Category Archives: Writers Conference

Ignorance is Preferred. For The Moment

I wrote previously about meeting with an agent at the Realm Makers writers conference, and how he asked me to send a proposal. I decided to send it via regular mail, because he mentioned once during a Q & A session that he preferred it over email. Emails tend to pile up and get buried. If it’s on his desk in an envelope, he’s more inclined to read it faster.

Yesterday when I took the mail out of our mailbox, I spotted my SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) stuck between a dental cleaning reminder, and a stack of store coupons.

My first response: “Great. Another rejection.” Especially considering the thinness of the envelope indicating it contains but one sheet of paper.

I couldn’t open it. I was already in a sour mood last night (no particular reason; I get that way sometimes). Why make it worse by intentionally reading a rejection letter?

Still it sits on my dining room table, buried under those coupons and dental cleaning reminder. We’ll see if I’m brave enough to read it after work today. Chances are good, regardless, because I am curious. That and what if I’m wrong, and the letter is merely to ask to see the entire manuscript?

I think there’s a 25% it’s to ask for more; 75% it’s a rejection. Hence the desire to remain ignorant and hopeful instead of knowing and being disappointed.

Just Like The Rest of Us

There’s one thing I hate about meeting with agents and editors (and a famous author this time around) is the anxiety. The fear of stumbling over my words, the inability to share my story correctly, and all-in-all making a bad impression.

Before my first appointment — a fifteen-minute mentor appointment with Terry Brooks (who wrote the Shannara series among others), I prayed most fervently to take away my anxiety. Not so much that I say all the right things (although I prayed that too, but considered that secondary). I hate being nervous, because ninety-nine percent of the time, that anxiety is in the end completely unfounded.

As I waited for my appointment with Terry, another writer was waiting for someone else to finish theirs. I mentioned how I’ve been praying for a calm spirit, she graciously (and beautifully) prayed for and with me. Her prayer even made me a little misty-eyed (and simultaneously grateful I don’t wear makeup).

During that appointment, and a literary agent appointment a few hours later, no nerves presented themselves. I was calm, confident, but also listened more than I talked. When I did talk about my story, the words flowed out of me when I usually stumble. I also didn’t hedge or try to figure out what they wanted to hear (as if I could anyway, but still I try. I can’t help it. I know why I do, but that’s an entry for another time).

The literary agent was intrigued by my idea, but as he speed-read through the first couple of pages, he said that while he’s intrigued, the jump between the prologue and the first chapter was too jarring. Still, he did ask me to send him a proposal. Not a complete rejection, but nothing to indicate he was all that excited either.

For which I was fine with, oddly enough.

Or not. Truth is, I received the score-cards for the contest I submitted it to a few days before, and although I didn’t agree with some of the comments at first, they still got me thinking that perhaps I need to revisit the story yet again. The first couple of chapters at least.

As I talked to Terry Brooks, he offered also to read my sample chapters. I had to keep it, however, because it was the only one I brought (reminder to self: bring multiple copies next time). I did give it to him during the scheduled autograph session later that evening (I was the only one in line who didn’t have a book for him to sign, but that’s because he signed my copy of “Sometimes the Magic Works” during the mentor appointment).

He read it that night and returned it to the conference coordinator with the message for me to find him so he could talk to me about it.

I attended a Q & A session with him and fellow author Brent Weeks, and hovered over him until he finished signing several more autographs after the session. That entire hour and a half of me waiting to talk to him, I tried not to worry that he would tell me to burn those pages and never write another word.

I exaggerate. I didn’t think that at all. Nor was I overly anxious, because I convinced myself that no matter what he told me, his advice would only make my story better.

He first asked if it was YA or adult.

When I told him it’s adult, he said I need to flesh it out more. Adults tend to want to read about the emotional impact of what happens–that I need to add more exposition. The prologue was powerful, but not enough emotion of the devastation the characters endured. The same for the first chapter of another character being sold as a slave.

