Westport Writers’ Rendezvous – February update

Another great meeting last Wednesday of the Westport Writers Rendezvous – thanks, everyone!

We covered quite a bit of ground, and here are the highlights:
First, I had to congratulate our own Alex McNab, whose query letter was one of the three selected to be passed on to Sourcebooks and Penguin. The contest was organized by the Fairfield County Writers’ Center in Westport, and agent Marilyn Allen of Allen & O’Shea literary agency was the judge. Terrific, Alex!

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Two ways to avoid getting the Bad Sex in Fiction Award (it’s a real thing, folks) – get your work edited (see below) and find some beta readers – people who don’t know you all that well, and don’t know what you’re trying to say, and will tell you so.

Book editors
New York Book Editors
Tiger Wiseman uses Ramona De Felice Long

People had great suggestions for places to submit your work:
Mused:  . Unfortunately, the Spring edition submissions just closed (Feb 15th) but they are a quarterly, so submit something for the summer issue.
Bewildering Stories: an interesting, self-described webzine that promises to give you feedback if your work isn’t accepted
The Huffington Post may seem like an impossible dream but here are some hints on how to get accepted:
And a propos of getting your blog published on other sites, take a look at Beyond Your Blog, which has lots of advice.
Still Crazy, with writing for boomers…
Act Two, an online magazine based in Fairfield, is also for boomers.
Scary Mommy is self explanatory, although I don’t think you have to be Joan Crawford to write for them.
Submit your play (musical, monologue, short scene from a full-length play or one-act play) for the Catherine Lindsey Workshop by March 1st. The workshopping is done in Darien.

The Mix is a site run by Hearst Corporation, which issues daily writing assignments that you can choose to write and submit.
Poetry & Writers has a long list of contests, grants and awards here.

A couple of conferences: The Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference (Pittsburgh, PA My 27-29)
And the Unicorn Writers’ Conference won’t be happening until March next year.

Online courses:
Tiger Wisemen has taken several online writing courses, and the one she recommends is given by Margie Lawson . In particular, she endorses any of the Deep Editing courses.
Ed Ahern produced a great list of courses that can be taken online. They’re run by 28 Pearl Street, in Provincetown MA, which is an offshoot of the Fine Arts Work Center in the same town. The latter run summer courses in various media, including writing. Check out the websites for more information.
James Patterson teaches a Master Class for $90. No one in our group knows if it’s any good, but he certainly seems to know what he’s doing…
Gwen Hernandez teaches Scrivener online. I highly recommend her courses – they’re inexpensive and paced so that you don’t get overwhelmed.
Creative Nonfiction also offers online classes including advanced memoir, magazine writing and introduction to audio storytelling and podcasting.

Jessica Bram of the Westport Writers’ Workshop will be teaching an all-day class on how to use flashbacks and backstory in your non-fiction writing next Saturday, February 27.

Last but not least  – come and read from your work at the Fairfield Public Library on the first Tuesday of the month – March 1st, as it happens. People who do it swear by it.

 

 

Want to know where to meet a literary agent?

Jan Kardys 2I recently registered for the Unicorn Writers’ Conference, a one day affair which takes place on August 15th in Westchester County, NY. And last Thursday, I attended a talk given by its founder, Jan Kardys, where she explained what it is that sets her conference apart from others. I was particularly interested in the possibility of having professional editors and agent do an assessment of my work, just to see if I’m on the right track. You can find out more below, and if you aren’t able to attend the conference, I think you’ll find Jan’s book really helpful, too.
GC: You’re a literary agent, which is a demanding job. When and why did you decide to found the Unicorn Writers’ Conference?
JK: Unicorn Writers’ Conference came to life in 2010 after attending many writers’ conferences as a guest speaker throughout the US. It occurred to me that since I had worked inside publishing for 35 years for 10 major NYC book publishers, I could get top editors, agents, and speakers to attend a conference if I put one together. I think writers need to understand the various departments within a traditional publishing company, the role of agents and editors, and how to improve their writing skills.

