The workshops I attended (between my volunteer responsibilities) were fantastic. Among them:
- Hooking your readers in one paragraph--or less, with historical novelist David Liss. Liss covered famous and not-so-famous first lines and paragraphs, analyzing what makes them entice the reader, and which ones (surprisingly) don't do the job well.
- Creating Dazzling Worlds, with YA author Laura Resau. Though I'd never heard of Resau, I was really impressed with her writing exercises to help bring freshness and dimension to both storyworlds and characters. Her excerpts from her books made me want to go read them.
- How to avoid the sophomore slump, with Barry Eisler. He explained techniques to make your second novel as good as, or better than the first.
- Ghostwriting Panel. This one was interesting, with three authors talking about their experiences both working for book packagers (and ghostwriting for some seriously famous people), and using your writing skills to barter for services. Something to think about.
- The Neuroscience of Writing, with DeAnna Knippling. Such a fascinating workshop, helping writers understand exactly why they should avoid cliches, among many other topics.
- Plot, structure, and pushing your characters, with agent Hannah Bowman. A seriously helpful and interactive workshop, with a plot diagram you've never seen before--but it makes so much sense!
I pitched both formally and informally--one of the best things about going to a conference!
- Pat Van Wie, editor at Bell Bridge Books. Though Belle Bridge hasn't published YA historical fantasy, Pat was willing to take a look at my manuscript and see what she thought.
- Barry Goldblatt, agent with Goldblatt Literary. Though Barry has represented both fairy tale retellings (Shannon Hale) and YA historical fantasy (his wife, Libba Bray), he felt that the market wouldn't support more books in the fairy tale genre.
- Hannah Bowman, agent with Liza Dawson Associates. I caught her in the hall and asked her opinion, and she disagreed with Goldblatt's assessment. She recently sold a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and the publisher is marketing it specifically as a fairy tale. She'd like to see my pages.
- Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, with Larsen Pomada Literary Agents. I spoke to her while driving her to the airport. Like Bowman, she feels there is still room for well-told fairy tales. She'd like pages, too. And while I was talking to Pam, I had author and actress Amber Benson (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in the back seat. Such a crazy weekend!
Meals at conferences are a great way to network with other attendees, and spend time with faculty in a more relaxed setting.
- Lunch with SourceBooks editor Deb Werksman was so much fun. Though she edits romance exclusively, she was so kind to genuinely engage the three male sci-fi writers who happened to sit at the table. I also had a great time going along on her Colorado tour and yarn shopping.
- Nicole Resciniti, agent with The Seymour Agency, is so well-read and smart. I think I'll definitely query her.
- Dinner with author Libba Bray was amazingly fun, as was her keynote speech the next night. She could easily make a living as a stand-up comic. And she was kind enough to sit down with my daughter and her friend and work through their story worlds.
- Barry Eisler (who went from traditional publishing to indie) gave a keynote that shared the different sides of publishing. Some industry professionals did not take it well. If you want to know more, read the recap on Joe Konrath's blog.