Writers Talk Shop, Novel, and Pitch Conference
     Commentary by conference attendees

     A Conversation With Jim Buck

Jim Buck is a Class of 1971 graduate of West Point. He spent five years in the artillery and moved on to a career in heavy construction on nuclear, petro-chemical and public works projects in Washington and Alaska. He ran for office in 1994 and is a twelve year veteran of the Washington State Legislature. Until recently his writing was limited to research papers on legislative issues but his military background made him a lifelong military history buff. It was a matter of time before he moved on from technical writing to tackle a historical novel about the Fredericksburg campaign in the American Civil War.

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I had to broaden the context so the diary's timeline and observations could be used as a segway to present the broader historical context of what was happening to the regiment. The work follows the regiment through marches, battles, epidemics and natural disasters ...

- JB

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NYC: Jim, hi. Thanks for this interview. Do you feel your novel is improved as a result of attending the NYC conference event?

JB: Definitely, your requirement to limit the pitch to a minute made me focus on elements of my story. I rounded up my five book jackets and started writing pitches in January. As I did, I came to know the book better. It became a game of discovery, rewrite the pitch, rewrite the book; rewrite the pitch, rewrite the book. Eventually, this drill improved the novel immensely.

NYC: What inspired you to write JOURNEY TO HONOR?

JB: My father left me an unpublished Civil War diary from a member of the 23rd New Jersey Volunteers. Little is known about the unit because its records were stolen. The diary presents the most complete account of their service. I looked at Civil War diaries and unit histories in print and found the only people who buy them seem to be folks who are tracking ancestors or actions in specific battles. On the other hand, Jeff Shaara wrote a splendid historic novel about West Pointers in the Mexican War and it did quite well. I decided to present the story as a historic novel because it is simply too good to publish as an annotated diary.

NYC: How has the story evolved?

JB: I started by trying to write the story directly from the diary and that didnít work. The diary explains some, but not all of what was happening around the diarist. I had to broaden the context so the diaryís timeline and observations could be used as a segway to present the broader historical context of what was happening to the regiment. The work follows the regiment through marches, battles, epidemics and natural disasters as the farm boys become soldiers. The people, places, events and times are accurate but the dialogue makes it a novel.

NYC: What made you choose to attend the New York Pitch Conference?

JB: I am new to the writing world. I started looking into agents and publishers last fall and was startled to find how difficult it is for an unpublished author to even get a return letter. After reading numerous websites and books about getting published I came to the conclusion that I couldnít do it by myself. The New York Shop and Pitch looked like the most likely place to learn about the industry, make contacts and get advice on how to make a first class pitch.

NYC: What did you find most effective about the New York experience?

JB: Participants were limited to sixty and these were divided into four groups. This gave each person a chance to get individual attention for their pitch and advice on their book. The personal attention was most effective.

NYC: Where does JOURNEY TO HONOR go from here?

JB: My first agent query came back in 12 hours with a request for the first fifty pages of the book. Those are currently being reviewed. That would not have happened without the pitch you helped me with. I hope to have favorable news soon.


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WRITERS AND AUTHORS
TALK ABOUT THE
New York Pitch Conference


Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Michael Kopiec. My father was a soldier who survived three years of nearly constant combat with the Nazis. The story is very exciting, but I kept rewriting until finally, it felt right.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Madhu Ghosh. This conference is very different from others in that it is what it says it is. Most conferences try to cram in craft lectures with readings and then interviews with editors and agents, which can get chaotic and confusing.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Randy Susan Meyers. The critique isn't for the faint of heart, but is for those who truly want to hear where they need to work on their presentation, how commercial their ideas are, and about the effectiveness of their pitch  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Stephen R. Levine. My character is sort of a modern day Roskolnikov - too smart for his own good - and the story has universal appeal. It's not just the story of a BAD RABBI but a man corrupted by power and ego. Hopefully others will see it that way too.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Jim Buck. I started looking into agents and publishers last fall and was startled to find how difficult it is for an unpublished author to even get a return letter.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, writer Christine Stewart, writer in residence at the Creative Alliance in Baltimore, Director of the Write Here, Write Now workshops, founding co-sponsor of the Baltimore chapter of the Maryland Writers Association, and recipient of the Ruth Lilly Fellowship.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, author Kate Gallison. Her second mystery series featured Mother Lavinia Grey, an Episcopal priest in a small town in New Jersey struggling to keep her church open and solve the occasional murder.  

Interview with New York Pitch Conference attendee, Alex Keto. Alex was a journalist for twenty-one years. He joined Dow Jones Newswires and worked New York City as a reporter, in Amsterdam as a bureau chief, and Bonn as a reporter. He returned to the U.S. in 1995 and worked as the company's White House correspondent for ten years.  



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