Yesterday I arrived at The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne half an hour before the start time of my first Literary Speed Dating event, organised by the Australian Society of Authors.
Wind the clock back five hours and I had just turned off my alarm after lying in bed for at least thirty minutes waiting for it to go off. I felt surprisingly calm and mentally gave myself a pat on the back. Ten minutes later I had my leggings on and was jogging on my mini trampoline. I hadn’t exercised for a couple of weeks because every waking, non-working moment had been spent at my computer rewriting, editing, tearing chunks out of my manuscript and rewriting again.
Breakfast. Shower. The nerves started to hit. I practised my pitch in the shower, while getting dressed and finally to the mirror in the living room, complete with well-placed smiles and gestures. I clutched my manuscript and practised my pitch walking to the tram and in the tram, fleetingly wondering if anyone was watching my lips move.
Back to my entry into the Wheeler Centre. I wasn’t the first one there. I had my name checked off and entered the large room to the left. Chairs were placed along the longer walls and a few people were sitting. I was far too nervous to sit. My heart was almost punching through my rib cage with every beat. I thought I was going to faint. Writers Victoria staff and volunteers were moving around, chatting to everyone and trying to keep anxiety levels down.
Finally the session began. We were allowed into the next room where seven publishers were sitting behind tables placed around the edge. We had been instructed to line up in front of our preferred publisher. Soon the lines snaked close to each other but everyone appeared to know who they were waited for. Somehow I found myself second in line for my first choice.
Each of us had three minutes to pitch. It had been suggested to keep our pitches to one minute, leaving two minutes for any questions the publisher might have. I had timed my pitch to perfection and, when my time came, was able to deliver it word perfect, including smiles and gestures. As I spoke I wondered if the lady across the table from me could see my heart creating rhythmic bumps in my chest.
Despite my efforts, the first publisher did not offer to take my manuscript, but she did suggest I submit online. So I moved into the line for my second choice. I was still feeling nervous, but I could manage a short chat with others in my line. Looking around the room I saw an eclectic bunch of would be authors. There must be a myriad of stories here, just waiting to be told.
I approached my second choice of publisher with no expectations. I smiled, spoke each rehearsed word as eloquently as I could and waited for her polite rejection. Instead she seemed interested and asked a few questions. I could hardly believe it when she indicated I could leave my manuscript with her. I suddenly knew what the expression “walking on air” felt like.
As I left the building I put everything into perspective. Mine was not the only offering the same publisher had accepted. She had a small pile on the corner of her table. Theoretically it was possible she was simply a nice person who had accepted something from everyone who had pitched to her. Still, she had taken my manuscript. Despite knowing her simple act might lead nowhere, I am happy.