The Home Team: Nailing the elevator pitch
Published 6:57 am, Sunday, September 6, 2015
I was sitting outside Jack’s Coffee, my home-away-from-home when I’m on vacation in Amagansett, enjoying my egg-and-cheese on an English muffin and my large iced coffee with skim. Sharing my bench was Tana, another Jack’s regular, who’s from Australia. She’s generally there with her dog, a large, somewhat exotic breed I can’t remember. Some kind of “doodle,” I think. Let’s call it an Aussie-doodle, so we can get on with the tale.
Tana and I were swapping dog stories. Which of the local beaches are dog-friendly. Kemba’s recent brushes with the law, over being off-leash on the beach. Eventually, of course, I got to telling her about my four cross-country-road-trips-with-dog. And that I was working on a book about it.
“What’s the angle?” she asked.
“I was afraid you were going to ask me that,” I said.
Generally speaking, I’m pretty good at telling a story. And making it funny. And seeing things in a positive light. But I’m not so good at focusing on positioning it. Giving it a theme.
“I kind of think of it as being “Travels With Charley”-esque,” I told her. “You know, in that long and glorious literary tradition of the American road book,” I continued, using a line I originally stole from a New York Times book review, and have used often since. I added that my working title was “Road Dog,” or maybe “Ricky Is My Co-Pilot.” I kept bumbling along, until Tana interrupted me.
“That’s all well and good,” she said, “but you need an elevator pitch.”
I knew she was going to use that phrase!
“Yeah, that’s a problem” I agreed. “I do need to sharpen the focus. When I’ve had preliminary talks with editors, they all seem to want a ‘Marley and Me.’ They want more pathos. I say to them, ‘You mean my dog has to die?’ The ironic thing is, he did.”
“What do you mean?” Tana asked.
I explained to her that after my first three trips, our beloved Ricky the Beagle passed away. I told her that I had to postpone my fourth trip until this past April, when I had my new dog, Kemba the Duck Toller. I told her how I’d become used to traveling the country with a mature, somewhat lazy dog who could sleep in the car no sweat for 500 miles straight — and that this time I did it with an 8-month-old, hyperactive puppy who all but tugged on my sleeve and asked, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” I told her we had to start every single morning with an hour-and-a-half visit to the local dog park in whatever town we were in, so he could work off some energy, and even after that, I could still never drive more than three hours without a massive exercise stop. And that sometimes in our room at night, he’d start biting me, because he was so sick and tired of being cooped up in the car and then the motel. I told her it was a totally different experience, and one I hadn’t anticipated at all.
“There’s your angle,” she said.
I looked at her, head tilted.
“You know, seeing the country anew. You got used to doing things your way for your first three trips, with a very malleable companion. When your beagle died, and you traveled with your new dog, you had to learn to do everything differently. See everything differently. More from your dog’s point of view. Dog parks. Exercise breaks. It was a very different adventure. Sure, you missed your beagle, but this was a learning experience. New dog. New life.”
Sounded pretty convincing, especially with her Aussie accent.
I guess now I’ve got my elevator pitch.
“The Home Team” appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.