to hear from the guest, and keep to one theme or subject.

In my case during this blog talk podcast, the first guest took up the whole half hour show time, which was not necessarily a problem, but if that happen,  send a quick note right at that moment to apologize to the silent guest and re schedule.

I had a situation where my partner over slept because his time change in Australia (from Fall to Winter) occurs during a different week than the CA time change (from Winter to Spring).  Our guest was ready to interview at exactly 3:30 and couldn’t wait and talk at a later time.   We simply cancelled   and I immediately re-scheduled the guest.

Guests do spend time organizing their thoughts and making room in their schedule to talk with you.  Do be conscious of their time; it’s professional and polite.

Conversely, last week my partner developed a hideous cold, plus the scheduled guest wrote and asked if we could interview him at 6:00 PM PDT instead of 4:00 PDT.  Nope.  We too are on a schedule.  So if your guest can’t accommodate the times of your show, it’s perfectly okay to firmly and nicely say no and either reschedule or realize that this guest may not work out.

In this business sometimes it’s you, and sometimes it’s me.

I’m thinking it’s mostly you.

 

Sign into the live feed during the Newbie Writers Podcast – Friday, 4:00 PM PDT.

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In Despair

Typewriter IrelandIn despair about your novel?  Come join my pity party.

I have a novel, I have the rough, rough first draft – created during NaNoWriMo.  And I was delighted with it, it was, of course, brilliant and interesting and insightful.

Then I began thinking about it.

  • I thought about it while watching Back to The Future for the 55th time.
  • I thought about it while creating blogs (there is a lovely, deadline based – immediacy to blogging).
  • I thought about it while cleaning the house.

When I   collapse on the couch and choose to watch  Back to the Future again, am I lazy or researching?

When I wander around the house muttering about dust, am I wasting time or considering the complex plot points that are apparently  more complex than necessary, or  am I wasting more time?

When I blog about writing a book, does that count as “real” writing?

Does thinking about the book  count as writing the book?

We all ask these questions as we push and pull and examine our forming plots like ameba under a microscope. Sometimes I think If I leave the little creatures alone in their dish, they will morph into something interesting without help or even further observation on my part.

This is the hope.

When I was younger, I could never understand the idea of an author taking ten years to create their book and story.  Now I get it.

It’s easy to think about my book as it is to make excuses:   I have to teach at night and am too tired to write.  I have to diet and now I’m too hungry to write.  I’m cranky because my brother is visiting from out of town, I’m busy wishing my sibling would return from where he came.  I must let the dog out. I must pick up after the dog.

I’m good at this.

What can we do when we are circling, circling   around our imagined book, not writing but slowing walking a maze, withe the work at the center.  Thinking is good – I’m a big fan of thinking.

But I also know, even as I walk a maze, that walking and thinking are poor substitutes for actually putting something – anything – down on paper.

  • So I sat down and created about a minute of dialogue.
  • Then I sat down and described one scene.
  • Then I realized that the heroine needed to be in more danger.  So I described the danger.

Did writing this blog put off the writing the story?  You bet.

Just wanted you to know you are not the only writer hiding in the shower for 45 minutes or until the hot water runs out waiting for that ultimate moment of inspiration.

We’re all doing it.  And on behalf of all the writers in the shower or cleaning it,  good luck.

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Don’t Do This!

Books out doorsWhat we don’t read  can be as instructive as what we do.

I found this Linked In post in my in box:

This is Interesting

“Hmm, where do I even begin? There is so much to share. I am so blessed every day and I just hope I can remember everything that has happened!  When so much awesomeness happens I am compelled to immediately share with with you all here, as it is most fitting and want to share my good news with you all!  This month my recovery…”

– from a real linked-in post but I altered the details 

In this Linked- In post, the headline is the best part.  But the opening narrative is ineffective and a turn off.  We are not, on any level, compelled to read anything more.  So the writer could be announcing the end of the world, and we’d miss it, because she didn’t start her post well.

A long time ago writers commanded  enough page space to be able to “clear our throats” , we had time to set up a comment or explain all the points necessary for an essay to really sing.

But now we don’t.

Those opening lines cannot be wasted, they are the critical and arguably the most important part of a post or a blog. They must   grab the reader’s attention. And with this post, by the time I read to the third line – I was out, I  did not have the time to listen to the writer’s thinking process.

The solution is easy.  Do clear your throat.  Write all that introductory material because it helps focus the work and gets you really into your subject.  But before you post the work, delete those opening sentences and just start with something interesting like zombies invaded my home last night!  It’s the end of the world.

I guarantee  you I will continue to read.

Do you have a novel in you?

