Writers Talk Shop, Novel, and Pitch Conference
Commentary by conference attendees
A Conversation Between Writer Susan Quillin and Michael Neff
Susan grew up and attended schools in New England before moving to New York with her husband, where she became immersed in the worldwide business of model management. She began as an assistant booker in a well-known New York agency. Years later, she had become a partner in one of the industry's most coveted agencies. Throughout her career, she has discovered, developed and successfully guided numerous models beyond their expectations into authorship, acting and design. Her final position was Director of Scouting, Worldwide, for Ford Models, Inc. Twenty years and four continents later, Susan resides in Tarrytown, New York where she is currently pursuing the profession of authorship fulltime.
Sharing actual chapters of Say When with the group was especially daunting. The comments and criticisms were spontaneous and raw. The experience of boldly sharing ideas, mistakes and successes in a setting as intimate as NY Pitch and Shop was incalculably valuable to me. I have experienced an immense transformation in my ability to promote my own material ...
- Susan Quillin
MN: What made you want to write the novel, Say When?
SQ: I have always wanted to write. As a kid I wrote plays and short stories, entertaining my classes, friends and family -- receiving a great deal of encouragement along the way. However, when push came to shove in the big picture, I lacked confidence. I never felt that I knew enough or had enough life experience to write fiction. That mindset changed after twenty-something years in the model management industry where reality, more often than not, is stranger than fiction.
MN: How about a mini-pitch?
SQ: Say When is a story of courage and change that glimpses the world of high-end model management through the eyes of five models and their fiercely supportive and protective agent. Throughout her tenure, Ellie Griswold has discovered, nurtured and guided myriad models to unimaginable careers in and outside of the limelight. When a highly visible model and a valued booker mistakenly become suspects in a front-page murder, Ellie is compelled to confront her own raison d'etre.
MN: What made you choose to attend the New York Pitch Conference? How did you find out about the conference?
SQ: In the process of writing Say When, I realized my complete naiveté, as well as my arrogance. I assumed Say When would be received like no other novel in it's genre: after all, I had poured over it for years in my mind and no one could possibly be better versed in the subject of model management than I, right? However, the moment I committed pen to paper, I realized that I knew nothing whatsoever about the business of authorship. In researching workshops, I came across NY Pitch and Shop on the internet. I was immediately attracted to its tough love concept, the offer of group interaction and the prospect of immediate face-to-face feed back from editors, publishers and peers.
MN: Do you feel Say When is improved as a result? If so, how?
SQ: Say When has improved tenfold as a result of NY Pitch and Shop. First: my writing became tighter, more polished. It wasn't that I had to bend to another writing style, but I did need to develop a stronger voice. Second: I reduced the size of my novel by half. I learned to slash and burn my way through to a more entertaining and concise work. Third: the title has had it's own evolution to eventually land on Say When.
MN: What did you find most effective about the pitch sessions in New York?
SQ: I learned a great deal from the editors in attendance as well as each budding author in my group. Sharing actual chapters of Say When with the group was especially daunting. The comments and criticisms were spontaneous and raw. The experience of boldly sharing ideas, mistakes and successes in a setting as intimate as NY Pitch and Shop was incalculably valuable to me. I have experienced an immense transformation in my ability to promote my own material.
MN: Where does the novel go from here?
SQ: Say When is finished. Through the never flagging encouragement, persistence and expertise of NY Pitch and Shop, I was paired with a brilliant editor for a final read of Say When. Her insights were invaluable to the present state of Say When. Following several sleepless months of slash and burn at her behest and support, NY Pitch and Shop encouraged Plume to read Say When. Finally, New Line has shown interest in turning Say When into a TV "dramedy." I am currently working with a screenwriter of their choice to develop the concept.
Right now I am actively searching for agency representation and madly working on a second novel. No matter what happens with Say When, there are too many too delicious to be true vignettes in the industry that was once my milieu. I shall doggedly continue to pen them with Ellie Griswold at the helm.
About the interviewer:
Michael Neff is the creator and director of WebdelSol.Com and the Algonkian Writer Conferences.
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