Since returning from the Midwest Writer's Workshop, I have been in a frenzy to get some minor, though important, plot changes done on my completed manuscript. With those requests sent out, I feel like I have a few (stress few) minutes to sit back before pounding away at the keyboard on my next novel.
It has been an incredible and unbelievable ride over the last week. No, I'm not represented (far from it) and I'm certainly not published (even farther from that). But I got a chance to learn from some really incredible professionals in the literary world. I hate to name drop, but I will.
Let's kick off with Kelsey Timmerman. Talk about being a self-starter! He decided to take a self-funded tour of the world to find out about the people who made the clothes he was wearing. And then he chronicled his experiences in a book called, “What am I Wearing?” Now Kelsey is (self-proclaimed) one of the top ten underwear journalists in Indiana, but I would beg to differ. I think he just might be one of the top ten underwear journalists in the country!
Then we move to the agents. For a small conference in a mid-sized Indiana town, MWW has the ability to pull in amazing agents. You know those people you follow on twitter? Yeah, I met ‘em. Between Kathleen Ortiz’s explanation of how to deliver the perfect pitch, Roseanne Wells’ process for developing your world as a character and Jessica Sinsheimer’s session on how to write a query letter, I finally feel prepared to enter into the query arena, armed for battle. Though I was unable to attend Lois Winston’s session on why manuscripts get rejected, a friend was kind enough to share the information and I’m happy to say I am better off because of it!
In addition to gathering as much knowledge as I could, I also got a chance to pitch my novel, The Partizans, to Kathleen, Roseanne, and Jessica. I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous to approach them with my book. But within seconds of sitting down and blurting out my two line pitch, they all managed to put me at ease, asking questions that helped me help them understand the story better. After I was done, there was still time for me to ask questions. And let me tell you, I did. I asked about how I could make my query letter better. (Excellent question, I must add.) I also took a chance to pick their brains on a dilemma I had regarding my next project. Again, they were incredibly helpful and supportive! So, what I have learned about agents is they are, in fact, human. Here are the most important lessons I learned from each of them: Jessica – chocolate covered espresso beans are awesome; Kathleen – cyborgs have a future in YA; Roseanne – do not submit pony driven novels to her. Word to the wise!
Authors… you know the ones who were once writers, but then someone thought, “Hey, let’s print that,” and then they magically became authors. Those people rock. They have been in the same spot I am and have succeeded. Not only that, they’ve come back to mingle among the wannabes to share what they have learned on their journey. I love authors for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fantastic books they have written. They give me hope that, with enough perseverance, patience, and faith in my ability, that I too may take my place among the growing number of authors who found their agents at MWW. Authors like D.E. (Dan) Johnson, Veronica Roth and Kelsey Timmerman. And let’s not forget the people who defy the odds, like Karen Lenfestey, who sold over 20,000 copies of her novel A Sisters Promise though self-publishing/e-books. Something tells me she’s going to have an agent… if she wants one, of course!
But yet, there’s more…
It’s one thing to write a book and another to get it published. But unless readers buy the book, you run the risk of being a “one hit wonder what the heck happened to that guy”. MWW has an amazing relationship with Jane Friedman… if you’re reading this, you more than likely have heard of her. (Or if you ever want to learn anything about how to use twitter or Facebook or any other form of social media, you should check out her blog!) Seriously, go now.
And then there’s Dana Kaye (also known as Marcus Sakey’s publicist). I just have to bow down to this woman when it comes to understanding what motivates people to do things. #1 rule: Keep your tweets relevant to your work and the publishing world, with the exception of rule #2. Rule #2: never be afraid to tweet about your cat, your dog, or your kids. (Thank goodness I have two kids. No way can I handle a dog right now!)
I can’t forget the amazing men and women who work all year to put on a conference that allows everyone to come together for the love of writing. They work tirelessly to provide the highest level of faculty, the greatest amount of comfort, and space where creativity can flourish and be discovered. I personally plan to be in attendance for as long as the conference continues… and since I write paranormal, I totally believe it’s possible for me to haunt the Ball State Alumni Center.
I’ve said it before and I stand by my statement. Gathering the grains of knowledge from authors, agents, publicists, publishing insiders… it’s all great. But in the end, when you walk away from the conference, salivating over and dissecting every single interaction, remember that the best moments live in the twitter vault. And the relationships and friendships that you cultivate will nurture your talent, grow your confidence and harvest your greatest creative potential. Stay connected, keep coming back, and BE PASSIONATE! It might not hurt to bribe people with chocolate covered espresso beans. Seriously, these things are a food group within themselves!
PS. Look for a link salad post this weekend!