Get your own Start Your Book Kit

  • Includes: copy of  Start Your Book
  • ½ hour  consultation with Catharine
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Possibly Not Really Productive

Cologne TypewriterWhen I’ve been spending more time reading blogs and newsletters than  writing my material, I feel like my son who used to sit very still and quietly in class.  The teacher was thrilled he wasn’t making trouble, and he wasn’t.  Of course, he wasn’t learning anything either.

For weeks I’ve been sitting quietly at the computer – typing, reading and generally looking very engaged and busy. And I am thrilled with all the work I’ve been doing.  But I haven’t really accomplished a damn thing.

Writers and creatives are at risk for miserable failure if we don’t  understand the difference between being busy and being productive.

Because distinguishing between the two can be tricky.

Sometimes an afternoon of reading was spent  gathering ideas,  researching and catching up with industry trends.   Ot it’s a  colossal waste of time.

Conversely, in a traditional job, taking a walk in the middle of the afternoon, chatting in the break room, standing around in the hallway, is considered goofing off.  For a writer, those exchanges, especially the walks, are critical to real production.

Day dreaming is productive

Checking Facebook is not.

Lunch with a friend, or better, lunch with a fellow writer, is productive.

Eating at your desk, compulsively answering every email is just exhausting and will give you heartburn.

Since Just sitting at the computer does not necessarily mean you are accomplishing anything, how do you know you have been productive?

The increasing word count on the novel is a big indicator.

Another indicator is how tired you are.  Not emotionally exhausted, or frustrated but tired.

Writing is a full body activity; we lean in, we tense up.  We hurt ourselves because we’ve held a crouching tiger position for hours as we bang on the keyboard or scratch with our pens.  We get carpal tunnel and bursitis and leg cramps.  And paper cuts, but I never get any sympathy for those.

Are you exhausted  because you’ve spent the morning in the zone?

Or are you just emotionally exhausted from a project  that has been over thought to death?

Did you finish up your work at exactly 5:00 and think, GOD I need a drink, I’m so finished with this.

Or did you finish for the day because a power failure killed the computer and stopped you cold?  But you unearthed a flashlight and notebook and continued?

Set this idea of  being busy aside, and tap into your passion;  allow it to drive the process instead of over  thinking it.  Put  away the to do list, turn off the alerts for email and Facebook and just focus on the book, even if only for   ten minutes.

It may be the most productive part of your day.

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Kick Start the Sonoma County Book Festival —

Sonoma County Book Festival —.

I love this festival, mostly because it has grown on a Moores Law scale.  But to make it better, we need your help –  go to kick starter and enter Sonoma County Book Festival and in exchange for your help, you get, yes, books.

That’s all, just doing my part.

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What if the Future Sucks?

On Newbie Writers Podcast this week, we are reviewing  the second draft of a book:  mine.

This is the second part of the Opening chapter  to  The Five Elements of Time so you can play the game at home.

Statue from Turkey

Please do comment here, or email me with suggestions.

And thanks!

Premise: What if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks? 

The sheets were not even dry.  Charity pushed them away and lit the stove.

The house lights flickered again, Charity held her breath, the lights dimmed, then surged back on to full strength.

Charity took the last two pieces of the dense, coal – like fuel, dranit, and fed them into the stove.  It was the only certainty this week – that fire was warm.  Was real.

“Nancy reported the Fabers in the market were down.”  Mother walked into the kitchen, testing the sheets as she went.  She wiped her damp hands on her pale blue skirt.

They used to just toss the dirty sheets and Nancy, their main servant would bring in new from the market replicators every week, the old sheets were recycled for their essential material. The family was probably using the same sheets over and over, on a molecular level, but it was still nice to have new.

Not any more.

Charity glanced at the hanging sheets, no longer the original white. Just this morning she had helped her mother  wrestled those sheets out of the big tub, the fire burning underneath.

Charity was used to such odd behavior from her mother.  She had little choice but to help.  So she automatically arched over the hot flames and helped her mother pull the wet fabric to the wringer.

“They are out of material for fabric.”  Her mother said quietly.  “I told you it’s  good to know how to wash. Your sister, “  she left the rest unsaid and continued to wrestle with the old wringer.

“She was suppose to return today.”  Charity announced.

“Mirabella?” Her mother jerked the wet fabric from the rollers and gave the fabric a mighty twist putting her shoulders into the effort.   “I know, she was.” Her mother held Charity’s gaze for a second before twisting the sheet with   more force than Charity ever saw. Water, precious water, streamed from the fabric.  Finally mother stopped her shoulders sagged.

“She is gone honey.” Her mother’s faded blue eyes watered. “I’m afraid she  died in yesterday’s train wreak.”

