Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Investment

My wife works as a waitress at a local restaurant.  She is better at her job than I’ve ever been at any job I’ve had.  And I’ve had a lot.  She works the day shift and still manages to bring home a ton of money.  Unfortunately, the owners recently eliminated breakfast from their menu, cutting into my wife’s tips.  Without her regular breakfast customers, business has been a trickle and her tips have suffered.  I feel bad for her because she enjoys her job, and she works her butt off.  She doesn’t work as many hours as I do, but she does a lot more when she’s there.*
The point is, we don’t have a lot of money coming in (through no fault of hers), and as I plunge deeper into the haunted forest that is the road to Publication, only now do I see what a financial commitment it’s going to take.  I knew about the time commitment: writing, revising, research, marketing, but I never realized how damn expensive the whole thing is.  It cost seventy bucks to have five copies of my book printed – single spaced (!) for my beta-readers because I couldn’t afford to double space it.  Aren’t we supposed to be starving artists?  Aren’t organizations like Writer’s Digest supposed to know that? 
I just spent ninety bucks on a writing webinar.  It was worth it; the advice I got took me from not having a clue about querying to potentially writing a killer pitch.  But my point is, I really couldn’t afford it, I definitely can’t afford that next one that rolls around, whether or not that one also could prove invaluable.  I was looking at writers’ workshops online today; so many caught my eye.  Then I noticed the price tag.  What good are workshops if the people who really need them can’t afford them?  Some may say if it’s important to you, then you have to spend the money.  True, but eating is also important to me (and my family).
Anyway, before this turns into Broke Writer’s Lament, I found an online writer’s conference in New York this January.  I can’t afford to go, but in this case, I think I can’t afford not to.  In addition to the seminars, guest speakers, and networking opportunities,** they have what they call a “pitch slam,” where they lock you in a room with fifty agents who slam your pitch.  No, not really.  It’s an opportunity to essentially do what I did with the pitch critique fifty times over (actually thirty-four if you consider three minutes per agent plus “shuffle” time over two hours).  I’ll get a chance to verbally pitch my novel to as many agents as I can, and they’ll tell me what works and what doesn’t.  Theoretically, I could even get an offer for pages, but I’m not getting my hopes up.
I told my wife about it and what it costs; not only is she okay with it, but I think she’s making me go.  I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the support and patience she gives me, and yes, I do appreciate how rare that is.  Maybe that’s my secret weapon.  I can’t afford writing workshops or fancy software or a ton of accessories.  But what she gives me is worth all that and a universe more.  I just hope I’m worth it.  

*I once heard being a paramedic described as hours of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.  It’s not unusual for us to go for hours on end without a call, then get that one really bad call, where nothing goes right, and the stakes are literally someone’s life.
**Yeah, I don’t ‘network’ well; you should see me at the few parties I attend (“Dan, this is the hydrangea in the corner; hydrangea, Dan.”)

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