It was the last session of the conference, and I knew it was coming all day. I spent time in the earlier sessions scrawling, and then rewriting in a neater hand, my pitch. Stuffing it into the new bag provided by the conference organizers, I took out a fresh piece of paper, and tried to write another pitch; one that I thought might be more exciting. More suitable. Funnier. Less like me.
I crumpled it up and met up with my friends outside the door; I was as ready as I was going to be. I let two of my friends sitting next to me read my pitch and I said, in my junior-high-school voice, “Is it dumb?” As any friend would, they said no. They gave me a few suggestions and we chatted along with the cacophony of 150 people in the room.
The session was called Pitchapalooza — an invitation to stand in front of a panel of four agents and professional writers and be judged, in a manner much kinder than American Idol, on a book pitch. And there was a golden ticket at stake: an opportunity to be represented and a very real chance for a book deal.
When the time came to write my name on a small slip of paper to place it in the basket, I stalled. I felt unsure of myself and my pitch, and I chickened out.
“I changed my mind,” I told Angie.
“No, you did not. Go get up there and put your name in,” she said. She pushed me gently.
Leigh Ann chimed in with, “Go. You’re prepared to do this. You can do this.”
I walked up to the judges’ desk and nervously made small talk as I waited for the person in front of me to finish filling out her slip. Sitting down, I prayed that my name wouldn’t be called.
And I hoped fervently that my name would be called.
I said I would do this for the experience, even if I bombed. I’d see it through.
Others paved the way for me with their witty, prepared, and smart pitching. With each one, I learned a little more, and mentally re-crafted the minute-long speech I had prepared. When they called my name, I heard my friends cheer through the roar in my ears.
Have I mentioned that I don’t love public speaking?
The person scheduled to speak in front of me didn’t show up, so I was invited to approach the stage quickly, mercifully. Starting with a synopsis of my story and finishing with a brief bio, I finished before the judge could call time. I stood there alone, on the stage, my heart threatening to beat out of my chest as the panel offered my kind and constructive criticism to improve my technique.
I sat back down and Angie hugged my shoulders in congratulations. Fellow conference attendees caught my eye across the aisle to give me thumbs-up signs and encouraging smiles. And my phone buzzed with a message from a new friend, someone I had long admired but hadn’t gotten to know very well yet. I didn’t think she had taken much notice of my work until she said, “You are good and deserve this chance.” Her message brought the bright sting of tears to my eyes.
I didn’t win the golden ticket, and I didn’t expect to. But with every risk, with every limb I scale, inch my inch, taking a chance is something I want to learn how to be better.
I’m lucky I have friends to push me out of the nest and try to fly.
Be that friend with every chance you get to help someone else stretch their wings, because it’s going to come back to you. I promise.
(P.S. Look — someone at the conference drew all of the participants in Pitchapalooza. I’m the one all the way on the right, above the woman with a cat stuffed animal on her head. Yes, a stuffed cat. Photo credit: Ronnie Walter.)
— Kristin Shaw
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, wife and mama to a mini-Texan. In 2013, her blog Two Cannoli was named a Babble Top 100 site, and she was recognized as Type-A We Still Blog awards finalist. She’s proud to be a 2013 cast member and 2014 co-producer of the Listen To Your Mother show in Austin. She was recently named a BlogHer Voice of the Year reader for 2014, and she writes for the Huffington Post.