Charity’s whole body turned cold.  Her first friend in school, her first pal, her only pal,  gone?

“Ray is devastated of course.” Her mother concentrated on the laundry and did not meet her oldest daughter’s eyes again.  “Of course.  He’ll find someone else. He needs a wife to go into the Government Guards.  All Guards have a wives.” And all those men involved in the RC ,the Reality Cloud, needed a wife to keep the family fed, organized and together.  If a man wanted to work, or participate in any of the Realty Cloud world, he needed to marry, put his wife into a nice house and make sure she was blessed with children.

Charity stopped wringing  the sheets. The warm water dripped on her bare feet.  They never wore shoes in the house, an old tradition. There used to be so much toxic material outside that the women finally stopped everyone from tracking it into the house by creating the rule – no shoes inside. Now it was a law.

“He asked for you.” Mother said finally.

Nancy, one of their five servants,  was late.  She pulled her kerchief more firmly over her blond hair and ducked her head.  “I’m so sorry Mother, the lines were long for the dranit today. And the village riots stopped us from leaving the market.”

“Takes a lot of electricity to manufacture the dranit.”   Mother never raised her voice at the servants, she insisted on treating them as people, even individuals.  Charity kept that eccentricity to herself, her friends, like Mirabella, reported that Mothers were suppose to berate servants and keep them in line, something Charity’s mother never did.

Mother simply   took the offered fuel, two day’s worth.   “If only we could harvest  wood ourselves.”

“There are no forests.”  Hope importantly flounced into the kitchen. She was 16 and just feeling her strength as a leader, now that all the boys in her class had been transferred  to the RC Colleges.  “I learned that today.”

Mother sighed and considered the huge wood burning stove.  The electricity was channeled mostly to the Government where the replicators and RC equipment were kept.  The family owned a small one of course, but the food pods were becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, even for a well placed family like themselves.  The only reason they weren’t hungry, the only reason Faith was even as well as she was, was because mother grew food in the back of the house.  Dirt Food.  Charity never told anyone.  But she had to grudging admit  that her mother eccentric gardening had kept them from going hungry many nights.

Only two days ago everything was as it should be.  If she had known, she would have ben kinder, not pinched so hard.  Charity drew in a shuddering breath and batted away the drying sheet.  She wanted things back the way they were.  But according to Mirabella, that wasn’t even possible.   “RC has been fluctuating,  I can feel it.  Most women our age can feel it.  Sometimes I worry that we aren’t even real.”  She held out her arm.  “Pinch me.”  She commanded.

Charity reluctantly took a pinch of Mirabella’s flesh and dug her nails into the skin.

“Yikes!”  Mirabella  glanced down. “That’s going to bruise.”

“Then you’ll know you’re real won’t you?”  Charity shot back.  They didn’t dare linger on the street.  They continued to the Temple, but now that Mirabella mentioned it, the   houses really did vibrate as she walked: sometimes revealing a plain one story home and sometimes turning into the glass and wood castles she always envisioned, remembered.

It wasn’t all that bizarre, they heard early on in their education that reality was one of two things: a shared community effort or an individual vision.  The shared world community, represented by the 100 year old Reality Cloud, was preferable.  Women were proud to support such an instrument of world peace.

Yes, increasingly,   Charity was experiencing the individual version of reality. It was not comforting.

Mirabella liked to see her world one way, and Charity sometimes wanted to see it differently.

But they were alike in two important ways.

Their reality was shifting.

“What do you think is going on?”

“My dad said the grids are down more and more that it’s difficult to work in the RC, there are surges.  They  blame the villagers.” She lowered her voice, “They sent out bot after bot to fix the problem.  I heard they are even sending out drones but can’t find any reason for the electricity or for the the decrease in pod production .”

“Nancy said the lines were getting longer.”  Charity confirmed. The food pods for their replicators ran low at the end of every month, forcing some family to eat dirt food.

“They’ll have to find the villagers .”  Mirabella  confirmed.

But they didn’t need to find the villagers, the villagers had found them.

Can you do better than me?

Get your own Start Your Book Kit  

  • Includes: copy of  Start Your Book
  • ½ hour  consultation with Catharine
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Why Post Your Novel?

Flower and wireA strategy that writers employe when working on their fiction books is to post sections of the book  on their blog and solicit feedback from their blog readers. Successful writers like Guy Kawasaki   – routinely post their books in progress and get immediate feedback and in turn, make immediate changes.  But why do it? Should a writer be concerned that someone will steal the work?  Nope.  In the US the work is copy write  protected as soon as it leaves your fingers.  And if it is “stolen,” the providence is easy to prove.  And if you are lucky and it’s stolen and distributed – you just increased your fan base, possibly your klout.

