In my last post, I talked about my fun experiences attending the Boston Book Festival. The event brimmed over with sessions that were helpful for writers who are on the path to publication.
The first of these sessions was called the "Guided Open Mic," with our expert guide being author and investigative TV journalist Hank Phillipi Ryan. Here's a picture of the Arbor Room of the Boston Public Library, where that session was held.
I got a chance to do a reading at that session and had hoped to get my work read at a second session. This one was across the street at the Old South Church about an hour later.
Imagine this scene. The room is packed with about 250 people. Up on the stage, a panel of four publishing industry veterans is assembled, with representation from the literary agent, editing and publishing communities. The session was named Writer Idol.
Now that you've had a chance to visualize the scene, here's a photo of the session as it was about to begin (it's fuzzy, but you'll get the sense of it).
1. Participants were asked to bring in a 250 word beginning to a novel or piece of non-fiction and state the genre.
2. The entries were put in a box and a woman actor pulled them out and read from them.
3. There were four judges: a couple of agents and two other people from publishers.
4. The entries were read until two of the judges raised their hands to stop.
For example, it turns out the judges REALLY did not like references to certain bodily functions that get activated when a character gets squeamish. TMI, I guess. There were three entries or so that went there; they all got shot down immediately.
Other no-no's included overuse of flowery adjectives, misuse of large words, and overuse of cliches. I'd imagine most writers that participated in a writing group wouldn't be surprised by these things, but seeing the panelists stop the reading because of these gotchas offered powerful reinforcement on these do's and don'ts.