I’m gauging from the feedback about my near death experience in San Diego that a lot of you thoroughly enjoy reading about other people’s tragedy. I love that about you guys. I’m the first to admit that above any other type of entertainment, real life fuck ups and mishaps always bring a smile to my face. Especially when they happen to other people and those other people can make the situation into a hilarious little tidbit. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy a good shit show, my whole experience in California wasn’t awful. I met a lot of great people, amazing writers, and I was able to reconnect with folks I had met last year at the conference. Oh…and learning crap. I did that, too. I also had the opportunity to pitch my book for the second time this year and in true form, I completely fucked it up. There is just something in my DNA that causes me to become a babbling idiot anytime I’m expected to take my writing seriously. I’m more than capable of making a joke about it or acting like I don’t give a shit about it, but when it comes to seriously pitching in front of people who may be interested in assisting me with this unicorn dream, I lose it. In April I pitched my book at the Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop and I found out early on that I was a completely unprepared, bumbling idiot. And people were okay with it. (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THAT SHIT SHOW.)
I promised myself I would never do that again. Next time, I whispered to my inebriated brain, I will be prepared and professional and I will use mouthwash beforehand. Or drink mouthwash beforehand. So when I signed up for this pitching session I had a plan. I read everything I could about pitching, writing a pitch, owning a pitch, and fucking up a pitch. Then I wrote about 78 pitches. Then I burned about 77 pitches and spent a week revising and crying and obsessing over the one pitch I kept. My friend Amy read it and helped me perfect it and at that point all I had to do was memorize it. I set it aside and prepared for my trip.
Fast forward to the day of the pitch and I’m sitting outside the hotel hyperventilating and counting down the minutes to my pitch. And I’m trying to memorize it. But I’m so nervous that I can only remember one word or maybe one sentence. I read it a hundred times, close my eyes and draw a blank. “Don’t worry,” I say to my unprepared, procrastinating self, “you have it on paper, so just take that in and read it.”
As I step into the room with the three people who will hear my pitch, my heart is racing and I’m trying not to smile too much. My paper is in hand and I’m ready. Then the worst thing happens, the woman in charge of this whole ordeal says “Just place your paper upside down and tell us about your book.” My book? Do I have a book? Pieces and parts of my pitch were there but they were out of order and when I said them out loud, none of it made sense. I called it a bunch of essays and they all scrunched their noses as if I had farted directly in their faces. I mentioned humor and shitty life experiences and an alcoholic father, but I could tell I had lost them. After my rambling they asked questions and made comments like “I guess I don’t understand what’s so funny about living in a trailer park.” and “What makes your story different from any other kid who had a deadbeat dad?” (Umm…the fact that it’s a trailer park and maybe nothing, except I can laugh about it.) This was only 7 minutes of my life, but it felt like an hour long seminar. Toward the end, the woman in charge said “You need to work on your pitch, but you are funny and cute and you have a great personality. As someone who works in PR and marketing, I could sell the shit out of you.”
I walked out without a publishing contract and I was in a state of confusion about what my next step should be. But I’ve been wondering what my next step should be for over a year now and I seem to be moderately capable of figuring it out. My next step is to put a bit more structure into my book, perfect my elevator pitch, finish my book, and keep writing. I’m also investing in a lot of mouthwash and a t-shirt that says “Call me cute one more time and let’s see what happens.”
Here’s my pitch. I may use it and I may not, but I think you all deserve to know what I’ve been working on for the last year.
At the tender age of 15 I was able to consume my weight in vodka and at 19 I considered a career in the lucrative Vegas stripping industry, which makes my life now seem as astonishing as finding a unicorn in your closet. I am currently serving a life sentence in a two story home somewhere in suburban Utah alongside my freakishly nice husband, two kids, a rescue dog and a racist cat. Seeping with inadequacy and riddled with alcohol induced vomiting, my memoir is a random account of a basic life turned on its head with the help of humor and foul language. When my sperm donor abandoned me at the age of 3, I took that as a clear indication of my inadequacy as a human being and my life has been one what-the-fuck moment after another. This book is a humorous depiction of that life; from living in a double wide trailer strategically placed on a garbage dump to becoming fascinated with masturbation at the age of 8. With short, humorous snippets of my 36 years on this planet, I’ve written a book for those of us who look in the mirror and think, “How the fuck did I get here?”. I was compelled/manipulated to write this book by inebriated friends who kept telling me that my tragic childhood stories were hilarious and that perhaps I should consider writing a book. I’m close to reconsidering. I’m currently a contributor at The Good Men Project and have been featured on mariashriver.com as well as My Thirty Spot, a popular lifestyle website. You can find me ranting about writing and life at mandybrasher.com, which seems like a pretty vain site name for person who who’s biggest accomplishment is putting on yoga pants in the morning.
Here is a list of the people I met, why I like them, and a link to their websites/blogs.
Ian and I were set up to meet at the conference by a mutual friend. I assumed that said meeting would never happen considering the vastness of the hotel and my inability to find people I know in a crowd, let alone a stranger. We ended up meeting in an elevator and I immediately knew he was The Guy because our mutual friend had described him as “a young James Taylor.” Nailed it. Ian is well read, smart, funny, and likes to bake bread. He’s also a really nice guy. He suffered through that incident with the Syrian gentleman who basically called me hideous and we laughed about it afterwards. He’s currently working on a novel and blogs at At The Wellhead.
I thought I had a story until I met this lady. During my pitch, one of the people said “You should talk to Donna Voss. I think you guys have a lot in common.” How would I find this random Donna among all the attendees? Enter… the elevators. Thirty minutes after my pitch, a woman complimented me on my hair, we rode the elevator down to the lobby and at some point I asked her name. “I’m Donna.” Ummm….elevators are match makers, in case you were wondering. After talking for a few minutes we realized that we both lived in Utah, we were both writing memoirs, and we both had some shady tales. She’s funny, interesting, and a pleasure to be around. So much so, we are planning to start a writing group. Her book is coming out soon and it documents her life from drug abuse and Paganism to Mormonism and homemaking. (Think about that for a minute, folks.) She writes at donnacarolvoss.com
This woman is as close to my personal Jesus as anyone could ever be. She was a new faculty member at the conference this year and her classes were focused on memoir writing. I sluggishly made my way to her first seminar expecting to hear the same writing tips I had heard at every other class and then BOOM…she busted out her five page handout and began a witty banter with the attendees. I was in love. She is a writing coach, mother, and all around fantastic person. Due to my immediate obsession with her, I attended all of her classes and was inspired by each and every one. At one point she asked me about the story arc of my book and I wanted to cry in the corner. “I don’t have one.” She just smiled and said “Okay. When you are ready to accept structure in your story, I’m happy to help.” Ugh. I didn’t want to admit it, but I probably needed a structure intervention. I’m planning to work with Marni on my book structure and other such nonsense. Basically I love her and you will too. Her website is eWriters Coach.