Product Details
GC: What are the reasons to attend a conference like yours?
JK: What sets Unicorn Writers’ Conference above the competition is the large list of top literary agents, NYC book editors from major publishing houses. Unicorn’s manuscript review sessions are better than our competition – a deal with major agents for 40 pages and a 2 page book summary (all read in advance) for $55 and 30 minutes with an agent and/or editor. Writers have found their agents at Unicorn Writers’ Conference and we have book deals with two major NYC book publishers.
GC: How is it different from other writers’ conferences?
JK: We run five (5) different workshops for writers every hour. This is an opportunity to meet literary agents, pitch your book, network with other writers, meet printers, sponsors, and learn about the benefits of traditional publishing vs self-publishing. We also select our best-selling keynote speaker from a list of published authors who will motivate and inspire our attending writers. This year the keynote speaker is New York Times best-selling author, Stephanie Evanovich. We carefully cover craft, career, and connections for writers. Unicorn focuses on workshops that will educate writers – agent panels cover copy in marketing books, character, social media, plots, and book proposals. Unicorn selects agents and editors that cover many genres in order to reach more writers, including poetry, fiction and non-fiction. We are proud that Writers’ Digest Magazine interviewed us in their magazine in 2012, and you know you are successful when many literary agents throughout the US and New York City ask to return each year.

GC: What are the main mistakes writers make when they’re trying to get published?
JK: The first mistake is submitting your manuscript without having it edited by a freelance editor before you send it off to literary agents, or publishers that will consider unsolicited manuscripts (without an agent). Too often writers are under the impression that a book editor will assist the writer in “rewriting, restructuring and revising the book.” This is not the process today. Agents and editors have higher expectations in today’s marketplace, and they demand manuscripts that are fully edited, in excellent editorial shape, ready for publication, and without any errors, etc. The second mistake is not researching your competition for your book before you write it. Third mistake is not setting up social media before you write your book. Start networking with writers now as it is a long process to build an audience and followers.

GC: Have you ever found someone you decided to represent at your conference?
JK: Yes, a former newspaper reporter who wrote a novel set in the 14th century. It is currently under submission. The author originally signed up with John Ware (who attended the conference for many years – a former Doubleday book editor, former agent at Curtis Brown, and agent at John Ware Agency). John died and this author connected with me via LinkedIn and I was blown away about her novel. I can’t wait to sell it!

Have a Manuscript? Find an Agent or Editor March 8

Sherry Shameer Cohen is an award winning blogger with 20 years of experience as a freelance general assignment reporter and photographer and 10 years experience as a Special Sections Editor. She describes herself as a parachute journalist, a snappy way of saying that she can handle any assignment she’s dropped into quickly – and presumably she always lands on her feet.

She revived the Connecticut Press Club by, among other things, bringing decision makers from national magazines and large publishing houses to Connecticut to show writers how to get more challenging and better paying assignments. This cannot be bad. She’s organizing a special panel of Agents and editors in Norwalk, CT on March 8. I asked her what the deal was, and here’s what she wrote back:

All Connecticut Press Club programs are open to everyone, but most of the people who come are writers. The organization draws staff and freelance writers, editors, publicists, bloggers, photographers and graphic artists. Our programs are usually held at The Norwalk Inn, but we’ve also had meetings at restaurants and at the Westport Public Library. We get 18-60 people at our programs, depending on the topic. Editors and agents draw the highest number of attendees.

Our programs are meant to be small enough for people to network with the speakers as well as with other writers and editors. We’re lucky to be so close to New York so that we can get speakers from national publications and publishing houses. Initially, we thought they were coming as a professional courtesy, but it turns out that they are usually actively seeking new talent and tell us what’s missing from Writer’s Market. For example, one editor likes pitches in two paragraphs so he can read them on his smartphone. A health editor is trim and fit and doesn’t want pitches on diet and exercise, but two immediate family members were affected by pollutants, so she’s interested in stories about environmental health. She also gave us a list of her sources. Another health editor wants a whole package in two pieces – pitch and hed (headline) and dek (subhead) via email; clippings via snail mail so she doesn’t have to print out a lot. This is very valuable information!

Among the people we’ve booked for March 8 are:

Tamar Mays of Harper Collins Children’s Division
Marilyn Allen of Allen and O’Shea Literary Agency
Susan Schulman of Susan Schulman Literary Agency
Farley Chase of Chase Literary Agency (formerly at Waxman)

When: Thursday, March 8, 2012 from 6:00 – 8:30.
Where: The Norwalk Inn, 99 East Avenue, Norwalk, CT (I-95 to Exit 16)
Admission: $35.00 (includes dinner)
Reservations recommended, but walk-ins are always welcome. R.s.v.p. at 203-968-8600 or ctpressclub@gmail.com.

GC: So don’t sit there whining that you can’t find an agent or an editor – show up!