A Conversation With Randy Susan Meyers
Randy Susan Meyers has co-authored a nonfiction book and published short stories and articles. She was a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom novel-in-progress competition. Her serious women's fiction is informed by years of work with domestic violence victims. Ms. Meyers taught fiction revision at Boston's Grub Street Writers' Center where she is an active member of the Master Fiction Workshop led by Jenna Blum. Several years of tending bar offered Ms. Meyers a unique perspective into the minds of men, solidifying the theory that in vino veritas.
Selling a novel isn't like writing a novel. You have to leave the creative bubble. Face it, when you're in a bookstore, you rarely give books by unknown authors long to prove themselves—a quick scan of the book jacket copy, a look at the blurbs, and then maybe a read of the first few paragraphs. Why should editors or agents be any different?
NOTE: RANDY'S NOVEL WAS LATER RENAMED "THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS"
AWC: How would you compare New York Pitch Conference to other writer conferences?
RSM: This isn't a craft workshop, nor is it a giant mix and mingle conference. The focus is sharp. 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 novel, how commercial their ideas are, and about the effectiveness of their pitch—which then translates into one's query letter. This isn't to say that one is discouraged, it's simply tough love. Selling a novel isn't like writing a novel. You have to leave the creative bubble. Face it, when you're in a bookstore, you rarely give books by unknown authors long to prove themselves—a quick scan of the book jacket copy, a look at the blurbs, and then maybe a read of the first few paragraphs. Why should editors or agents be any different? New York Pitch Conference offers an in-depth opportunity to learn the skills you need to capture the first tug of attention.
AWC: What inspired you to write ADOPTING ADULTS?
RSM: In ADOPTING ADULTS sisters cling to each other in the aftermath of their mother's murder and their father's imprisonment for the crime. The novel encompasses thirty years of their lives. My inspiration was threefold. First, when I led groups for batterers, I saw the men's fascination with themselves; when I spoke with their victims, they, of course, had to concentrate on survival. The children—the witnesses—their voices were too quiet. Second, I couldn't stop thinking about an article regarding a woman whose brother killed everyone in the family but her. That woman's dilemma—the one left behind—haunted me. Third, when my sister and I were children our family had an event quite similar to the opening to my book—except that my mother wasn't murdered. That was my 'what if.'
AWC: How has the story evolved?
RSM: The book grew from one sister's point of view, to both sisters narrating the story. It then became as much a novel about their entwined relationship as it was about their father killing their mother. For me, the largest evolution was finding out how these very different women dealt with handling their imprisoned father. In the end, I couldn't wait to find out what happened.
AWC: What made you choose to attend the New York Pitch Conference?
RSM: After I finished the revisions for ADOPTING ADULTS, I researched conferences where agents read and considered your work. When I came across the New York Pitch Conference workshop, I was attracted to the concept of learning about selling and presentation. I liked the idea of being in a small group with the same people for four days and became excited at the prospect of having editors consider my work.
AWC: Do you feel the novel is improved as a result?
RSM: My query and my pitch became more polished. The response to my novel gave me the confidence to move forward with selling my book. Let's face it; writing is solitary work. The conference offered a chance for me to get out of my sweatpants and work on my public face.
AWC: What did you find most effective about the New York experience?
RSM: Do I have to pick just one thing? The editors were extraordinarily generous with their advice on everyone's pitches and presentation. Much credit goes to the work we did the first day: polishing, cutting, and revising our presentations, as well as the pre-workshop email exhorting us to be ready on day one. Being allowed to hear other writer's pitch their work helped enormously. If you listened critically to your fellow group members, you quickly learned what worked and what didn't. I suppose we became each other's tutorials.
AWC: Where does ADOPTING ADULTS go from here?
RSM: Three editors asked to read it. I hope that it clicks, but if it doesn't, perhaps I can learn where I need to tweak or change. Meanwhile, I've started my next book, New Jersey Honor, so that I don't spend all my time checking email and praying.