So if you are stuck, or if you’d like to experiment, posting your on-going story can accomplish a number of goals:

  • It builds your base of fans who will purchase the book
  • Those fans will be the first to purchase your book, why?  Because they are involved with the book already.
  • Those are the fans you count when you   approach a publisher or agent
  • And if you are lucky, those fans give you feedback you can use
  • Those fans will give you encouragement to keep writing
  • Conversely they may give you feedback that encourages you to stop writing – which while depressing, is at least an answer.

This week on Newbie Writers Podcast we are reading a section of my current project and commenting on it.  I have posted a section here so you can play the game at home.

Comment here or email me.

And thanks!

 

Opening chapter – The Five Elements of Time

Premise: what if you have your whole future before you, and it sucks?

A rock shattered the stained glass window scattering shards of red glass at Charity’s feet.

She glanced up at the hole, almost perfectly round.  Through it the sky hovered  gray, heavy, and un-changed. The hole let in the escalating chanting outside.

 

Preacher John stopped Charity from reading any more from the One True Word.

A big imposing man, twice the size of slender Charity, he never the less, glanced out at the men in the congregation for approval.  Charity didn’t see a single nod, or twitch from any one, but there must have been some sign.

“We will exit, this way.”  The man of the One True God gestured, and the fathers pulled their wives and children from the   cavernous temple and through a narrow door behind the pulpit.

Charity carefully set down the One True Word on the pulpit and silently waited to join her family. She was not frightened, the village riots had been increasing in the last few years. The Government Guards would protect them.  It was just a aberration.

She glanced at the shattered window.

The families didn’t  pause in the walled courtyard, where Charity used to play after daily Temple service.  Her father led their family of five out  through another door to the  old abandoned parking structure and finally to narrow alley.

The sound of the chanting rose and fell, punctuated by the shattering of another window, of the temple or of a house, she was not certain.

The low beamed ceiling of the old parking structure was oppressive enough to hurry the congregation to the far door.  She looked around for their preacher, their leader but he was no where to be found.

Did he escape and leave them to fend for themselves?  You don’t leave your flock, or in the RC you never leave anyone’s avatar on the battle field.  Even girls knew that.

“Heathens!”  Preacher John’s voice rose above the babble of the villagers.  He must have stomped through the  front doors even as the last of the congregation members slipped  out the back.  His sudden words burst over the angry crowd.  Charity felt, rather than heard a lull in the chanting as the big metal doors of the Temple clanged open. There was a pause, but then the crowd roared again.

She didn’t know there were that many villagers to make up such a crowd.

“That was the last of the colored windows.”  Charity’s mother commented.  Father, with one hand pulling Faith and the other gripping Hope, said nothing, he pulled them all along as fast as they could run.

Charity was unaccustomed to moving this fast and her breath caught as she struggled to keep pace.  Young  ladies strolled sedately, took their time, did not call attention to themselves.  But now everyone was running, slowly,  Charity was surprised at how many she out paced, but it was evil to be proud.  Not proud, but opportunistic.  She took  advantage of the chaos to  pull  off her floppy brimmed hat and drag  at her scarf, she couldn’t breath. Father had not slowed his pace, Faith was struggling to keep up, Father pulled her relentlessly behind him. Hope wheezed next to mother, Charity keeping up behind.

Charity raised her head and looked directly up into the sky.  It loomed low and gray over their Great Suburb.  Familiar houses seemed to shimmer under the diffused daylight.

The homes in their neighborhood were a purposeful jumble of architectural  style, created to reflect the whim of the owners rather than display a uniform cohesion.  Half timbered Tudors butted up adjacent to Craftsman Modern, and Mid Century Glory.  All the homes in their neighborhood were Beautiful Mansions, fronted by lush lawns and gardens. Charity glance at them, familiar, solid.  But as she ran, the facades  seemed to  shiver  before her, as if they were painted transparencies.  Charity squinted wondering if she needed laser surgery so soon, at 18.

They raced to their own home, an  imposing Victorian Mansion,  Her father did not loosen his grip on her younger sister, even after they gained their own front walk.  There were no walls around their home so they were still vulnerable.  Charity glanced around and watched her neighbors disappear into their pretty homes.

Some of the C Executives the families of the very powerful. Like the Knight leaders, they all lived in low walled compounds, in the center of the suburbs.  She was sure they were all there now, behind bunkers of their own making.

Charity replaced her hat, not wanting to anger her father who was clearly agitated.  She glanced down at the earth, since there was no where else to look but down.  The ground wavered, it was lush green, then brown, then green.  She blinked and followed her family into the safety of their home.

