Take at least 170 – and probably more – authors, some published, some not, ranging in age from 16 to (an estimated) 75. Mix in four agents. Numerous faculty. The wonderful event coordinator Jama Kehoe Bigger. And you have an event for writers, by writers, about writers, writing, and publishing that gets rave reviews. And not just from everybody. From me, Ms. Critical.
I will write additional posts to delve more deeply into lessons learned at the Midwest Writers Workshop, but for now, I’d like to give a few highlights and accolades.
Chuck Sambuchino – Most Energetic! Chuck is the author of the Writers Digest Guide to Literary Agents. My own copy is well-thumbed. Chuck did an amazing job with his plenary session, “Mastering the In-Person Pitch,” wherein he was forthright and gave good advice and took a good-natured shellacking from the more introverted among us. Big take-away: Talk about why your book is compelling, and be specific.
Cathy Day – Most Generically Named Useful Session. The title of her session was “Literary Citizenship.” Sounds, frankly, like donating books to the library. Actually was: How to be an engaged writer, reader, and contributor to literary culture… while still contributing to your own success as a writer. She’s a great speaker and you could have heard a pin drop. Plus her blog is awesome. Go read it.
JL Stermer – Best Go-Get-Em Story. Agent JL Stermer is young, cute, wears trendy glasses that make her look even smarter than she sounds, and told a story that explains why she is sure to be one of the most sought-after agents out there. Remember 2011, the Iowa town hall meeting where Zach Wahls, the 19-year-old son of lesbian moms who so eloquently explained why it was just plain wrong to overturn Iowa’s gay marriage law? Great guy, right? JL Stermer is the literary agent who connected with Zach via Facebook, signed him to a contract, and got him a book deal. Total thumbs up for Zach and JL both.
Jane Friedman – Best all-around expert. Jane was on many panels at the workshop, because Jane has a lot to offer. She’s the voice of reason, offering good advice, encouragement, and actual info on how you, personally, can do it. Whatever it is. Kinda new to writing? Or have big gaps in your knowledge that it is embarrassing to admit to, because you have been writing for quite some time? Click here for Jane’s free advice for writers – a wrap-up of all her advice posts. OMG.
There was a lot to like about the Midwest Writers Workshop, but the best thing was, it was a really safe place to be a writer. Did your pitch session tank? Lots of people are there to help take the sting out of it. Ask a stupid question? (Example: How do I get an agent to represent me and sell my short stories? Um, you don’t. Novels only, no short fiction or poetry.) You know at least 10 other people were thinking it, too. Need somebody to read your query letter? Four random strangers will do so, and become friends. Plan ahead to attend next year. Check it out on Facebook.