Tag Archives: Willamette Writer’s Conference

Writing Conferences: What’s in it for an Agent?

urlGoing to writing conferences and teaching workshops is something that many agents do. I like doing conferences for a few reasons. Of course, I’m always looking to find my next amazing client, another writer who will knock my socks off. That goes without saying. But for me, I also like doing conferences because it keeps me on my toes. The more I talk to people about what it is that I’m looking for, what makes a good query, what makes a good pitch or hook, how to improve your craft, the more clear that becomes for me. And my “what I’m looking for” keeps changing, too. Not the part about the excellent writing, of course, but what I’m currently interested in reading and what the market can bear. Putting myself in a situation where I have to speak (repeatedly) about that is a good way to keep it all fresh in my own mind.

There’s also the networking aspect of conferences. An important part of being a literary agent is forging connections with editors. Getting to know editors a little bit more personally allows me to really focus on which editors will like the work that my clients are writing. There’s nothing worse than pitching my client’s work to the wrong people (well, there’s plenty worse, but you know what I mean). I love when I am reading client work and I start building a submission list in my head, knowing exactly which editors will love it.

Then, for me there’s also the “wanting to make a difference” piece of going to conferences and teaching workshops. Just as a human being on this planet, I like to know that I’m making a difference for other people. It gives me great pleasure if I can say even one thing that will help an author with their manuscript, with their query letter, with their elevator pitch. Sometimes it’s just a kind word of encouragement. Other times it’s a harsher word of critique that (hopefully) will help kick a manuscript up to the next level or re-focus an author on a more productive track toward publication. This is extremely satisfying.

So, here are 6 places you’ll be able to find me this year. This list is not complete, because I’m still being offered conference opportunities for fall and winter 2013. I’m also putting together a writing retreat/workshops with a colleague of mine, that will run either this summer or in the fall (we’re still working out the venue details). For more information about that, click here.

1. “Writing a Top Notch Query” workshop at Hofstra University this Wednesday, March 13 at 6:30pm in Hempstead (Long Island), NY

2. “Query Roulette” through the Women’s National Book Association, like speed dating with agents, next Thursday, March 21 at 6:30pm in New York City

3. Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, Saturday, April 6 in New York City

4. “The Art of Craft,” New England SCBWI Conference, Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4 in Springfield, Massachusetts

5. Backspace Writer’s Conference, May 23, 24, 25 in New York City

6. Willamette Writer’s Conference, August 2, 3, 4 in Portland, Oregon

If your writing group or association is interested in having me attend a conference or give a workshop, please email me and we’ll work something out. I haven’t done Skype visits yet, but I’m open to that, too!


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Writing Conferences: The Agent on the Other Side of the Table

This weekend I popped my writing conference cherry at the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. Actually, I’ve been to writing conferences before, but as a writer not as an agent. This weekend I sat and took pitches from one million and forty seven people. It’s so difficult to know whether anything will come of any of it, because I haven’t actually seen any of the writing yet. But I’m hopeful.

Face to face pitching is excruciating, both for the writer and for the agent. On the writer side, I know how you just want to get it right, convey the beauty or majesty or seriousness or humor or importance or fun of your manuscript, and have that agent say, “Yes! I want to see the whole thing and I want to be your agent and we’re going to make a million bucks because this is the best thing I’ve ever heard of or seen ever!” Or maybe even, “Sure. Send me the first 10 pages.” I get that, because I’m a writer and I’ve been on that side of the pitching table. On the agent side, I’m hoping to hear something interesting, so I’m really listening for that, fingers crossed under the table.

But some people don’t do their homework and pitch me things that I just don’t represent. I hate that, because I hate telling someone not even to bother sending it. But I did tell some people that. And then sometimes I could just tell it wasn’t for me, something about the content or structure or theme. I’m just interested in what I’m interested in and not interested in what I’m not interested in. Although I don’t like to tell folks no, I also am not sorry for liking what I like.

There were so many things to like, too! Because some people did do their homework! I got a great MG pitch that I’m particularly  looking forward to seeing and also a fun YA that I’m eager for. And some potentially interesting fantasy/sci fi and a lot of literary fiction! And I have no idea if any of it will be good or a good fit for my list or pan out to actually be up my alley (Ok, I have a little idea of whose I think might be good though…).

But here’s what I like about being at a conference: the authors are these brave souls who are on this journey to express something and I might be able to help them with that. So if I say no or yes I try (sometimes more successfully than others) to have them walk away having gained something from the interaction. Sometimes I’m giving them writing advice, or coaching them on pitching or just reassuring them that agents are just human beings like themselves. Sometimes I’m letting them know that they should do their homework before pitching.

And what I love, although it’s totally exhausting, is meeting the people.

Have you been to writing conferences? What do you hate or love about them?



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I Just Have to Meet You, Linda! Where Can I Find You? Conferences in 2012

If reading my blog isn’t enough, and you just have to meet me, face to face, you will have a number of occasions to do that this year! Here’s what I have set up so far for 2012:

I am participating in Query Roulette through the New York Chapter of The Women’s National Book Association on February 28th in New York City. It’s like speed dating with agents! Click here for more information.

I am teaching a two hour Query Writing workshop at Hofstra University in Long Island on March 10th. Click here for information and to register.

I will be at The Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon from August 3rd – 5th. Click here for more information. I’m not sure if I hope it will be like Portlandia or it won’t!


Come the autumn I will also be at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in Newport Beach, California from September 23rd – 25th. Click here for more information. So Cal in the Fall! I can’t wait!

Is there a regional conference in your area that you’d like me to attend or that is looking for literary agents? Let me know about it!


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