The soaring crimson arches of the Golden Gate Bridge― possibly the most beautiful bridge in the world― loomed overhead as my cab made its way into Marin County from San Francisco for the Algonkian Writer Conferences by Michael Neff and published fiction author Anne Garvin. The pinnacle of the famous steel structure disappeared into the cool, wispy morning fog, reminding me that I wasn’t in Texas any more.
Morning Commute on Golden Gate Bridge
I have attended several writing conferences in the past, so why did this Texas-writer- chick select this three-day event from the hundred or so available each year?
There were several factors at play in my decision. Let’s start with the most obvious—the stunning scenery and temperate climate—certainly a vast departure from the triple digits and desert landscape of my home town. Can you blame me? Second, and more importantly, this cozy writers’ get-together addressed some of the more pressing topics on my agenda: Story premise, social platform, and market execution. A tri-fecta in my book.
With a completed, unpublished, an unrepresented fiction novel waiting patiently on my laptop, I needed a conference that would provide me with a reality check and test my story for market compatibility, while at the same time help me hone my agent pitch skills. I’m pleased to report that this conference delivered as promised. Not only was it informative, but it was fun, too. Made lots of new friends and learned a ton of stuff. Thanks Mike and Anne! Can’t wait until next year.
Here’s a recap of the event:
Prior to arrival, I filled out the PPE online evaluation form, which automatically entered me in the conference’s Best Manuscript Contest. By the way, “PPE” stands for: Premise (concept/plot/drama), Platform (expertise/pubs/social media) and Execution (voice/narrative/dialogue/novel opening.)
I waited for official acceptance into the conference and received it a day later. Yeah—I was in—part of the club—just had to wait a month before I could hop on the plane and head west. Did I mention it was 105 degrees in Texas? My suitcase seemed to pack itself.
The conference itself was instrumental in shaping my pitch and presentation to the agents. The pitch sessions allowed each writer to be in a position to get face time with a number of agents. There were pitch practices beforehand where writers worked with the staff one-on-one or in front of the group, whichever you preferred. The feedback was valuable. The goal is not to sign an agent (I guess that could happen), but to get them to want to see more. My goal was to be able to bounce my query ahead of all the hundreds of other queries that the agents get each week by putting three words in my email subject line: Requested Material Enclosed.
On the last day, I met with several agents and they took the time to give me feedback. One agent even asked to read my manuscript. Fortunately, I had my laptop with me. After he read the opening, he asked questions. He provided some good, straightforward feedback about my work. I found that to be a personal touch that I had not experienced in any conference in the past. And yes, he did tell me to send an email marked; RME.
This conference was helpful to responding to what new writers need to work on. The small audience provided a sense of camaraderie one feels in the presence of fellow writers. I created connections that can help advance my writing career.
I learned that as long as my book had sex, death and cats, I’d be sure to get published. Ok, not really. But I did take away, that you don’t ever want to kill a cat in your story.
I applaud the Algonkian Writer Conferences for delivering an environment that eliminates the problems of not being interactive. The presentations were thorough, engaging and there was plenty of opportunity to collaborate. The conference schedule was packed with two full days of classroom time and study, with a heavy focus on how to perfect our agent pitches—the key to landing an agent. Class time included guest lectures by published authors and industry professionals. Each guest author told us their publishing story and outlined what to expect after you land and agent and publisher. They were all lively and entertaining, which kept the class time moving right along.
Another reason I chose this conference was that there was a writing contest. Ok, so what if I’m a competitive writer? While winning a contest may or may not help me get published, it’s a nice-to-have credential to put in my query letter or to mention in my pitch. In addition, the pre-work analysis and the contest entry meant someone would be reading the first few pages of my book. And that was a good thing.
Legendary film producer and literary agent, Ken Atchity announced the winners of the contest. For a brief moment, in a Hollywood Academy Award style I had the distinguished honors to walk on stage and accept my Oscar, um ― Award Certificate― for my story, PLUSH. “I’d like to thank my mom and my dad, my family, Michael Neff and Anne Garvin, and I’d like to thank my agent― wait a minute, I don’t have an agent.”
I’m back at my desk sitting in my favorite writing chair inspired by everything I’ve learned at the conference. All and all, the conference left me with a sense of new understanding of what I need to do and where to go next with my story.
One of the wonders of the Algonkian Writer Conferences was the tremendous amount of unselfish volunteer effort contributed by very few people (mainly authors, agents, writers participating) so that many people can have the opportunity for a stimulating learning experience―and a fun time!
I would like to thank the staff for their outstanding conference. Keep up the good work!
Writers do you want a conference to practice your pitch and meet agents? Check out this writing conference.
Have you attended a writers conference? What did you find valuable?