Hotel room view - uptown from the Bowery
Well, my agent meeting went well yesterday. She suggested a few things so I will be re-writing a little when I get home. She's lovely and we got on well, but I knew that from talking to her on the phone. So, all in all, a very positive meeting and I am now officially excited about my American novel. Yay!
Brekkie at McNally Jackson
Next stop, San Francisco for my chapbook launch. It is chapbook heaven here in NY - I had to stop myself buying tons of them in McNally Jackson. What a book shop! Filled with covetable books, notebooks, cards. Impossibly cool staff too. And it's hard not to love a book shop that serves granola and OJ.


If you’re writing for children or young adults, you need to be beside your computer on 28th September for the launch of WritersWebTV.com, a new Irish start-up delivering a world first for writers: top-class, online free-to-watch-live writing workshops.

They say:

Featuring Irish and international best-selling writers and industry professionals, these workshops are aimed at new and aspiring authors keen to polish their writing and get it on the path to publication.

The first workshop Writing for Children and Young Adults will run on Saturday, September 28th 10am-4.30pm (London time) with picture book authors & illustrators Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick and Michael Emberley; Emmy award winning director Norton Virgien of Brown Bag Films, and Literary Agent Polly Nolan. They will be joined by international bestselling YA authors Meg Rosoff and Oisín McGann, all giving their sage advice and talking the viewers through the colourful world of children’s and YA fiction.

You can avail of the workshops for free when you watch them live and can communicate with the experts the studio using Twitter, Facebook or email. You can also take part in each workshop exercise and benefit from on-screen feedback. If you want to download a workshop or watch it later, you can pay to keep the course.

The shows are streamed from a multi-camera broadcast studio, complete with an in-studio audience of aspiring writers who will present some of their work for critique by the best-selling authors. Led by Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie, the panel will cover the key elements of fiction writing at every workshop, and furnish you with tips and advice to help you polish your writing and get it on the path to publication.

Sign up now at WritersWebTV.com to join us on the 28th! Other upcoming courses include, Getting to the Heart of it: Writing Women’s Fiction on Tuesday, October 15th, Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction on Wednesday, October 30th, and Getting Published on Saturday, November 9th.
More at www.writerswebtv.com, email: info@writerswebtv.com or get in touch through Facebook or @writerswebtv.

5 Questions with a Comedy Showrunner's Assistant/Writers' Assistant

Jessica is the showrunner's assistant and writers' assistant for NBC's Sean Saves the World, which premieres on October 3. She was kind enough to answer 5 questions about her job:

How did you get your job?
I started working with Victor Fresco as a writers' PA on ABC's Better Off Ted. Over the course of the show, the other writers' office assistants were nice enough to train me in their respective jobs, so by the end of the second season, I'd had experience helping out as an Executive Producer assistant as well as in-room writers' assistant.  When Victor's assistant got staffed and moved on, Victor hired me as his assistant through his deal at ABC Studios.  From there, I took on the additional responsibility of script coordinator for the pilot of ABC's Man Up! and served as in-room writers' assistant when it went to series. And then when Victor made a deal with UTV, I went with him, which led to my position on Sean Saves the World.

What are the duties of your job/what is a usual day like? 
Victor's a pretty low-maintenance guy, so it's mostly just scheduling, communicating with other departments, and taking notes on calls for him. As writers' assistant, I'm in the writers' room typing the script or notes on a computer hooked up to two big monitors, trying not to make any real-time mistakes. I also help with proofreading and script distribution in my downtime. Annnd judiciously pitch jokes.  Since SSTW is a multi cam, part of my day involves going to set and seeing run-thrus or a shoot, which is always fun and allows time to socialize - something you don't get on single cam as much.

Do you have time to write at your job? 
Haha. No. While my boss was in development, I had plenty of time to make progress on my own samples, write for my sketch group, and freelance blog for two different comedy sites, but all that has fallen by the wayside for the time being. Every show I've worked on has been like this - you kind of have to give yourself over to the job and not look back, or you'll go nuts with guilt.

