I consider myself a lucky person, in ways that really don’t involve pure luck. Those of you who have read this blog for a while, or consistently, know that I have traveled a lot, and done some very cool things. I live in an incredibly gorgeous place, surrounded by pretty unique and wonderful people. My husband is successful, my kids are truly inspiring, and my dogs are adorable. And for the record, I don’t brag like that very often, but it’s easy to see why I opened with I’m a lucky person.
But, none of that is really pure luck. All of it, every single detail, took a lot of time, hard work and commitment. None of it just came in one lucky stroke, or the draw of a magic ticket. And I get it: lots of people work really hard, and are very committed, and put in the time, and don’t get to do or have some of the things I’ve been fortunate to do and have. I would argue that that it’s still not luck. There were years and years of not doing those things, hoping that our life would work out and the sacrifices would “pay off.” They did; and, I’ve been very grateful for the life we have.
However, in the past two weeks I have felt very, very lucky. The kind of serendipitous luck that really feels like you wished upon the right star. Like there’s a four leaf clover stuck to your shoe… Not quite two weeks ago, I found out that I won two tickets to Fiji, from Bucket List Publications and Fiji Airways. Let me say here, it was not one of those contests where your name is randomly drawn from a batch of thousands. The contest was based on effort. If you watched for postings from BLP on the topic of Fiji, you could Like the post, and comment on it. Each of those efforts counted as an entry. You could do that once per posting. You could Tweet the #tag lines: #BulaFijiAirways and #Bucketlistpublications once per day, for another entry, and post on your Facebook page (I have two: my personal one, and one for this blog) and that was another entry. Each of those things could be done once daily, and would count as separate entries. Then there was the Memory Game. Set up by Fiji Air and BLP, it involved flipping over cards to make matches. There were 24 cards, I believe. I should know that fact hard, because I think I played that game a thousand times in the 10 days of the contest.
So here’s the ticket; early on, I figured out two things: That Lesley Carter, the Queen of BLP had posted many pieces about Fiji when she first took her trip there. The contest said that you comment and like “Any” post on Fiji. It didn’t say “Any new post.” While I had read them all when they came out, I went back and made sure I’d commented on every single one, and hit like, leaving my calling card and tag lines. Bingo! Many entries, because Lesley loved Fiji and posted a lot about it. Second, and I think the thing that tipped the contest in my favor: the rules did not say you could play the game once a day. So, I wrote in and asked that question- privately. I did not post the question, and show my cards. I’m lucky and smart. And when I heard back that I could play as many times as I wanted, each would be an entry, I played that game until I went blind… until my fingers were numb… until Little Man and Smart Guy openly mocked me and thought I’d gone round the bend. If we were watching TV, I was playing the Memory Game. If I was waiting for something (dentist, appts, etc) I was playing the Memory Game. The last 24 hours of the contest, I played that game… a lot!
Again, this was not a random drawing; it was based solely on entries. The person with the most entries, was the winner. I could see my competition. There were some other very committed players. There were lots of people who were Tweeting, and posting on FB; and, I assumed, playing the Memory Game too… but each day, I told myself that I would do more than any one else. And I did. And I got lucky too… I saw the contest, amidst all the other things in my In-box; I had some time to keep playing; and others didn’t figure out the same things and do more. That was lucky, because I did a lot: I pushed and pushed, but I know others did too. I was lucky that no one else put all of those things together and pushed more than me. And I am lucky to be going to Fiji! No date decided; I haven’t gotten all the details yet; but, I did win 2 tickets to Fiji, with Bucket List Publications— thanks, to the dynamic Lesley Carter, who excites me with every post and Fiji Airways, who gave the tickets away.
From there, the luck just built. I signed up for the Pacific North West Writers Conference, despite my ongoing trepidations about publishing. While I knew I could only attend the first half, I was hopeful that maybe I’d make some contacts and learn some cool things at the many courses being offered. However, I didn’t really work on pitches, organize myself, or look into hotels. I didn’t know that they were full. Totally full. Ands so, I drove down there Wednesday night— totally last minute—figuring that I’d be there to line up for pitch sessions, bright and early on Thursday. Sessions started on Friday, but sign up started at 8am on Thursday. I moseyed down, stopping at Nordstroms to make some returns and check out a sale, and then headed to the airport. The conference was at a major hotel there. It was late; I was tired; and, one by one, every hotel was full. Smart Guy called: “did you get a hotel?” Yes, I lied. “Where will you be staying?” Uh, at the Comfort in South of the city. I knew he’d think I was nuts (again) if I was winging this. I was. Who knows if there’s a Comfort Inn south of Seattle, but they’re everywhere, and I was certain he wouldn’t be checking.
One by one I pulled into hotels and they were all full. “We are fully booked, and I believe every hotel for 30 miles north or south is, as well,” I was told, as I walked out of one. No problem! I chirped; panicking, but “never let them see you sweat.” I had just decided that I would sleep in the car garage at SEATAC, use my bottled water to brush my teeth, ignore any late night needs to pee, and pay only $25 for the overnight spot…. when I pulled into a Clarion hotel, across from the parking garage. By any chance, do you have a room for tonight? Frankly, each time I said it, I thought of Mary. Yeah, that Mary. The guy at the desk, looked at me, tired and told me “No, we’re fully booked.” No problem, I chirped, prepared to sleep in my car, when (cue the music: Daft Punk, Get Lucky) the woman at the other end of the desk said: “Did you really come to the airport with no reservation?” I nodded, pathetically, but chirpy smile in place. “Well, you are one lucky person, because that was a cancellation, and I have a queen, non-smoking room—” (for half the price of the room I’d found on line for the next night). I was so relieved, I said: I’m feeling lucky! I just won 2 tickets to Fiji too! The man looked at me, and said: ” You should buy a lottery ticket! Here are your keys.”
