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.
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 ...
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
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JB: My father left me an unpublished Civil War diary from a member of the 23rd New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
NYC: How has the story evolved?
JB: I started by trying to write the story directly from the diary and that didn’t work. The
diary explains some, but not all of what was happening around the diarist. 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 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 couldn’t 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
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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