Hosted by: Cynthia Swanson & Andrew Swanson

Stepping off the Tilt-A-Whirl…and Pitching to Agents

When I was a kid, one of my favorite rides was the tilt-a-whirl.  Sure, all they did was go around in a circle while spinning in faster circles, but the sensation of motion, the force it exerted, and the wind blowing through my hair was exhilarating.  It’s kind of like life that way — the larger circle of life, with the smaller ever more pressing motion of work, family, responsibility, and the freedom of creativity.  It’s hard to escape the pressure of work and everything else, with enough left to let the creative side breathe free.  But somehow, those of us who write manage to make it work, grabbing moments where we can to spin the webs of our imagination.

Writing wise, I’ve had my ups and downs.  This novel has taken me longer to write than anything before it.  Granted, it is light years more complicated and ambitious than anything I’ve written before, and required research and a surprising amount of world-building to make it all work.  All while working a challenging full-time day job that would consume my waking hours entirely if I let it.  So I guess there are reasons it took this long.  Was it worth it? YES.  Emphatically so.

But sometimes you just need to step off the tilt-a-whirl and immerse yourself in the creativity around you.

That’s what I did last week, spending three days at the Willamette Writer’s Conference with over 800 other writers.  At previous conferences, I have kept to myself, barely speaking to anyone, so I told myself I was going to be more outgoing and friendly.  I met someone the first day.  While eating lunch, the conversation came around to pitching to agents, and my new friend encouraged me to get out there and give it a shot.  Embracing the moment, I decided to give it a try.

After what felt like an interminable wait in line (it really wasn’t that long), I managed to research agents to create a list, of which four agents had available slots in group pitches.  I was cool with that.  It meant I could listen to what everyone else said, hear the agent’s feedback, and adjust my pitch on the fly.  (Hint: sit to the right side of the agent)  I had ten minutes to get halfway across the hotel to where the pitches were held, so I didn’t have time to do more than try to jot down some notes.  (I wouldn’t recommend cutting it this close).

Here’s what is still blowing my mind: all four agents asked to see my novel. 

I was hoping maybe one would, or that at least I would get some good feedback on how to pitch the next time.  (By the way, it was made clear I suck at pitching, which I blame on lack of planning on my part.)  I was not expecting that all four would ask to see my work.

For the past week I have been working tirelessly to restructure my novel to tighten it the pace and make it stronger.  In the course of doing that, I discovered I needed a different tool to help me visualize the story from a planning or structural perspective — carrying it around it my head wasn’t working anymore.  So yesterday I built a tool to help me.

That’s a story for next time, though.  Tonight I want to celebrate the following:

  1. I took the time to step out of my normal life and immerse myself in a writer’s weekend.
  2. I had the courage to pitch my novel to agents.and last but not least…
  3. All four of the agents I pitched to asked to read my novel.


Happy writing, all.

Categories: Writing

2 replies

  1. Congratulations Cynthia! I’m super thrilled and so proud of you!


  1. To Pitch or not to Pitch? | Wrestling the Muse

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