Other than that, he said he wanted to keep reading, the bones of my story are good, and the concept is interesting. Granted he was working off a dozen pages, but experienced authors do get a sense of good or bad writing from the first few pages. That he thought the bones were good gave me a measure of relief. As long as my story has a solid structure, everything else is detail (literal and figurative), and can be fixed. A poorly structured story can’t, at least not easily and not without starting over.

All in all, after spending $500–which included the cost of the conference and one of the few Terry Brooks mentor appointments, I got my money’s worth. Not only to spend time with one of my favorite authors, but to get a glimpse into the man behind the words. I discovered he’s a delight, funny with an almost childlike gleam in his eye, a real passion for the written word, and doing whatever he can to help newer writers learn the craft to tell fabulous stories that entertain, and teach readers new things (without the sermon, of course).

Because (with God’s help) my nerves didn’t get the best of me, I was able to enjoy both appointments and discover that famous authors are just like the rest of us. They have the same desires and passions, weaknesses, strengths, humility and humor as everyone else.

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~ Luke 2:19

I tried writing down everything that happened at the writers conference last month. The good, the bad, the exciting and the boring. I wrote about the first two days, but stopped half-way through the third.

I couldn’t go any further. Like Mary, I needed to treasure it as well as ponder.

During the conference, I signed up for a fifteen minute appointment with a literary agent. I practiced my pitch in one of my elective courses just prior to my appointment, and I continued to mentally recite it as I walked through the hotel.

The moment I sat down with the agent, I started my pitch. I didn’t get but a few words in when he said, “Show me what you have.”

Okay. Fine by me, because I was stumbling over it, anyway. I gave him my “one sheet” which contains a back-cover blurb, the genre, word count, and my bio which includes my writing credits.

He read the first page of my fantasy (and latest novel), stopped less than a page in and said, “I have a question for you. Why aren’t you published, yet? This is really good.”

“Honestly,” I said, “I haven’t tried that hard. I’ve been concentrating on writing and improving my craft.”

He nodded and continued to read. He spent over half of appointment reading it. I spent that time staring at his two massive football rings, and ached to ask him who he played for, and if they were Super Bowl or division championship rings.

He finally had to force himself to put it down, and asked if I had anything else.

“I do.”

“Did you bring them?”

I did, and took them out of my folder. His expression indicated that he was pleased that I did. I pulled out the first chapter of one and said, “This one is a lot shorter, so it won’t take you as long.”

He skimmed through that one and asked more about the books’ genres, what genre I preferred to write and if the books were YA or adult.

In the end, he not only asked me to send him the full manuscript and synopsis of my fantasy, but the other two as well. He even bragged me up a bit to an editor for Tor sitting next to him, and recommended I sign up to meet with her as well. She was full up, however, and I never got a chance to accost her during meals or elsewhere.

I sent him everything about two weeks ago. I expect to get a response in the next six weeks or so. Hopefully.

I don’t expect him to take me as a client, though (or at least tell myself not to). My books have received interest like this before, and ended up being passed over.

Even so, that the agent literally couldn’t put my story down says — and means — a lot. It also shows that all my hard work has yielded good results after all.

Writers Conference – Day Two

As far as conferences go, the first day is one of the most stressful. Not because there’s so much going on, but being in a new place with so many new people, and not an inkling of where things are (this is a maze of a hotel).

I set up my table to sell prints of dragons my mom had purchased during the many times she had attended comicons and the like. I sold a total of six prints (including one my son had painted, which was really sweet of the buyer to do).

A lot of people asked if I had painted them, and with so much excitement in their eyes when they asked made me wish I had. I’m thinking next year I might have to create something to sell, but what? Sure I have my photography, but they’re not exactly sci-fi/fantasy related. Really, will pictures of clouds sell at a sci-fi/fantasy writers convention? Probably not.

Tom came with me, and for a ten year old, he’s been so patient watching the booth when I’m in class, or watching Babylon 5 DVDs in our hotel room. He did go swimming yesterday for an hour, so it’s not been a total drag for him. Plus we went to a restaurant for supper called Trainwreck saloon. He bought a tuna steak sandwich which was over an inch thick. It is currently not only his favorite meal ever, it’s now his favorite restaurant. He couldn’t stop talking about it last night or this morning.

