My Biggest Takeaway: 2011 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

“Takeaway” is a word often used in the business world, meaning the lesson, advice, or information you got from a seminar, meeting, or conference. “What’s the takeaway?” is a common question. Oddly, I could not find that definition online on any of the big dictionary sites. They all told me it meant the same as “takeout” – as in, “Do you want fries with that?”

You have probably seen the posts I did on the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, both here and on The Author Chronicles blog. So you know there was a TON of awesome information in those workshops.

But none of that was my biggest takeaway.

My biggest takeaway came from my pitch with Sarah Yake of Frances Collin Agency.

You may know, from previous posts, that I struggle with anxiety. That I would have rather suffered another C-section than pitch face-to-face. You may also know that the Act Like A Writer Workshop in March 2011 caused an epiphany which let me approach my nemesis with an entirely different mindset.

That didn’t stop the terror when faced with a real agent, however.

I sat at Sarah Yake’s table and waited. She wasn’t there. In fact, none of the agents were in place yet. Every one of the agent tables held only a nervous writer staring into empty air, a rather bizarre tableaux repeated five times.

I wondered if I would remember to breathe while speaking. If I would remember to make eye contact. If I would remember my pitch. If I would remember my name. After a few minutes which felt like an epoch, all the agents hurried toward their tables.

Sarah was personable, enthusiastic, and interested. She was also slightly flustered because a faulty clock had made all the agents a touch late, and this show of humanity went a long way to calming my nerves. Sarah also appeared to be younger than I am, which I think kicked in some of my mommy instincts – I wanted to make her feel at ease, since she was obviously embarrassed about being a little late!

Once we began talking, the most unbelievable thing happened. All my anxiety drained away. My hands stopped shaking. My stomach stopped twitching. Not only did I remember to breathe, but I breathed easily. I sailed through my pitch confidently. Even when I missed some information, I deftly inserted it later in our conversation.

If I had not had such a nice person as the first agent I ever pitched to, I suppose my experience might have become a nightmare. As it was, it became the most profound takeaway I could have imagined.

I can pitch.

I can pitch well.

The confidence I draw from this lesson will carry far beyond my writing career.

Thanks Jonathan Maberry & Keith Strunk (Act Like A Writer teachers), Don Lafferty (I didn’t forget your pep talk just before Sarah came down), PWC, and Sarah Yake (such a sweet person!) for giving me a takeaway that will change my life in ways I can’t even imagine yet.


  1. You can pitch well, Kerry, because you have so very much to offer! Best of luck for the next step, the agent you need!

  2. Congratulations, Kerry. Jonathan, Keith and I all know how far you’ve come since we first met in D-town a hundred years ago, and Sarah was a perfect agent for a conference virgin’s first pitch. 🙂

    I don’t know what the windup was, but knowing you both, I have to believe that I may have been witness to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  3. Thanks for sharing Kerry…pitching is all about the anxiety up to that point I believe! Glad you got through. You do have much to offer! Keep us all posted.

  4. I’m glad your pitch went well.

    When I was in England, I heard ‘takeaway’ for take-out all the time. It makes me nostalgic, and I still sometimes say ‘takeway’ when I’m picking up food.

  5. Great series, Kerry. Thanks for keeping us posted on the conference, almost felt like we were there.

  6. Nancy Keim Comley says

    Great series on the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference!

  7. Congratulations!
    I’m glad to hear the pitch went well. I enjoyed the conference a lot myself, and I got more information out of it this year than last. We had some great workshop leaders.

  8. Congrats, Kerry! And I agree, Sarah was very personable. She put me at ease too when I was pitching. Good luck.

  9. Pitching well feels great, although I’d maintain one learns more from pitching poorly (ahem…speaking from personal experience about my “first time,” when the poor confused editor looked at me and said, “Perhaps it’s YA?” and I said, “Did I forget to tell you about the brutal rape?”). All water under the bridge now, but congrats on finding a way to circumvent humiliation BEFORE your own failures became your instructor. 😉


  1. […] experience so you can judge your return on investment. In past years, my takeaways have included a lessening of my pitching panic and a creative […]

  2. […] always gets my creativity moving, and I always come away with something valuable. Whether it’s conquering pitching fears, discerning weaknesses in my writing, reviving my creativity, making business connections, or […]

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