Have you ever walked through an open door into a crowded room and wondered why you are there? That was the thought running through my head this past weekend as I ventured into a college center to find skinny folding chairs lined up in rows, inviting me to rub shoulders with strangers. It was the LA Writers Conference 2015 sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association and Mount Saint Mary’s University. I was at my first writer’s conference posing as a writer.
I was trying on my new writer’s hat. After being a mother, a volunteer, and once a lawyer, I was assuming a new persona. My new business cards said “Rosa Kwon Easton, Author.” I just finished writing my first book, and I wanted to to test the message in my book with potential readers, agents and publishers. I hoped people at the conference would like my book, but I wasn’t sure.
The first session of the day was a Boot Camp Pitch Class, presented by a professional branding specialist who helps you market your book and get it sold. The word “pitch” is used in the industry as the introduction you give to an agent who might want to represent you to a publishing company.
With my heart beating against my chest, I raised my hand limply when the branding specialist asked for a volunteer to pitch.
I stood across from her and said in a monotone voice: “My book is called Echoes Across Time, and it’s about…three generations of a Korean family, uh, my family,
“Stop!” the lady said. “We need to hear more about the war! Talk about the barbed wire, babies on backs, and speak with more passion! Next, tell us how many people you have access to online, via email, Facebook, and other social media. Tell us about your website, and that you are an active blogger. The agents will want to know how many people would possibly buy your book. Do you understand? Thank you Rosa.”
With that, I sat back down overwhelmed, and filled with self-doubt. I have so much yet to do. My pitch needs to be more compelling, my execution stronger, and my audience larger. I realized that writing a book is not just about sitting down quietly and getting your ideas out. It’s also about establishing your author’s platform, and raising yourself up onto a stage so you could be seen online and in person. It’s downright scary.
The day progressed and I honed my message. I spoke with interesting writers, and even some friendly agents. From their feedback, I expanded my pitch to include my children as the fourth generation in my book who will have the opportunity to take on multiple identities in this diverse age. My message became sharper: the journey of one family to find their identity under extreme circumstances, and in doing so, inspiring others to think about their heritage and place of belonging.
I learned a lot at the conference. The panelists provided wisdom about writing as a daily practice, creating a dream team, and the future of publishing. The keynote speakers spoke passionately about taking yourself seriously as a writer, and trusting your own voice.
More importantly, I learned that in order to become a better writer, I needed to open myself up to criticism and allow myself to be vulnerable. If I hadn’t volunteered at the boot camp and kept quiet, I would not have improved my message. I think if we can step out of our comfort zone because we believe in something, we will be pleasantly surprised at what awaits us. If the door is open, walk through it.