It’s early, early Saturday morning and I’m in Denver at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s Conference. I’ve actually been here since Thursday and apologize for my delayed update.
So far I’ve been very pleased with my stay. Thursday night was a smallish mixer at one of the Writer’s homes. The food was great and the location was beautiful. I think though, having flown in that day, that most of the agents and editors were on the tired side so I know I bailed out earlier than I would have liked.
Yesterday morning I had a wonderful breakfast meeting with a client. We ate well and brainstormed even better. We talked about the book she’s writing as well as the next book in her contract and some open-ended thoughts for how she can keep the excitement up as the series continues. I know I’ve said it before, but I really do love brainstorming with clients. It’s so much fun for me and helps me keep my own creative sparks alive. I think the challenge is always knowing the author’s characters, stories, and style so that the ideas I give suit what she’s writing and actually help rather than hurt. And as I always say, I don’t care if you use any of my suggestions, the purpose is just to help you start thinking of new ideas for your work.
Yesterday afternoon I had a critique workshop. I had been sent the first 10-pages and a one page synopsis for eight different books and yesterday I had an hour and a half to sit with all of the writers together (they also received the material) to critique and discuss. I’ve never done a critique workshop before, although I have done one-on-one critiques and I was a little unsure about how it would go. You know what? I was really impressed. I thought all of the authors were professional and had interesting comments and I thought every piece of material I read was well done and had some real possibility. In fact, I requested that one author send me her material and I know at least another two, with some revisions, will find publishers at some point. I think the key here is that all of these people were ready to sit down and really listen to what I had to say. They took notes on our discussion, asked questions and really seemed to want to learn. Like my morning brainstorming session it was a lot fo fun. I will say though that this time I was a little better prepared and warned the group upfront that I am not a warm and fuzzy person (this comes directly from my clients) and that you may hear more criticism than praise at times. I also made sure they knew that it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my attempts to make their writing stronger and more publishable. I was told later that I wasn’t that tough.
I had an hour break for coffee after critiques before I was ushered in to the coldest room in the hotel. I’m not kidding. I think my lips were blue and I was visibly shaking by the time we could escape. Anyway, I was sent to the coldest room for an agent panel with five other agents–Doris Booth of Authorlink, Kate McKean of Howard Morhaim, Elaine Spencer of the Knight Agency, Natanya (what a cool name) Wheeler of the Lowenstein-Yost Agency, and Anne Hawkins of John Hawkins and Associates. I’d met a couple of these agents before and a couple are new acquaintances. The panel went well I thought. The most interesting thing for me was the number of times we disagreed on something. I love when that happens on an agent panel because I think it really gives authors the sense that there are no set rules in this business. Every agent does things differently. I also hope it makes you all realize that you can’t please everyone all the time. The best advice (and this was oft repeated yesterday) is to be professional. That will always win out over trying to figure out every little rule that every agent has.
My favorite dissention was over exclusives. Anne Hawkins talked about her desire for a one month exclusive on any full manuscripts she requests and Doris Booth agreed. I think Kate McKean and I almost gave ourselves headaches for all the head shaking we were doing. Needless to say, Kate and I both agreed that exclusives are unfair to the author and never request them. For newer readers you can refer to previous posts I’ve written on the subject for more information. Of course Kate and I both stressed the need for an author to treat agents respectfully when an offer does come in…of course I’ve written about all of this before.
Today I have appointments from 8:30 to 4:30. Yes, it’s true. For all of my preaching they’ve done it again. I have at least 30 author appointments today and I feel sorry for anyone schedule to meet with me after lunch. There’s just no way I’m going to be coherent by then. Sigh.
And then. Vacation! I’ll be out all week relaxing in the Denver sun and enjoying books for pleasure. Don’t worry though. I’ve written some posts for you all to read while I’m gone and since I’m a workaholic I’m sure I’ll be checking in to see what you’re saying.
Have a great weekend and a great week. I’m off in search of coffee.