What kinds of things have you learned about writing or the industry from your job? 
Oh my gosh - it's like paid grad school. Watching the writers go through the writing (and rewriting and rewriting) process, I've learned that it's worth it to rethink every single joke...the best stuff doesn't come from the most obvious thought pattern.  And you want your main character to drive the story - that's a big one. Oh, and just say nice things about everyone all the time, even when shit-talking is justified.

Have you asked your boss to read your writing? How have you gone about navigating that?
Yes - it took me a long time to work up the courage to show my boss my writing, and he was very encouraging and gave me great feedback. I've also gotten to develop with an executive I met. I think most people want to help you to the extent that you enable them to do so, but you can't expect anyone to be your savior. It's important to be really, really confident that what you're showing them is your absolute best work, as first impressions can shape the way a person perceives your talent. But don't be such a perfectionist that you never show anyone anything. It's...hard, but worth it!


I have a short article on flash fiction - the Word for Word column - in this weekend's Irish TimesHere!

Cork, New York and San Francisco

I'll say cheerio for a bit. I'm of to Cork, New York and San Francisco. Excitement!

CORK: For the Cork International Short Story Festival, to hear readers such as Angela Bourke and Alistair MacLeod, and to chair a panel on short story anthologies with editors and publishers of four recent anthologies, namely Kevin Barry, Sinéad Gleeson, Micheál Ó Conghaile and Elizabeth Reapy.That's on at 2.30pm in Triskel Christchurch on Saturday.

I may even participate in the Culture Night event - Flash Fiction Rapid Fire - at 9.15pm on Friday night. Also in Triskel.

NEW YORK: To meet my new literary agent and see if she enjoyed the finished novel. Eeek, nervous. And to enjoy New York, of course :)

SAN FRANCISCO: For the first time for the launch of my chapbook of short-short stories, Of Dublin and Other Fictions on Friday the 27th September at the Parc 55 Wyndham, Union Square at 7pm, as part of the American Conference for Irish Studies. I'll read from the book, which is the first publication for publisher Tower Press, run by Idaho-based academic Jodi Chilson. If you are in San Fran, or you know anyone there, all are welcome to come along to the launch.

On Sunday the 29th, I'll be giving a talk on the Irish Short Story at the Irish Literary and Historical Society at 5pm in the United Irish Cultural Center, 2700 45th Avenue, San Francisco.

I'll talk to you all when I am back. Slán go fóill!

September is BAFTA Guru's Screenwriting Season

This month, BAFTA Guru will enter its "Screenwriting Season." An educational resource of BAFTA, BAFTA Guru is an extensive library of interviews, podcasts, and lectures featuring countless filmmakers and creatives - including many screen and television writers. The site already includes lectures from Charlie Kaufman, Abi Hoffman, and John Logan and insights from the likes of Joss Whedon, Seth Rogen, Jenni Konner, and many more.

The 2013 BAFTA Guru Screenwriting Lecture series schedule:
Sept 23 - David S. Goyer (Man of Steel, Batman Begins)
Sept 25 - Hossein Amni (Drive)
Sept 28 - Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich)
Sept 29 - Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton)
Sept 30 - Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral)

Tickets have all sold out for these events, but Guru will be releasing podcast audio, transcripts, and video clips in the days following each lecture.

In the meantime, you can access all of BAFTA Guru's writing content via their Screenwriting strand, including their "Big Questions" interviews, in which writers talk up what inspires them and how they got their starts in the business.

So bookmark and watch this space, as it's sure to expand its spotlight on some of the most exciting film and TV writers working today.

