A Writer’s Elevator Pitch

by Barbara Beckwith

You’re on an elevator, headed for the 10th floor, when a stranger asks what you do. “I’m a writer” you say. Then, as the 2nd floor button lights up, the stranger wants to know — what kind of writing?
What do you say? There’s no time to list your credentials and each of the genres you write in. And your fellow passenger, as the elevator goes by floor 3, doesn’t want to hear them all.
Charles Coe likes to start with “I’m a literary omnivore” then name a current project –“Right now I’m working on…”
Another NWU member always says: “Anything that pays,” which may end the conversation by floor 4, but at least establishes the principle that writers deserve to be paid.
These days, I say, “I write essays, mostly about racism, including my own and about white privilege” which may be misinterpreted (“uh, reverse racism against whites?”) but does lay out the taboo topic for my fellow passenger to ponder, at least until they get off at Floor 5.
Of course if it’s an editor, agent, or celebrated author, you have just moments to impress; you’ll need an intriguing sound bite. Kitty Beer’s 10-word description of her Human Scale hooked me – “an eco-thriller set in 2062, when Boston is mostly underwater.” It helps to keep your business card in your pocket, ready to offer if you see a glimmer of interest – “check out my website!” as the Floor 10 sign lights up, the elevator door opens, and you’re forced to exit.