Unfortunately, the e-mail didn't mention that this event was something called "Pitchapalooza." Now, I'd read the name in a couple of places, but I hadn't connected it to this particular night at Books & Co. The concept is that these two authors listen to people pitch their book ideas and critique them, crowning a winner at the end of the night who gets a free consultation with them.
I left even though I could probably have come up with a pitch for one of my embryonic long-form fiction ideas. I can imagine something like this:
It's a fantasy novel, but instead of telling the story of how the farmhand becomes a great hero, it's the story of how the farmland becomes the dark overlord. We pervert every trope of the genre. For example, our protagonist meets a wizard who befriends and mentors him. Eventually, the protagonist kills him. The reader starts out routing for the kid then spends most of the book saying, "Oh no he didnt!" They'll be traumatized, but they won't be able to put it down!
The mainstream publishing industry is apparently so timid these days that this pitch wouldn't work for literary or popular fiction, but sf geeks love their violence, so it could have worked for the genre. In any case, now I think I should have stayed to see just how far I could have played this up and freaked out a room full of innocent people.