Writers' Workshop in Lismore Castle

Writer Ethel Rohan
San Francisco-based Irish writer, Ethel Rohan, will teach a “Brilliance of Brevity” workshop in Lismore Castle, Waterford, as part of Abroad Writers Conference. This three day master class will focus on the crafting of electric and concise narratives. The workshop runs December 11-13th, 2013, and is for writers of both fiction and creative non-fiction. The class goal is to hone the art of selectivity and write one's best and briefest work. In-workshop writing will encourage fearless enjoyment of the process and the careful construction of the stories that participants are most burning to tell.

Other writers teaching at Lismore Castle as part of the Abroad Writers Conference include: Robert Olen Butler; Karen Joy Fowler; Mariel Hemingway; Claire Keegan; Jane Smiley; Lily Tuck; and many more.

Ethel Rohan is an award-winning writer and the author of two story collections, her latest is Goodnight Nobody. She invites writers at all levels to join her in Lismore Castle and says, "We will do great things together." For further details visit www.ethelrohan.com. To register email founding Director Nancy Gerbault at abroadwriters at yahoo.com.

Screenwriting links: Friday, September 13


My course at Penfest in Carlow tomorrow is full, but I am teaching a one-day short fiction course at the Irish Writers' Centre in Dublin on the 12th of October, for all you story lovers. 10.30am-4.30pm, €80 / €70 (members). We will discuss, read, workshop, write.

See here for bookings and more.


Writer Catherine McNamara
It's been a week for guests at WWR and today I am very happy to host Catherine McNamara whose début short story collection Pelt and Other Storieswas a semi-finalist in the Hudson Prize and is just published. Catherine grew up in Sydney and has lived in France, Somalia, Belgium, Ghana and Italy. Her stories have been published in Wasafiri, Short Fiction, Wild Cards, a Virago Anthology, A Tale of Three Cities, Tears in the Fence, The View from Here, Pretext and Ether Books.
Catherine’s launch for Pelt and Other Stories will take place at 7pm, Friday 13th September, at the Big Green Bookshop, Unit 1 Brampton Park Road, Wood Green, London N22. She says, 'Do come and celebrate with red wine and raw tales!'

Take it away, Catherine:

When I opened the envelope containing the review with my first published short story, I was a young mother with a baby in a basket on the floor of our house in Mogadishu. A long time ago; many lives past. Like most of us, my first published stories were set in my childhood home, Australia. Over the years I’ve published stories set in Somalia, Belgium, Italy, Ghana ... even Mauritius! Are our short stories allowed to follow our lives? And do they risk being lesser because we are visitors wherever we reside?

The short story written about a borrowed land is doubly difficult. Context must be present but it can’t be shouted on the page. The work must be steeped in Otherness, with no showing off of the writer’s intricate knowledge. Action must occur according to the clefts and indentations of the land in question; the light, the pace, the colour of a town. People, it is said, are all the same, but there are differences in the way we walk, we utilise time, we look at the sky, the things that are pressing for us. An authentic work must convey these differences with no tangible effort, and the reader must be swept along towards a shift in knowledge, hardly given a second to consider.. Hang on, isn’t she from Australia? What’s she doing pretending she’s a pregnant Ghanaian woman?

And yet, even pitch-perfect success with this type of ‘ventriloquism’ brings its own risks. Read this harsh criticism of Nam Le’s breathtaking debut collection ‘The Boat’, which gives voice to Colombian gangsters, a New York painter, a Japanese girl, an Anglo-Australian with a sick Mum on the NSW coast:“But while his ventriloquism is impressive, Le’s stories often feel like a set of genre exercises that precisely imitate their sources without transcending them. I once heard an offhand critique of The Boatthat more or less sums up its flaws in one line: ‘that book is the work of an A student.’”  (link: Emmett Stinson, The Sydney Review of Books)

An over-polished and soulless exercise. Quite crushing to read this about a book that I found mesmerising. If Le has failed in this reviewer’s eyes, could that mean it is better to produce a work that plunges towards an interior truth, but remains a little ragged around the edges?

Or worse, should writers stay at home and write only about what they know?

