MONTCLAIR, NJ - Sergeant Dalton Price was among the twenty writers who gathered at Montclair Public Library on Sunday for a chance to be discovered by an agent or a publisher.
He was among those randomly chosen to pitch his book in 60 seconds with the prize being an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for their book.
On the panel were: David Henry Sterry, author of 16 books, activist, previously an actor, and currently cofounder of The Book Doctors; Arielle Eckstut, author of nine books, agent at large, cofounder of the brand LittleMissmatched, and cofounder of The Book Doctors; Joelle Delbourgo, local literary agent, previously Editor-in-Chief at HarperCollins; and Ylonda Caviness, author, journalist and education advocate.
Ideas pitched included titles as diverse as “Big Black Woman Mad” and “How to Make the Media Your Bitch.”
Price has authored a book entitled, “Black Versus Blue Versus Media” about the role of media in the perception of police and race relations.
Other sensitive subjects included the emotional journey on the road to adoption, entitled The Longest Blind Date, and the story of a biological mother whose eggs were accidentally given to a couple for use in vitro described by Angela Toomer, the writer, as 'a modern day retelling of Solomon and the two mothers'.
Each person who pitched received advice and expertise designed to improve the pitch by a well-rounded group of judges who have assisted in the publication of hundreds of books. Many of the comments were geared toward authors knowing, where on a bookstore shelf, their book would be placed, stating what is revelatory about their story or hero, showing how the book differs from what already exists on the market, and whether the writer shows knowledge of other authors in their genre. Some writers were encouraged to be published in magazines to show editors they can garner public interest, and others were given advice as simple as “great book idea, now make your title less negative”.
Marcia Mickley, standing in line to buy The Essential Guide to Getting Published from local bookstore Watchung Booksellers, said she was writing a memoir about the abuses and pain she had suffered with her mother. She said her three goals were to “tell the story, let other people in the world know others experienced similar pain and that it is possible to heal.” She was hoping to be on the list of people chosen to pitch, but in the end was not.
Tyrone, also in line to purchase the book, told Tap into Montclair that he was writing a poetry book he called The Undone Heart. He was one of the chosen writers who read a moving poem about fatherhood.
Alma Schneider, local mom, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Cooking Coach, said that her book, 'Take Back the Kitchen – Identify Your Cooking Personality Type and get Cooking' was ready to be published. She was also one of the randomly chosen writers and introduced herself as “Think Rachael Ray meets Dr. Phil”. When critiqued by the panel Eckstut suggested Schneider’s pitch include a few recipes and more of her personal voice, while Delbourgo said to make sure the subtitle included a hook about personality types as relates to cooking.
In the end, the winner was Erica Deel whose middle grade story was set in a single snowflake, entitled 'The Little Lumian.' The judges collectively applauded her efforts, found her story to be original, enjoyed the juxtaposition of macrocosm and microcosm, and unanimously voted her the winner of the event.
Deel explained more about her book. She said, “As a Lumian student learning ice working on Krystallos Prime, a civilization living upon a falling snowflake, L-twelve is at odds with the world she was created to serve. She finds herself targeted by the snowflake’s leaders, the Bellwethers, and implicated in an underground conspiracy set upon destroying the snowflake itself. As she fights for her true life, L-twelve discovers that maybe—just maybe—there is a larger world out there meant just for her.”
She said that she was excited to hear what professionals had to say. She thanked her friend Megan, who had told her about the event just yesterday. Amidst many congratulatory comments and visibly excited, Deel said, “Writing is such a solitary activity. Getting professional feedback and getting out of your own head is wonderful.”