Writers Conference – Day One

I finally got around to writing about the conference, and to share the highlights with you. I waited, because I had to not only catch up with work, but family came in from out of town, and I had to write a short synopsis for my latest novel (more on that later).

Anyway, here’s what happened the first day:

We left home at 3:45 am and arrived at the conference at 7:30. Just over 15 hours. Not bad considering I had anticipated a minimum of 16 hours.

Traffic overall was not bad, so I must have timed it just right. I didn’t hit any city during rush-hour (so called). The weather also couldn’t have been better. I even managed to grab a parking spot close to the front entrance of the hotel. How often does that happen?

I was no less exhausted when we made it, though.

The part about attending a conference for the first time is not knowing what to expect, and not knowing anyone else attending. It’s a little intimidating. I saw a bunch of other attendees, and most were engaged in lively conversations. For a moment I couldn’t help but feel like an outcast, almost unwelcome.

I’m going to chalk those icky feelings up to being tired. I’ve been in this situation before when I’ve attended other conferences. In the end, I make lots of new friends. Plus, I’m not the only newbie to attend, so I doubt I’m not the only one feeling lost.

Another Step

On a long journey.

In three days I’m leaving for a writers conference called “Realm Makers.” I plan on meeting with several agents to pitch one of my novels.

As usual, I’m anxious. I can write well enough, but pitching my novels well enough to pique interest, it’s intimidating to say the least. How does one boil a book down to a sentence or two, and well enough someone will say, “Tell me more?” Especially one who has little confidence in speaking to people I don’t know about my stories.

The last week I have spent trying to prepare my documents as well as my mind.

I’ve attended many conferences, talked to many an editor and agent. You’d think I’d be more comfortable by now. Considering I’ve yet to secure an agent, and have too few stories published, I’m not confident this conference will end up any different.

So why go, then?

Because conferences aren’t only about eventual publication through a traditional publisher (versus vanity or self-publishing). They also offer classes to improve our writing, and learn more about marketing. Even better, I get to meet, connect and reconnect with other writers. Others who understand the joys, sorrows, frustrations, failures and triumphs of what writing means.

I also often meet God there, and I learn something about him, about myself, or a combination of both. I never know what, and that’s part of the fun.

I will also write at least one entry a day while I’m there so you can share the journey with me. Perhaps a photo or two.

Eureka?

I like that word mostly because of its history. It comes from ancient Greek meaning “I found it.”

From Wikipedia: “The exclamation ‘Eureka!’ is attributed to the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes. He reportedly proclaimed “Eureka! Eureka!” after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose, whereupon he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. “

I had a bit of a Eureka moment whilst taking a shower this morning. I think I figured out a better prologue for my novel (the one that failed so miserably in the contest).

I rewrote the first chapter already from a different point of view, but I’m not sure I like how it turned out. The first iteration contained a lot of information necessary to the rest of the book, but I couldn’t include it in the rewrite, because the new point of view character doesn’t have that information. Yet it won’t fit anywhere else. At least not yet. I did ask a few people to read the prologue and first three chapters to see what they think, so we’ll see how that goes. Maybe it does work, and I’m being overly critical.

Perhaps I’ll have another Eureka moment whilst in the shower tomorrow, or at least by the end of June. I intend to present this novel to an agent at a writers conference in July.

Also, I signed up to write more devotionals for my church. The focus is on the minor Old Testament prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah and Nahum. Each day is a separate chapter of each book (except Obadiah since it’s only one chapter), so the series will encompass a month.

So far I signed up to write six devotionals. I wanted to sign up for more, but I thought that might be too greedy.

I look forward to writing them, especially the ones in Hosea. It’s about how God not only punishes his people (Israel), but about his relentless pursuit of drawing Israel back to him in spite of her sins. It’s a love story in many ways. Plus, as a writer, I can appreciate the beauty of the prose, and the parallels it draws between God and Israel, and Hosea and his wife and children.

Hmm. Maybe I should study Hosea as a writer, and see how I can apply those techniques to my own writing. Something to think about anyway.