For those of us who are rootless, living in another language or culture, these options will always be tricky. You will be challenged as to your rights over the subject matter. You may be accused of appropriation, inaccuracy, exoticism. And yet the critic above uses a key word in his analysis. It is what every story must do, it must transcendplace, race and form. It must transport and transform that all-important person, the reader.


Readers can buy Pelt and Other Stories here and the book's blogspot is here. It is also available on Amazon and at the Book Depository.


I'm delighted to welcome Máire T. Robinson to the blog today. I first met Máire when I worked at the Western Writers' Centre in Galway, about 10 years ago, and Máire came along to a class. Her talent was obvious then and it's great to see her work between covers now, having followed her writing over the years in various lit mags including Crannóg, Horizon Review and the Chattahoochee Review.

Máire holds a Masters in Writing from NUI, Galway and was nominated for a Hennessy Award in 2012; she was the overall winner of the Doire Press Chapbook Competition 2013. And now Doire have published her début collection of short stories, Your Mixtape Unravels My Heart.

For any Dubs reading, Your Mixtape Unravels My Heart will be launched in The Irish Writers’ Centre tonight, the 11th of September, at 7pm.

I have a spare copy of Máire's fabulous book to give away so if you would like to win it, simply read the interview and leave a comment.

Welcome, Máire. Your début short story collection Your Mixtape Unravels My Heart is just out from Doire Press. Tell me about the book title, which is a unifying one. Are the story titles the titles of real songs?
Thanks, Nuala. Yes, the book contains ten short stories and each one is based on a different song. Music is a great source of inspiration for me, as I'm sure it is for many writers. I love how songs have that power to resonate and send you off on creative tangents. I'm also interested in the parallel between creating a mixtape and creating a collection of stories. You're weaving together these elements that shouldn't necessarily fit. They may vary in tone, shape, or emotional pitch. It's very much a labour of love. You're trying to create something that is more than the sum of its parts, that somehow becomes this unified whole.

The cover image and design are great. Can you tell me about that?
Certainly. The cover was designed by the very talented Celina Lucey who is based in Cork City. We met a couple of years ago when we were both working in the Irish Writers' Centre. She did some great designs for their posters and brochures at the time and I loved her illustrations. I told her the concept of the book and the image I had in mind, and she designed the cover illustration and found the perfect font to go with it. I'm delighted with how it turned out.  

Why do you write?
Tough question. The honest answer? I don't know. I do know that it makes me happy and I can't imagine not doing it, but it is this strange creative impulse that I don't fully understand.

What is your writing process – morning or night – longhand or laptop?
There's a lot to be said for routine, but I think it's important not to fetishise your writing process. If you become convinced that you can only write at a certain time of day, or with a particular pen, or in front of a vase of freshly cut petunias, or whatever, you're limiting yourself in what you can get done. My dream scenario would be to spend a few hours writing in the morning, then edit for a couple of hours in the afternoon. But I work full-time, so that's not happening. I try to make the most of the time I do have, whether it's writing at weekends, popping into the library on my lunch break for a spot of stealth scribbling, or ignoring the views on bus or train journeys in favour of using that time to make up people who don't exist.   

Who is the writer you most admire?
Margaret Atwood. I remember reading Cat's Eye in my early twenties and being blown away. Everything I've read by her since has never disappointed. Her prose style is utterly compelling. It manages to be fiercely intelligent, yet deeply funny. It's masterful and so, so enjoyable to read. I also love that she has this amazing social conscience, yet her work is never polemical. Her non-fiction is fantastic too. Her book Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing is one I keep returning to. 

Who is your favourite woman writer?
I love Flannery O' Connor's short stories. In terms of novels, I think Molly Keane's Good Behaviour is criminally underrated. And I recently read Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul and loved it, so I definitely want to read more of her work.

Which short story would you like to see on the Leaving Cert?
It would need to be something students would enjoy, that speaks about contemporary Ireland, but also has a timeless quality (because once they add it to the syllabus, it'll probably languish there for quite some time). Something by Kevin Barry would probably fit the bill – linguistically inventive, funny, and sharp.  

