In follow up to my last entry, here is a summary of my experience at the PNWA writer’s conference.
I met many great people, all aspiring to the same goal of sharing their writing with the world. I met people writing poetry, legal and political thrillers, varied fantasy and science fiction sub-genres, young adult novels, and so much more. Despite our varied interests, we all had a great deal in common and I think I learned a lot from my fellow attendees. I also came away with some interesting character sketches from the many people watching opportunities and a few contacts with whom I hope to stay in touch.
It is always interesting to listen to what people inside the industry have to say. There were successful authors, agents, and editors running most of the sessions. It was great when they validated my own research with many of their tips and recommendations, and even better when they offered new insight into things I didn’t know as much about. The How to Write a Synopsis and Query Letter session with author Bob Dugoni was incredibly valuable for me. He broke down the elements of both in such a way that I had a new letter and synopsis mostly written by the end of the session. That was just one of many excellent learning opportunities.
This was a very good experience for me. I was extremely nervous about doing this, but I went to a Clarion West party with a friend who is attending this year and got an opportunity to speak with Ellen Datlow there. She was very nice and I enjoyed talking to her. That conversation really helped me relax, as did the editor and agent forums the next morning which helped me look at these wonderful people as people I might be lucky enough to get to know and not big scary entities who could make or break my career.
I managed to get five agents and an editor to request some portion of my work, which felt fabulous since I was figuring I might get three of them if I was lucky (though I did learn that there is a time to pitch and a time to give these people a break – be sure to respect that if you go to this kind of event). I also realized that I need to tighten the book up before I send it.
Some of the sessions helped me come up with ideas for things I could cut and I am already down 7,000 words since Sunday. The pitching also helped me find the holes in my query and synopsis. The pitch and query both failed to show what is unique about my trilogy and I now have some good ideas for bringing that out.
The industry is in a state of change and I found it fascinating to listen to the differing opinions the many agents, editors, and writers had about how it was going to go. With eBooks and self-publishing rising in popularity, things will continue to change at a remarkable rate for some time. Many of the speakers seemed to feel that traditional publishing would remain, but that there were now new ways to get there. For example, several commented that successful sales with self-publishing are becoming an alternate way to get the attention of agents and publishing houses. I don't plan to go that route at this point, but who knows how I will feel in the future.
I would love to see at least some of my work in print. I hate killing trees, but there is something magical about a printed book. That said, there is a whole new generation of kids reading books electronically who may never understand that view and there is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, if you asked the trees, they'd probably be happy about that change.
Things I'd Do Differently:
I think not staying at the hotel was a mistake (though it was a financial decision). On one hand, I did a lot of pitch practicing and came up with a new book idea on the hour drive to the conference. On the other hand, I decided when to leave based on how tired I was going to be driving home, which meant I didn’t hang around as long as I might have in the evenings and missed the dessert reception Thursday night and the literary contest awards at the end of the dinner on Saturday. I also could not talk myself into driving back down for the half-day session on Sunday.
I would probably also get my book into the literary contest. I wasn't paying attention and the deadline just skimmed by this year. I've been wrapped up in my writing and editing work, but I think the contest would have been a good opportunity to get more feedback on that work.
That’s it. I enjoyed the conference. I learned a lot. I met great people. I have a small leg up on the competition with my next six submissions. I also have a lot of work to do to get those submissions ready, but I will take the time needed and do it right. All told, I think it was a great thing for me and I recommend it to anyone who hopes to get their writing out into the world. Your mileage may vary.