Introduction to Blog Series on the 2011 PNWA Conference

I made a strategic decision to not pitch anything to agents and editors at the PNWA conference this year. I did have three appointments lined up, including one that I thought would have been an especially good fit, but in the end I decided against it. Everyone thought I was crazy for making that decision. The volunteer to whom I returned all of my appointment cards was incredulous.

“Are you sure? Why?” he asked as he reluctantly held out his hand to take the cards back.

I replied that it was not an easy decision, but I was happy about it. I explained that I just didn’t feel well, for starters, was a bit worn out, and just didn’t want to put more pressure on myself. I didn’t want to feel overly excited, or nervous, teeming with anxiety and adrenalin. Sometimes, those are fun feelings and wonderful to experience, but not for me this time.

I wanted to take in the conference this year in a calm and focused manner instead of leaving seminars early to make my pitching appointments or go over and over my thirty-second pitch in my mind instead of truly listening to the things I came to learn. I don’t have a lot of energy right now, and I had to choose the best way to channel that energy.

So in the end, I felt good about watching my three appointment cards join several others in the glass jar that was collecting them all. I also felt good knowing that I was going to make three other writers extraordinarily happy and excited when they learned three coveted agent and editor appointments had just opened and they could slide into them. That made me smile the most.

One of the things I did instead was make an appointment for new professional head shots.  My last series of official photographs were taken three years ago and while I still liked them, it was time to update. I was impressed that Mark Bennington, a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles who’s working on a documentary about the acting community in Mumbai, had a booth at the conference and was available to take writer photographs.

I’ve known about Mark for a few years now because he’s taken the official photographs of many writing and publishing insiders, including one of my writing mentors, Christina Katz. I didn’t bring anything fancy to wear for the photo shoot because I don’t have much that isn’t maternity, and I didn’t want to look pregnant in my pictures.

“Can you make me thin again?” I asked Mark, only half-joking.

“You’re beautiful!” he replied.

I was nervous and stiff for the most part, so Mark had to work overtime to get me to lighten up.

“What do you like to do?” he called out.

“Drink!” I replied (again, only half-joking).

“Name something that makes you happy!” he called next.

“Jazzercise!” I answered.

In the end, I got about 20 shots to use. I’ve put two up on the blog already and plan to change them out every once in a while.

I’m going to write a short series of blog posts from the notes I took at the conference. Even though I brought a mini laptop to use for conference note taking, I didn’t use it. I opted instead to take notes by hand, using the pen and tablet provided in our conference packet. As a result, I’m now organizing and typing them up to use here.

I thought it would be fun to begin this short blog series with a few quotes that stood out from the various speakers whose seminars I attended.

My favorite quotes from the conference:

  • “Follow your dreams, or your dreams will follow you.”—-Deb Caletti
  • “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”—-Bob Mayer, NY Times bestselling author.
  • “You have a story to tell. So tell the damn story.” —-Janna Cawrse Esarey, author of The Motion of the Ocean: One Small Boat, Two Average Lovers, and a Woman’s Search for the Meaning of Wife.
  • “The publishing industry isn’t changing by the day but by the hour. It’s a brutal industry. I feel sorry for everyone trying to break in now.”—-Steve Berry, NY Times bestselling author.
  • “Write every day, read every night.”—-James Rollins, NY Times bestselling author.

And here are several additional quotes from from Bob Mayer that I picked up from three of his presentations I attended. Mayer graduated West Point, served in the Special Forces (Green Berets), including commanding an A-Team, taught at the J.F.K Special Warfare Center & School, and has conducted thousands of presentations, workshops and keynotes both in the United States and internationally. He’s a N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly and USA Today Best-selling author.

Mayer was one of the most popular speakers at the conference, due in part to the open, honest, humorous, and intelligent manner in which he shared his twenty years’ experience with traditional and self publishing.  His military background and leadership training was also a unique draw for the crowd. (“He could kill a man with nothing but a spoon,” someone tweeted from the conference.)

From Bob Mayer:

  • “I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but agents and editors tell everyone to send them something after the conference one-on-ones, because 90% of attendees won’t actually do it, rejecting themselves first.”
  • “Expecting your publisher to promote your book is like expecting your ObGyn to raise your child.”
  • “Will anyone else care? Make them care.”
  • “90% of people aren’t willing to learn anything.”
  • “Probably the best book you’ll write is the one you’re most afraid to write.”
  • “The only thing keeping print book sales up is Costco and Walmart, and that’s maybe twenty authors.”
  • “The hardest thing about being a writer is writing.”
  • “Courage is acting in the face of fear.”
  • “The big publishers promote ten authors. The rest, they just throw out there.”
  • “Attack the ambush. Whatever you’re most afraid of, you must attack into it.”

More from many of these authors in the next couple of blog posts. I’ll be starting with Bob Mayer and his first conference presentation, “E-pub, POD, and the Future of Publishing for the Writer.”


  1. Wow. Someone was paying attention! You definitely hit all the highlights of the conference. Every speaker quote you listed were things that resonated with me as well.
    And I completely understand and respect your decision not to “pitch”. The entire concept was really foreign to me as well. I actually saw people grabbing a drink before their pitch appointment and also saw someone break out in hives! The anxious energy was thick, eh?
    I found some great corners to sit and write. As a whole though, I got a ton of great information from the courses on craft.
    Great blog! Off to write.

    • Thank you for commenting, Donna! The image of pre-pitching hives and drinks seriously made me laugh. Classic! I did a spontaneous pitch my first conference and three planned pitches on my second, but my focus was definitely elsewhere this time. I’m glad that you understand how it felt to just soak it all in, sit back, and enjoy. I did love the conference this year and had a lot of laughs and learned so much. I wish they were having it at the same location next year. The ease with which I could just ride the elevator a few floors between the conference and my hotel room was a real treat! Thanks again for your comment! It was great. :)

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