What is your favourite bookshop?
Powells in Portland, Oregon. It's book heaven. It's this huge space that takes up an entire block and you get this colour-coded map when you go in. I would literally live there if I could, curled up on a shelf like Yumiko Readman from “Read or Die”.

What one piece of advice would you offer beginning writers?
Be kind to yourself. You will write utter rubbish and that's okay – you're perfecting a craft. It won't be perfect, nor is it supposed to be. The main thing is to actually write. I read this little mantra somewhere and it's stuck with me: You can fix a bad page, but you can't fix a blank page.

What are you working on now? Any plans to write a novel?
I'm currently working on the second draft of my first novel. It's set in contemporary Galway city and features an aspiring tattoo artist and a historian who researches sheela-na-gigs. I'd describe it as a coming-of-age story about two people in their late-twenties who should have their lives figured out, but don't.

Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Poetry Bursary

Noelle Vial
The 13th Annual Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival is celebrating the memory of Killybegs poet Noelle Vial with the creation of a poetry bursary in her name. The bursary, which is being offered in association with members of the poet's family, will take the form of a week-long stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Newbliss, County Monaghan, and will be known as the Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Poetry Bursary.

The bursary is aimed at an emerging poet, writing in English or Irish or both, who will be at a particular point in the development of their writing careers. That is, their work will already have been featured in a selection of established poetry publications, magazines, anthologies, etc., and they will now be at the point of preparing a debut or a second collection for submission to publishers. The sojourn at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is designed to provide them with the time and space to refine and collate their work. The bursary is open to poets living and working in Donegal, as well as to Donegal-born writers who may currently be based outside the county.

Poets wishing to be considered for the bursary are invited to submit 6 to 10 samples of recent work, their CV which will include a record of publication of work to date, and an Artist's Statement of not more than 200 words, outlining how and why a stay at the Tyrine Guthrie Centre would assist their development as a writer.

Submissions should be forwarded to the Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Poetry Bursary, Donegal Bay and Blue Stacks Festival, c/o Donegal County Library, Rosemount, Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, no later than 5.00pm on Wednesday 18th September 2013. Submissions may also be emailed to traolach@donegalcoco.ie.

The winner of the inaugural Noelle Vial Tyrone Guthrie Centre Poetry Bursary will be announced on Friday 27th September 2013.


Writer Aileen Armstrong
Here's something to brighten up your Monday: début writer Aileen Armstrong at the blog today, with a guest post entitled 'The Roots of Preoccupations'. Aileen's first book, a linked short story collection called End of Days, has just been published by the fabulous Doire Press who are based in Connemara, County Galway.

The book will be launched on Saturday the 14th September by Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly at Galway Arts Centre at 1pm. Aileen, who grew up in Sligo, now lives in Galway. Her writing has appeared in Galway Stories, the Stinging Fly, and Long Story, Short. She holds a MA in Writing from NUI Galway.

If you can't wait 'til Saturday to read it, buy the book here now.

The Roots of Preoccupations

Aileen Armstrong

When I was twenty, I spent an Erasmus year at university in the south of France. Back in those days, I didn’t know any writers, and I had already (and prematurely, as it turned out) abandoned any attempt at writing creatively myself.  Even so, it seemed to me that Erasmus years were the stuff of fiction-makers’ dreams. All of that youth and uncertainty, the language mash-up, the cultural pleasures and the cultural absurdities. Somebody should write a novel about Erasmus students, I thought. Somebody, somewhere, should mine this fount.

