Last Saturday, I attended the SCBWI-Oregon spring conference. I went last year as well. I like the camaraderie of this group, and they have a number of workshops given by editors, agents, and other writers. Last year, my friend and critique group partner, Cheryl, did two marvelous lectures on Point of View and on secondary characters. I learned a lot.
This year, I had actually written "The End" on one of my novels. The novel is about Shakespeare and, when I saw the conference schedule, the agent attending was from an agency named Upstart Crow--an appelation flung at Shakespeare by a jealous contemporary. Was the Shakespeare connection a sign from above? I decided it was, and sent in my first 10 pages and synopsis to be critiqued by this agent.
I had a critique last year on a different novel, and it hadn't gone particularly well, so I kept reminding myself not to have delusions that the agent would be swept off his feet and beg to sign me the minute I walked in the room. (I did indulge in this dream from time to time, though. Couldn't help it.)
The day came, sunny for Oregon. My mood was upbeat. I got my schedule and saw I was to meet with the agent at 9. I made my way up to the room where the critiques were to be held. As I got off the elevator, I ran into a woman I'd met last year. Then, she'd been ecstatic because an editor had asked her to send in more of her work; this time, she looked deflated. Apparently, MY agent had told her that, though she wrote well, she would have to change the beginning of her story. (I have to insert here that the agent used to be an editor, and a pretty highly regarded one at that.)
I slid into the room. The agent was sitting at his desk, rubbing his eyes. I introduced myself to him. "You are British," he exclaimed. "Makes sense now." (For the life of me, I can't seem to eradicate that British voice from my writing.)
His next statement was "Tell me where you're at in your writing." A good omen; I felt it in my bones. He wanted to know if I had a plan, an idea of a career. I told him what I was working on. He nodded, then set to work on his critique.
What impressed me the most was that he had nearly two pages of comments. And they started off with compliments: lots of "likes, loves, and funnies."
But then came the "nevertheless." He had a number of points for revision. I was moving way too fast. I needed to slow down. He gave me homework: to map out the first few chapters of Bruce Coville's Magic Shop novels and understand how Coville paces his work.
And then... when my revision was done... well, he wasn't taking on any more clients, but there was an agent at his agency who was. "Query him and tell him I sent you."
Wow! Sounds like the perfect opening for a query letter...
The agent's note ended with: "Good luck on revisions, thanks for the read, and don't forget to write!"
I've mapped out some Coville chapters. I'm revising like a dervish. Tomorrow, I'll let you know how the rest of the conference went, after I came off cloud nine.