So I had a room that was half the price of the room I’d be moving to the next night, with free parking. I felt pretty damned lucky indeed. When I woke up the next morning and saw that I was directly across the street from the convention, and a block from The Holiday Inn, where I was going to be moving to for the next night… I felt triple lucky, and left my car parked for free at Clarion. Lucky girl… with some smarts. I stashed my luggage in my car and dashed over to the Writer’s Conference, hoping to get a good pitch session, as I would only be there for one day of pitches.
I was anxious to make sure I got in there quickly, but had let it go so long I really didn’t know who was who and which people I wanted to meet, so the first half hour was an endless anxiety tsunami. I did some very quick reading on Editor and Agent bios and signed up for session A, the first of the conference, on the next day. When they handed me my Session A admittance card, I held it up and said: This is my lottery card! But honestly, I felt blind, anxious, topsy turvy— a deer in the headlights. I’ve been struggling for ages, like unreal ages, to pick a title for my novel. I choose blog titles weekly, but I could not come up with a book title. I chose one the day I left for the conference. Having just chosen it, it was really hard to imagine how to pitch the novel. I’d written a pitch, and worked hard on perfecting it on paper, months before… but I had never said it out loud. During the day, I attended wonderful sessions on publishing: traditional versus self— that’s where it’s all headed: say traditional publishers and self-publishing sites. And my thoughts raced as I tried to figure out what I’d say at my pitch session. We met the agents, we met some editors. My thoughts raced some more. I met other authors and compared notes. My thoughts amped up further.
I got lucky and had the opportunity to pitch, in the hallway, to a major New York agent. She was incredible! A brilliant speaker and so generous to sit and listen to a long line of wannabe authors. I was stoked; and, I totally blew it. Blew. It! I could barely remember my name, let alone the pitch. She didn’t like my “hook;” she didn’t get what the main character’s motivation was; she had my head spinning in seconds, firing questions my way! “Why should we care about Maya?” (the main character) The question, so direct and reasonable; but, as I tried to respond, I began to speak in tongues; I stuttered; I could not think of an intelligent thing to say. Umm, I don’t know. Even as I said it: I don’t know why you should care about my character, I wanted to puke. The stupidest thing I could say to an agent: If I don’t know why you should care, why would any reader care, let alone an agent? It’s as simple as that, and I know it. Utter fail. Blew it. The agent, remained cool and kind. She listened, she gave solid advice, she was still encouraging, and thoughtful, but I knew I’d just blown my first pitch.
It got under my skin, and all my planning began to unravel. I began to question the entire pitch I’d written ages ago; I struggled with what to rewrite, where to go with it; I questioned and doubted everything— the novel itself. I hardly slept that night, and I walked around all day in a dither. I began to throw myself and my work under a bus… sure that my luck had run up and my skill wasn’t enough. I tried a new pitch on some other writers and started to get a new sense of what to say, but every time I tried to say it without reading it, I fell apart. I got more and more nervous, afraid I’d blow it with every other agent and editor.
When the time came, I got in line with dozens of other writers, many of whom told me they’d been practicing for weeks (eek!). I waited for the doors to open— all of us like cattle in a pen, for the 90 minute pitch session at 2pm. There were about 75 other writers, possibly more; 17 Agents and 5 Editors to choose from inside the room, and 4 minutes per pitch—with a loud buzzer and “bouncers” to make you move on when your time was up). Think musical chairs, but at each new chair you have to be tell someone why they should make your dreams come true. I ran my new pitch through my head over and over, panicking each time I tripped up. And then, it was time: the buzzer rang and I stepped up to my first Agent. I shook her hand; I introduced myself, with a brief mention of the ensuing chaos around us; looked her in the eye and said my pitch. She asked a few enthusiastic questions, told me she was “Very interested, and very intrigued by my story,” and then she handed me her card and asked me to sent her the first three chapters.
Aside from wetting my pants, I simply smiled and said a professional Thank you, and the buzzer rang. I tried not to skip, or hoot, as I walked away.
It was a like a giant game of chess. How many people in each line? Multiply that times 4, to figure out if I’d get through the line, and make sure that I could get to the agents and editors that I was most interested in. I scrambled, I trotted back and forth. I counted and recounted. I scooted from one line to another. The agent I most wanted to speak with had a huge line the entire time, but when they announced that the final 2 rounds were up, I grabbed a very well known agent who was free, and eyed the line I most wanted. Maybe confused, maybe tired, the last person stepped out of that line, just as the buzzer rang, and I darted over and took their place. “Nice,” the bouncer, encouraged, “that was a lucky move.” I got to speak to that very desirable agent and she was very enthusiastic about my work. In fact, later in the day, she pointed me out in the audience while giving her talk, and commented that my pitch was really well done.
When the final buzzer rang, and the agent handed my her card, “excited to read (my) work,” Ahh! Deep sigh of relief. Final Tally? I spoke to 2 editors and 7 agents, and walked away with 9 invitations to submit my work: 5 of them “very excited,” 3 from top houses, and 2 requests for the entire manuscript. I got one other request for three chapters from a top tier editor in the hallway. Each of the agents and editors asked me about whether I had a blog, and I felt so good telling them that I’m part of a very supportive and passionate community of writers. This is home, and I felt so appreciative of all the good things that have come from writing on Word Press. I had 9 business cards in my pocket, each with notes and invitations to try and get my novel published. I practically skipped home! I forgot all about Fiji for two days, and when it came back to me I grinned until it hurt. Next round is where rejections are bound to come, but for now: I’m feeling might lucky; committed, and determined. It’s a mean combination!