Cheers to the Writers Who Pitched at Screenwriters World!

(excerpt from on my January 2012 email newsletter) Last month, I volunteered to help run the pitching sessions at the Screenwriters World Conference 2012 in NYC. This was my first pitching event, and if these events are new to you, too, then the following is basically how this one worked.

Over 100 screenwriters came to pitch their work to film & TV execs and talent managers hoping to get a request to send in their script to be read. Since most top production and management companies will only read your work if you are referred to them by a trusted source, a pitching event is a chance to bypass the usual rules and get your ideas directly to those who can help get them produced.

The screenwriters pitched their projects to the reps one after the other, trying to connect with as many reps as they could over a period of four hours. It was without question an endurance challenge for those pitching, for those hearing pitches and even for us volunteers trying to keep it all running smoothly. In the end, I heard stories of varying amounts of success from both sides of the table, but no one I spoke to said their day hadn't been well spent. Hail Mary passes were thrown that day and I hope some of them were caught and new careers were born.

Hats off to everyone who participated in the event, and as a volunteer, I learned a ton about pitching and it was definitely a cool way to spend a Saturday.

(addendum to the newsletter excerpt)

In a nutshell, what I learned about pitching: For those who are planning to pitch someday, the key seemed to be preparation, mostly to achieve a very concise and very clear pitch. More than any other concern, those hearing pitches struggled most with pitches where they couldn't detect the genre and were confused by story and character details. Keep the pitch short and very clear, focusing on your best hook or two, and then be prepared for follow up questions. A strong hook minus any confusing details seems to be a great way to start building your pitch.

If the Treefort's a Rockin'

Growing up in Manhattan, there weren’t a whole lot of tree forts. There must have been a few wealthy families who had them in their tony backyards, but I didn’t grow up with those families. I grew up with the kids who played in the West side rail yards, and while the rail yard offered its own homeless enclave meets drug den charm, it was no tree fort. I still live in Manhattan and now, well into adulthood, I finally have a tree fort, and this one is so chic it comes with a hashtag. The #treefort is a collective of the five people who founded Twitter Scriptchat, and while our fort may be virtual, our commitment to each other is as serious as a 12-year-old boy’s love for cigarettes and girlie mags.

Each week, the #treefort pals climb into our (virtual) private hideaway, and after a healthy session of gossiping and playing catch-up, we come up with a game plan for another week of #scriptchat and tequila-drinking fun.

Since #scriptchat has grown from an hourly event each week to a daily online hangout for screenwriters, we realized it was time to pull up the canvas shades and let you peek inside to meet the folks who inhabit a tree fort so big it stretches from Los Angeles to London, yet so small it holds only five people. We’re still not going to tell you what we talk about in there, because those are the secrets we pinky swore to take to our graves, but we are ready to get a little more formal and a little more public about who we are, where we came from and what we’re writing.

Check out the first official #treefort bios and meet five adults who wanted a screenwriters’ playspace so badly they broke out the hammers, nails and two-by-fours and with their bare hands built #scriptchat.

Links #Treefort Bios Scriptchat Blog


The #Treefort on Twitter Jeanne Veillette Bowerman ... @jeannevb Mina Zaher ... @DreamsGrafter Zac Sanford ... @zacsanford Jamie Livingston ... @yeah_write Kim Garland ... @kim_garland

Literary Boogers: Why Writers Should Grab a Tissue and Start Editing

If I were a surgeon by trade and found myself having to remove a kid’s splinter on the playground, with a group of parents watching, I’d ease out that little chunk of wood with such finesse, you’d hear the tale sung of my derring-do for years to come. But why should I care? Getting the splinter out, any old way, would lead to the same result: a splinter-free kid. For me though, the answer is simple. It’s all about pride.

Pride is a valuable tool when wielded thoughtfully. It’s what gets you to do a quick nose check before leaving home because you’ve got more pride than to walk down the street with a booger hanging out.

Circulating your writing before you’ve given it the attention it needs to really pop is the literary equivalent of the hanging booger. While the offense may be quick to fix (with a tissue or some light editing) the fact is you didn’t and everyone saw. Everything a writer posts, hands out or publishes is a writing sample, whether you intend it to be or not. It will be judged and you will be assessed as a writer by its quality.

Your blog is a form of self-publishing, and while the photographer’s blog isn’t judged by its words, the writer’s blog sure as hell is. A blog post should have a beginning, a middle and an end, clearly make a point and be entertaining. It should be carefully edited. You are both writer and editor of your blog. When you’re done writing, have your writer-self leave the room and then edit the crap out of the piece… like your reputation depends on it.

If you’re submitting an article to an editor, this isn’t the time to fall back on believing it’s their job to get it right. It’s not; it’s yours. It’s also your job to make the editor’s work on your piece as easy as possible. Cleaner copy leads to happier editors leads to more jobs. Submit your work after meticulous editing, as if they’ll run the piece without ever reading it. Then, when you get notes back, you’ll get the editor’s insight on how to perfect your story conceptually, rather than having your editor bogged down revising weak prose you could have handled yourself.

Creative writing requires a somewhat different approach, since it’s customary to receive feedback during the process to improve the final story. Your goal when soliciting feedback should be to receive notes that will push your story forward. If you give a reader a story you completed just ten minutes before shipping it off, the likelihood is high that the reader’s feedback will be exactly those things you already knew were problematic. But if you finish the piece, put it aside for a bit, then come back to it with fresh eyes and a no-nonsense edit, when you do get feedback, the reader will be able to access your story and intention more fully and give you ideas and suggestions that may actually elevate your work.

Writing is such an arduous process that it’s a relief to complete something and all any writer wants to do at that point is share it with the world. But once you get beyond that initial flush, you realize what you really want is to share it with the world and have them think it’s awesome. It’s the awesome part that requires a little patience.

Look at each opportunity to share your writing as a chance to show what you can really do and put in the extra effort to nail your pieces every time. You’ll be viewed consistently as a writer with skill, talent and promise. Don’t take it lightly whether people think you’ve got the goods or not. Everybody wants to back the winning horse and to flourish you’ll need all the backing you can get.

So let’s wipe our noses, pull out our red pens and show them our literary derring-do.