Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding Perfect Pitch, by Jill Kelly

When I finished polishing my first novel in 2009, I was eager to pitch it at the WW conference, so I wrote the pitch out and rewrote and rewrote it. Then I signed up for Leona Grieve’s pitch practice workshop to get prepared. Leona’s advice was far better than any I’d gotten off the web, and I could see my pitch was too long and too complicated, had too many minor characters, too many names, too much information. No wonder I had trouble keeping it straight when I pitched it to myself. Worse yet, I hadn’t done the research I needed to on the agents.

This was important because I couldn’t fit my book into a category: it was women’s fiction, but not standard chick lit. It was a romance but unconventional. It was literary fiction by style but not by subject. So although 
I believed in my book, I went into my three appointments with little confidence.

They were disasters! I felt timid, beholden, and what’s worse unprepared. Usually I’m great at one-on-one conversations but with each meeting, I felt less and less like I knew what I was doing there. I was just relieved when it was over.

Two years later, I’ve completed a second novel and I do the research and I pay for three more pitches. I am determined to have a difference experience, if not a different outcome.

So…I don’t write out a pitch. I figure out two things I want to say. First, I describe the opening chapter in a couple of sentences: 60-year-old woman on the run goes into a bar in New Mexico, meets a cowboy, and agrees to marry him. Doesn’t tell him about the psychopath on her trail or the detective she’s in love with at home. Second, I ask for what I want: an agent to champion the book and its older characters.

My appointments were Saturday so all day Friday I pitched to anyone who would listen. I pitched in line for meals, in the bathroom, waiting for workshops, in-between workshops. I pitched to 70 people at least. I was pumped.

All three of my appointments were easy, comfortable, fun. All three agents wanted to read. One sent me a contract. This week we sold that novel, Fog of Dead Souls, to Skyhorse Publishing. 


Jill Kelly is a writer, freelance editor, and writing couch in Portland. Her memoir, Sober Truths, was an Oregon Book Award finalist. She recently self-published her first novel, The Color of Longing, and a how-to book, Sober Play: Using Creativity for a More Joyful Recovery. 

Monday, February 4, 2013


Willamette Writers is soliciting entries for the 2013 FilmLab's "Script-to-Screen" short film scriptwriting competition. We seek writers with the ability to tell a compelling story quickly and cinematically, while adhering to a theme and a practical eye towards real-life movie production. Unique to scriptwriting contests, the Script-to-Screen Competition grand prize is this: we will produce a short film based on the winning script! The winning writer will have the opportunity to meet and collaborate with our production team, attend the filming- in short, to experience the collaborative process of filmmaking! The resulting film will premiere at the 2013 Willamette Writers Conference in August.

Guidelines: Scripts are limited to 7 pages, in standard screenplay format. Stories should unfold within one principal location and feature nor more than four main characters. Writers are encouraged to incorporate this year's Conference theme celebrating the Northwest's "Fresh Brewed" coffee, breweries, and/or creative spirit. Scripts will be judged on their writing, adherence to theme, and on the practicality, given time and budgetary constraints, of producing the story- in other words, how well will this story translate from the script to the screen?

Submission period: Scripts must be received by Willamette Writers no later than Friday, March 15, 2013 to be considered.

Entry Fee: $25 for general public, $20 for Willamette Writers members.

Screenwriters, storytellers- this is your chance to realize the dream of having your work produced and splashed onto the big screen for the world to see- don't pass this up!