presentingI participated in the Asheville Christian Writers’ Conference over the weekend. One conferee asked me how to gracefully exit a 15-minute appointment.

If you aren’t familiar here’s how the 15-minute appointment to pitch or share about your writing often goes:

  1. You wait nervously for your appointment time, lurking near the editor, agent, author with whom you plan to meet.
  2. The person with an appointment ahead of you goes over the allotted time and you push closer, trying to make sure the editor, agent, author sees you.
  3. The person ahead of you finally leaves and you swoop into the empty seat ready to pitch your work.
  4. You blurt out something you meant to be coherent and shove a one-sheet, business card, or pages at the person across the table.
  5. You manage to share something about your book, although you’re not sure it makes sense. Hopefully the editor, agent, author says something helpful and/or asks some questions.
  6. You realize your 15 minutes are up, but NOW you remember what you meant to say in the first place.
  7. You try to squeeze it in even as the next appointee lurks behind you.
  8. You finally mumble something you meant to be coherent and walk away.

Here’s the amazing wisdom I offered that conferee–embrace the awkwardness. Nothing about this process feels natural, so don’t worry when–hello–it feels unnatural. It’s okay. Take a breath and know everyone else feels awkward, too. You are NOT alone and agents, editors, authors have seen and heard much worse.

I once spilled a bottle of water on an agent (not my agent) and he still said nice things about my writing and asked for a proposal.

So how do you exit? Say, “Thank you so much,” and then, as you trip over your laptop bag on the way out, give the next person in line an encouraging smile.