I took a class, in my French university, that would focus on the American short story. The class was taught in English, and only two authors were examined: Raymond Carver and Hermann Melville.  My feelings about Carver are for another day. But via Melville’s short story collection The Piazza Tales I was introduced to Bartleby the Scrivener, and anyone who has encountered Bartleby won’t forget him. Bartleby, a pallid notary taken on by a Wall Street lawyer, performs his documentation tasks admirably at first. It’s not long, however, before he is trying the patience of his colleagues and his employer. To repeated injunctions to perform office duties, or do anything at all, he has but one mysterious, minimalistic response:  ‘I would prefer not to.’ Eventually, the lawyer discovers that Bartleby has been sleeping in the office – that he does not, in fact, ever leave the office, but continues to occupy its space with his ‘passive resistance.’

In later years, after graduation, I worked for a long time in an office not unlike Bartleby’s, doing work that was not unlike Bartelby’s. And often, when I was working alone well into the evening, chasing a deadline, I would be struck by the same kind of melancholy a first reading of Bartleby invites. It seems to me that the stories we read earliest – or perhaps the ones we read best – do this to us. We hardly notice it, but their patterns or images become settled in us. They become part of our sensory make-up.

I didn’t write that novel. And maybe I didn’t exactly write short stories either, since the pieces in my collection – End of Days, Doire Press – are lightly linked, meant for reading in sequence. Still, in one of them, the title story, an Erasmus student spends Christmas alone in her flat aware of, but removed from – possibly even passively resisting – the festivities that are taking place in the busy bar on the ground floor of her building. And it’s only now that I’m writing this that I can see where the roots of my preoccupation – with solitary souls in communal buildings? – potentially lies, and I’m amazed, as I often am, at how much time I seem to need to process things.

That class on American short fiction was a bit of a disaster, truth be told. But if I got nothing else from it, I still got Bartleby. He was more than enough.

How to Pitch a Movie or TV Show

Pitching: all working writers have to do it at one time or another, but in the aspiring writer world, it's a topic often mentioned but rarely parsed. Which is a shame, because if presenting your ideas (or your take on an idea) is essential to the professional writing process, perhaps we should talk more about it. Luckily, there are few illuminating resources and demos available. This blog collected some good pitching links in 2011, but we felt it was time for an update. 

The Hollywood Pitching Bible, by Douglas Eboch (writer on Sweet Home Alabama) and Ken Agaudo (producer on The Salton Sea) is a no-nonsense, cut-and-dry examination of pitching movies and TV shows. Segmented into brisk chapters, the book covers everything from pitch structure, room etiquette, and even what ideas you should be pitching in the first place. Already boldly assuming that the reader lives in LA or NYC right in its forward, The Hollywood Pitching Bible feels like a sharp weapon by your side as you brave the intimidating arena of pitching. It's worth a look. 

Note from Amanda: If you're specifically looking to pitch TV, also check out Small Screen Big Picture by Chad Gervich. He outlines exactly what goes into a TV pitch - and when I pitched a show to a TV studio, the advice I received from my producer was exactly in line with what Chad wrote. 

I haven't pitched a ton, so the following is certainly not a list of rules you must follow (everyone pitches differently)...but in both TV and feature pitches I've done, I've structured them this way:

1. Intro - why are you the perfect person to write this? Why are you passionate about the idea? Embarrassing childhood and dating stories welcome. Don't be afraid to geek out - people respond to passion. 

2. The concept - what's the show/movie? What's the world? What's it ABOUT on a thematic and emotional level? What movies or shows are tonally similar? 

3. The characters - who are we following? What are their qualities? What's an example of how they would react in a certain situation on the show? What's their backstory? How do they interact with and conflict with each other? What are their arcs (over the movie, or the series?) - what do they have to learn or deal with? Where are they going to go? How will they change? What are they discovering?

4. The pilot story/plot - if you're pitching a TV drama or a movie, then you'll want to go through the plot (but not get SO specific that your pitch gets too long or that things get boring). This is hard. When I pitched a movie, I noticed some of the producers get bored, so I cut some things out on the fly. Keep assessing your audience. They might want to spend more time on one area and skip over another. If you're pitching a TV comedy, the pilot story is less important - you really want to sell them on the show/world and the engine for creating stories, rather than one single episodic story.

