I’ll be signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.
The panel of judges took their seats. The performers lined up for their turn at the microphone. The crowd quieted down in anticipation of the first audition. Old South Church in Boston’s Back Bay was the place to be yesterday for “Writer Idol,” one of the sessions held as part of the Boston Book Festival. Patterned after the popular TV show American Idol, but with a literary bent, writers were invited to submit the first 250 words of their unpublished manuscripts for the contest. Two authors took turns performing those pages and the panel of three judges—literary agents—raised their hands to get the performers to stop if they heard a line that would prompt them to stop reading. I submitted the first 250 words of my manuscript, but mine didn’t get to the top of the thick stack submitted and wasn’t read.
That was okay. The judges were brutally honest and I wasn’t sure how well I’d stand up to the criticism. However, I came away with great tips from the agents.
- Agents love to discover news voices. Don’t be discouraged if you’re trying to pitch your first book.
- How much room an agent has on his or her list for adding a new talent can weigh into how far the agent will read the manuscript.
- Query widely. What might not be a good fit for one agent, will be a great find for another.
- Agents have “the remote control from hell” in their hands. Find an opening that draws them in right away.
- Don’t “info-dump.” Don’t cram lots of information into your first pages that can be told as the story goes on.
At the end of “Writer Idol,” a winner was chosen, one of the few writers whose work was read onstage without interruption by the judges. Her prize? One of the agents asked her to come up to the stage. She wanted to see the entire manuscript.
The managers of Bestseller’s Café in Medford, Massachusetts have invited me to give an author chat on Sunday, October 5th at 2 p.m. I plan to talk about getting published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game and sign books.
Bestseller’s Café is a lovely establishment. The Boston Globe calls this independent bookstore and café stunning, with its bamboo floors, long counter filled with home-baked goods, and menu of soups, sandwiches, paninis, coffees and teas. So if you have time, stop by the afternoon of October 5th.
The evening is concluding. You’ve wined. You’ve dined. You’re interested in a second date. Maybe. But how do you bring up the topic without feeling awkward. How can you find out more about your date beyond the superficial without sounding like a cop conducting an interrogation? Ask your date to read a book with you. Organize a private book club with a membership of two. Pick a book that could generate lots of discussion. Memoirs and nonfiction can work well, but fiction can also be an option.
When my husband and I were dating, we both agreed to read the memoir, Townie, by Andre Dubus. Townie served as a springboard for my husband and me to talk about all kinds of topics without feeling like we had to be careful of what we said or on our best behavior to try to keep each other impressed. A book club for two will give you an opportunity to get to know your date without the pressure of a date.
An interesting note: I chatted with Dubus this evening at a book event where he did a reading and signing and he told me that when he and his wife were dating they also read a book together.
I’ve decided to post my speech from June 28 at the Messiah Baptist Church Scholarship luncheon in Bridgeport on my blog. I know that some people were unable to attend my MESSIAH SPEECH , so I thought I’d make my remarks public.