Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back to Backspace--Day One

About a year and a half ago I won a scholarship to the Backspace Conference. It was a phenomenal conference with lots of agent/writer interaction and personal attention. This year, my husband won the same scholarship. How cool is that?!

We just got back from New York this morning. Physically, I'm exhausted. Mentally, I'm recharged and ready to storm into a summer of writing. This would be a very long post if i tried to describe the whole experience, so I'm breaking it into days.

We got in very late Wednesday night. Thursday morning, bright and early, the conference began. (Why do they always have to start these things so early?) We attended panels on "What Agents Want" and "Query Letters That Work." Then, I went off to read while the hubby attended the workshop on query letters. By the time that ended, he had two requests for partials from the agents conducting the workshop. We had lunch with some other very nice writers of young adult and middle grade fiction. Then he went back to the opening pages workshop and I read some more. After this came the mixer where we chatted with agents and writers. It's all done in a very comfortable atmosphere, everyone mingling and exchanging experiences and advice. Next came an agent panel on "The Wow Factor." In other words, what makes an agent say, "Wow!" while reading your manuscript or query. At the end, my husband went up to speak with one of the agents and got another request for his material.

We then had a two hour break, so we headed off to The Donald Maass Literary Agency. My agent, Amy Boggs, had said I could come by and see the agency and chat. It was very nice, and more orderly than I imagined it would be. Lots of books, but no piles of manuscripts and letters. Everything is electronic these days. I also got to meet agent Stacia Decker and Donald Maass himself, and he welcomed me very warmly.

Back to the hotel where I hung out while Joe attended another workshop. And then we hit the bar. Now, let me say up front, I don't drink. One glass of wine is quite enough for me. But most of the networking at writers conferences goes on in the bar, and the lobby if the bar is overflowing. Best trick is to order something nonalcoholic that looks like a real drink. Stick a stirrer stick in anything and it looks like the real thing. Otherwise, you might say something really stupid in front of a future agent or editor.

We found a group of writers and chatted for several hours about writing, querying, etc. I don't generally tell people I have an agent unless I'm asked directly about it, or if my husband is bragging on me. I just sit and listen to all the "advice" writers give other writers about how to land an agent. I will offer my own suggestions, but I don't say I already have one, mainly because I get amused when people tell me that I'm going about it all wrong. As long as everyone is nice about it, I keep my secret. If someone really gets aggressive or rude, though, I (or my husband) will casually mention that I'm already represented. If someone is really obnoxious or condescending, he'll toss in there that I had seven offers of representation, and we get to watch their eyes pop. That doesn't happen too often, though. Almost everyone we met at this conference was polite, friendly, and eager to soak up any advice anyone could give about this very long and difficult process, and also willing to acknowledge that there is no one secret method or path to getting an agent.

And so ended day one.

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