5. Episode ideas - for a TV show, have ideas about where the show is going or what some episodes might be (again, dramas and comedies are a bit different here). But I pitched three different stories that got into the areas I was interested in. Any of them could have been the pilot.

6. Questions - Ask if your listeners have any questions. You may get a lot, you may not get any. Once a producer told me he didn't have any questions, and "Quit while you're ahead." 

I like to write out my complete pitch (which should take about 20 minutes or less) in prose a Microsoft word document. For me, it ends up being about 8 single-spaced pages, or 4,700 words (I talk quickly). Then I'll memorize it, but also print it out (or write it out in shorthand) on 3x5 index cards. Some writers say you shouldn't read off of anything, and I don't really READ the pitch, but I bring the cards in case I have a brain fart and totally forget something. The cards are there more as a security blanket just in case I need to look down. Also, I think index cards are better than full sheets of paper, because if you DO end up reading off them a bit, you'll be forced to look up and make eye contact when you have to move on to the next card. If you're afraid you'll use the cards as a crutch, write out the pitch in shorthand instead of printing out the whole thing. I find that if you just write out the first sentence of each paragraph, it will jog your memory and make you remember what you wanted to say - but since all the words aren't on the card, you won't keep looking down. 

Keep in mind that this advice is for formal pitch meetings. Often, you'll go on general meetings where you're asked about your ideas or what you're working on - but you won't give formal 20-minute pitches in these situations. In these cases, you just need to say a bit about concept, characters and/or why you're interested in an idea (it could literally be a 30 second explanation to start off with). Think of it more as testing the waters. Is this the kind of thing the company or person would want to do? See if the person responds to your idea and has some ideas to add. A lot of my generals have been kind of like brainstorming sessions. Producers, execs, etc. might also tell you why your idea won't work, or how it's too similar to another idea - which can be a little soul-crushing, but also helpful. They might have some insider information that will save you time and energy. But it's good to spend some time on small talk and also have a few mini-pitches ready for your general so that if an executive immediately shits on your idea, you'll have something else to talk about. Luckily, you don't usually have to guide a general meeting - the other person will be asking you questions and telling you about their company. I did have one meeting where two executives just stared at me until I said "Okay, so here's what I write about..." but I'm happy to say that's more the exception than the rule. 

Again, for more accounts of how people pitch, check out the links I compiled in 2011

Okay, back to Rob:

We're able to read professional scripts, but unfortunately we can't sit in on professional pitches. Luckily, Max Landis (Chronicle) detailed pitching techniques on a recent(ish) episode of the Nerdist Podcast, and even offered his own take on a Peter Pan prequel live on air. Even A-lister Damon Lindelof (Lost, Prometheus, World War Z) just sat down with Vulture, and, after detailing the current climate of tentpole movie pitches, was challenged to pitch the legend of John Henry as a blockbuster film. Lindelof did. Four different ways.

In another Nerdist writers podcast, THE GOLDBERGS creator Adam F. Goldberg also detailed his TV pitching experience at ABC, which included showing real home videos of his childhood. Usually pros advise against using aids or gimmicks - but since the show is based on his family, the authenticity of the ancillary materials really helped execs to see his vision. 

But part of improving your pitching skills comes just from practice. You can do this on your own, with patient friends, or even to professionals willing to volunteer their time. Just this last year, The Great American Pitchfest celebrated its 10th anniversary and continues to be a yearly festival where hopefuls can go, pitch, and receive feedback on both their idea and their Don Draper game. [Amanda's note: I wouldn't necessarily count on pitchfests as the only thing you do to launch your career, but I do think it's good for people to get practice.]

So, yes: pitching can be scary, but resources are out there to study, demonstrate, and help you prep. Keep an eye out and remember them for that next time you realize that, in so many cases, before any of us will ever get the chance to be paid to write something... we'll probably have to talk about it first.

What was your first pitch like? Chime in!