Master of my Domain!

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Borrowing my title of this post from “Seinfeld,” after walking in my graduation this past Sunday, I now feel like a Master of my Domain – which is Fine Arts of Children’s Literature, to be exact. Technically I’ve been a Master since October, as I was a fall graduate. But Hollins only has one ceremony, so I decided to walk in May. And like my friend and fellow October graduate, Jess, my reaction to graduating was delayed until I actually walked across the stage, shook President Gray’s hand, and walked away with a green Hollins diploma folder. Mind you, my diploma has been framed and displayed in my house since October, but the commencement actually made everything feel real. Not just that I’m done with school (Hallelujah!), but also that I won’t have any reason to visit the Hollins campus anymore. Okay, so maybe that’s not exactly true, as I hope to sit in on one of my advisor’s classes this summer. But I will no longer visit the campus as a student or attend classes there. I no longer have a 6-week block in the summer dedicated to graduate school. And even though these are all good things, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad once graduation was over.

I’m really going to miss certain aspects of my grad school, mainly my close friends and fave professors. But I’ll also miss having so many different pairs of eyes read my work and give me feedback on a constant basis. Sure, workshopping one WIP over and over and having to sort through so many unique opinions about what I need to work on could get old and frustrating. But it also helped me polish my thesis manuscript tremendously. Without the feedback and critiques of my fellow classmates and professors, I doubt it would’ve turned out even half as good.

Even though I’m sad that part of my writing career is over, at the same time I’m now even more determined to be a great writer. At the turn of the new year, I emailed my advisor, who has been very encouraging and supportive of my writing from the beginning. In her response back to me, she said I was to not think of her as my professor anymore – that I’m graduated now, so that makes us colleagues. In no means do I consider myself to be her equal at this point – she has published several books, after all, and I’ve not yet published one – but her words made me realize that it’s now up to me to try to remember everything I learned about writing during my time at Hollins so that I can implement it on my own. I’m not completely alone, of course. I still have my Weasels to send my WIP’s to critique. But for the most part, at least in the initial creating process, it’ll just be me from now on. A scary fact, yes, but also exhilarating!

So here’s to standing on my own two feet – something any Master of her Domain ought to be able to do, right?

The Art of Pitching: Batter Up!

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As my writing partner and friend, Jess wrote on her blog earlier today, the two of us are officially registered to attend the 2012 Agents Conference in Austin where we will both be pitching to agents in June. As in this June. As in approximately 48 days from now. As one can imagine, since we’ve never pitched before, I have been frankly a little intimidated. *takes deep breath & lets it out slowly* Ahh, that’s better. 🙂

But anyway, today after typing up different pitching do’s and don’ts I found online as well as suggestions from our lovely advisor, Hillary Homzie, I started thinking about pitching in relation to baseball. Yes, I know it sounds corny, but bear with me here. Not to brag, but I played Little League softball and yes, I was the pitcher. I was pretty decent at the sport except when it came to sliding into base – I don’t know if I just wasn’t coordinated enough to do it or if I just didn’t want to get my pants dirty, but I couldn’t slide for the life of me, which is why I sadly retired from the game before moving up to Senior League. But think about it: as the pitcher of a softball team, your job is to deliver fast-paced pitches that whizz right past the batter straight into the catcher’s mitt. You have to be careful, though, because your desired strikes can easily turn into balls by throwing a little too much to the side, too low, or too high. Or even if you throw the perfect strike, the batter might still make contact and even hit it right out of the park. Basically, what I’m trying to say is being the pitcher is a pretty tough job. It’s ultimately up to you to strike out your batters and keep the runs of your opposing team to a minimum if you have any hopes of winning the game. Your teammates are very important too, of course, but if the pitcher has a bad night – chances are the whole team will, too. Now, let’s switch gears and change into the mindset of the batter. When you’re up against a killer pitcher, you can breathe easy when the first strike hurls past your bat. You don’t even have to panic when the next one does. But before the third pitch, you better have it together and focus because it’s your last shot. You miss this one and you’re outta’ there!

Unlike in softball or baseball, you don’t get three chances to wow the agent to whom you’re pitching. You can’t goof up your delivery twice and still breathe easy. You have one shot – one strike – to deliver the ultimate pitch that will not only impress the agent but leave them wanting more – and hopefully even asking for it in the form of a full or partial manuscript request. When pitching to an agent, you take on the responsibilities of both the pitcher and the batter – your goal is to throw a curveball they’ve never seen before (read: show that your manuscript is unlike anything else out there and that your readers will eat it up) and then switch gears to blow them away so much, the “curveball” sails over the fence and out of the park as a homerun.

Okay, so if I’m being realistic, I know my pitch session might not result in a homerun. But my goal is to just “make contact” (read: make a connection with an agent). And hey, even if I only bunt it and barely make it to first base, it’s a start, right?