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Where do you go for on-line creative writing classes?

We received a great question during the podcast –  Where do you go for on-line creative writing classes?

On line Classes

A Google search is the best way to discover on -line creative writing classes. Classes  appear and disappear like a whack-a-mole game, so search for what you want when you need the information, it is likely to change tomorrow.

There are many MOOC-like offerings through universities as well as privately operated creative writing classes like  Writers.com – and Creative Writing Now

Keep CalmI’m currently serving on a steering committee to create  the  SFWriters University,  an extension of the popular SF Writers Conference  (Mark Hopkins, SF every February).  So watch for that to pop up like a whack -a-mole in the near future.

Writing Groups

Many creative writers get feedback and help on their manuscript by organizing their own critique group. A writing group typically comprises of three to nine members who meet regularly to read and  give feedback on each other’s work.  This is a great idea, it’s free and some writing groups have helped dozens of writers. But it’s not the ultimate solution for a Newbie Writer looking for actionable feedback.

Writing Group Pro:

A writing group helps keep you accountable and writing  because you need to produce a new piece for every meeting.

You  get feedback on drafts and reactions to your work from a neutral reader.

Writing Group Con:

Time – For every ten pages you turn in, you’ll need to read and critique the ten pages of every other member, a very good reason to keep the group to five or so members.

Consistency – it’s a volunteer group. Meeting times and place will change, members will not be able to attend, people will quit, not show or disappear.

Feedback –  the feedback you get may not be  the feedback you need.  And not all  feedback, even well intentioned,  is beneficial.

Next Steps –  The writing group is a great resource for the drafts of your creative work, but there is a good chance  they won’t be able to help with publication or promotion of your finished book.

Writing Coaches

A growing trend for a creative or nonfiction writer is to hire a writing coach or book doctor.  These coaches are professionals, not only skilled in communication and the publishing industry, but also hold advanced degrees in literature or creative writing.  Coaches deliver   the kind of feedback a writer really can use to improve writing and get published.  A coach can also bring a client along from inception straight through to publication.

I work as a writing coach and by coincidence, so do two of our recent guests on the Newbie Writer’s Podcast:

Stacey Aaronson

And Jordan Rosenfeld.

If you are considering a coach to help you with your writing project – listen to the April/May podcasts at Newbie Writers.  We can help.

 

 
Catharine is a writing coach as well –  
If you want to explore the possibilities,
Check out the 
Start Your Book Kit  
Complimentary copy of  Start Your Book
ComplimentaryConsultation ½ hour with Catharine
and a subscription Newbie News
Drop me a line at –  bramkamp@yahoo.com for your Start Your Book Kit.
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Speed Dating

I was privileged to coach a whole group of talented, interesting authors at the WNBA Pitch- O -Rama this April.

The object of Pitch O Rama is expose authors to as many   potential agents and publishers as he or she can meet in course of about two hours.  Another name for this activity is speed dating with agents.

Here is the dirty secret of Speed dating with agents:  they know if you are a match in about 30 seconds.    But since that’s a little harsh, we ask them to dutifully sit and listen to an author for at least a full minute.

So, like any meet and greet session, it helps to be prepared.

Bay view from Swiss Louis

Admire the view while pitching to agents.

Here is our advice to authors:

The best way to approach the agent with your pitch is to deliver a very big, broad picture.  Think how movies are summarized in  two or three sentences, that’s what you need to do for your book  as well.

While you’re at it,  figure out how to deliver the essence of your project in one sentence.

One author was pitching her children’s story and in a clutter of words the phrase – sparkly adventure – stood out.  That was her wow, and I told her to lead with that description.

Once you deliver the wow overview,  the agent then can ask for details.

Those details do not include what your main character looks like, nor what he ate for breakfast. Those details do not include the landscape, or modes of transportation.  The details are the exciting, animated bones of the book.  The details are what we read on the back of a paper back book, and that description inspires our purchase.  That’s what you tell the agent next.

Only after those two features, the wow, the brief  details do you talk about yourself.  Even at this point, it’s not about you so much as it’s about why you wrote the book and  your unique qualifications to tackle the subject of the book.

All of this, if done right will consume about two minutes, leaving you free to spend a whole minute discussing the weather.

Does this work?  Yes, if you are prepared:

Practice the wow pitch.

Don’t read  synopsis  (AHHHH don’t read it!)

And know that agents, publishers, editors all have ideas of what works for them, what they like to work with – and if they can’t include your work in their upcoming schedule, it very well may be them, not you.

I know, that never really helped in dating either.

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