Overwhelmed…

What happens to you when you get overwhelmed?

Do you shut people out? Do you procrastinate? Do you get angry for no reason? Do you want to run away?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

My mental outlook on life has been derailed momentarily. Yes momentarily, because when we get overwhelmed it is only temporary. We have the power to push ourselves back on track, but I am struggling at the moment.

For weeks (perhaps months) I have been trying to get prepared for the PNWA writers conference where I would have the opportunity to pitch my book idea to literary agents and editors. I put my half baked book aside and started preparing my pitch. A 60 second, make or break opportunity, to sell my book idea. No pressure, no problem. After all I watched a webinar by Janna Cawrse Esarey and I felt prepared. All I needed to do is to describe my genre, my title, the book’s setup, the conflict and the resolution in 3-4 sentences that equal 60 seconds or less of time.  I was positively giddy with excitement. No problem, I thought to myself.

Then I started to write it, then I read it aloud to my cats, they sneered, I rewrote it, they still sneered, I rewrote it again, they walked away. What was I going to do? My cats weren’t even interested in my pitch, so why would an agent or editor. I wrote and rewrote, I wrote in third person, in first person (see my blog post), I had a version with some dialogue in it and then I went back to third person. I left it alone for a week, along with all of my other writing. My book was floundering. I was so overwhelmed by figuring out my pitch that I couldn’t write.

Mona the cat
Uninterested cat pose.

My final pitch was going to be bullet points. This is my story, I should know what it is about without memorizing a well scripted pitch. Day one of the conference and I was still adamant about only doing talking points. Then I attended the agent’s panel and the editor’s panel, where they said “Practice, practice, practice.,” your pitch. Basically saying don’t waste our time, but really saying we want to help you if we can.  While I attended a seminar by Janna, that was just like the webinar, I began working on yet another version of my pitch. Version quadrillion, no really. My friend, Alex, said “You nailed it” as we carpooled home that evening.

At home I shut the door to my office and rewrote and recited my pitch until I had a version that made my hairs tingle, my skin sing with joy, I got it, I finally got it. I had been hoping for a pitch that made me emotional, because I knew if I was emotional, then anyone who heard it would be emotional. I memorized it. I don’t remember the last time I had to memorize something… I was so excited. I found my cats and I looked them in the eyes as I recited my pitch and I had them mesmerized, they were so taken by my act, that they just sat there, speechless, then one of them yawned. “Bed time mom.”

pitch session
Waiting in line to pitch.

My nerves were a wreck the next morning. Thunder and lightening and pouring rain, it never does this in Seattle, seemed to heighten my nervousness as I drove back to the conference for another day of seminars and today the Power Pitch Block. For 90 minutes, beginning at 2pm that day, I would have the opportunity to pitch my story to as many agents and editors as I could, for 3 minutes each. Trouble is there were about a hundred other people there, wanting to do the same thing. I was amazed by the civility of the event. No pushing or shoving, no hair pulling, no screaming. We all sat in line and awaited our turn. When the bell rang, like when a horse race begins, you sat in front of your agent or editor of choice and you began your pitch. Intimidating? Only the first one.

After the 90 minutes was over, I had pitched to 3 agents and 2 editors and they were all interested in my story. YIKES, I thought to myself as I left. I have to go home and finish my book. It had to wait until after the conference, because there was one more full day of conference seminars that I wanted to attend.

It is day two post conference and I am writing in my blog… mainly to get this experience out of my head and to hopefully get less whelmed. At least I’m writing right? I looked at my chapters today and said, “you suck” to them, I looked in the mirror and told myself “you suck” as if I am not a good writer. Then I went to my FB page and said, “you’re hot” as I looked at my new head shots that I envision on my books back cover. I am reminded that to achieve my dream, it will take hard work, I will have peaks and I will have valleys. I will be overwhelmed and underwhelmed – can someone tell me what a whelm is please – but in the end I have to remember the goal. It is the goal that will pull me out of my funk. Phew!

And there’s the pitch…

Version 3

Author and her mother in Cuba
If I get this book idea published, this is what I want as the book cover…

Guantanamera, a travel memoir, describes a trip with my mother to her birthplace, Guantanamo, Cuba. Upon arrival the romantic vision of Cuba I had since childhood, quickly melted away as I found myself in a military state.

“Why did I decide to take this trip?” I thought to myself as I walked past soldiers wearing surgical masks and carrying semi-automatic weapons.

“Guilt!” I realized.

She had pleaded with me. “Ay Rebecca, I want to show you where I was born before I die.”

She probably assumed I would never go by myself or that this would be another opportunity for a magical mother/daughter bonding experience.

By day two, a walk through downtown Santiago has my mother thinking she is on a death march, while I’m happily exploring the disintegrating colonial architecture. When I decline taking a taxi with her the half-mile back to the hotel, she erupts, thinking I just told her that I don’t love her.

Throughout the trip I find myself playing travel guide or camp counselor, when all I want to do is just experience Cuba. By the end of the trip and multiple “adventures” I realize how my mother’s history has influenced who she is and how it has affected our relationship.

Let me know what you think… I have to pitch this next week! Stay tuned to find out if I hit a line drive out of the ball field!