Sunday, November 13, 2011

BWG Writing Conference 2011

Our BWG conference is over. I enjoyed it this year because I wasn’t on the conference committee. I didn’t work the door, the book room or anything. I was able to truly listen and not worry about anyone having a good time. There’s joy in being a spectator.

Here’s a little summary from the notes I took. Let me warn you—I’m not a good note-taker. I tend to collect quotes, phrases with a nice rhythm to them, sayings that will look great on  bumper stickers. BTW, the pictures were taken by my friend Sylvia.

D.B. Grady told us, “To write is a sacrifice.” Can’t you visualize that on a bumper sticker? I’m sure David isn’t the first to say it—and we all know it, have lived it, but I wrote it down anyway. David’s advice and encouragement was laced with sardonic humor. He’s come a long way since his Red Planet Noir, a combination crime fiction and science fiction novel, was publishing in 2009 by Brown Street Press. His nonfiction book will be out late next year.
Agent Anita Mumm--actually a literary assistant--was a delight; very approachable, friendly, encouraging, but at the same time, professional. Anyone looking for an excellent speaker about queries and proposals, I encourage you to consider her. She’s the gatekeeper at Nelson Literary Agency. Bad queries and manuscripts do not get passed her. Anita said her agency receives 100 queries a day (minus holidays), 35,000 queries a year. Only 952 sample page sets went to the next round. 85 full manuscripts were requested and six new clients were signed – these are 2010 numbers. Do you see how important it is to hone our query writing skills? Anita told us we have to sell our book in two or three paragraphs within our one-page query letter. Yes, it can be done. “Even War and Peace has a blurb,” she said. She suggested we read the blurbs from the back of books—not new advice, but are we doing it? I am!

Mark Harris has been writing about pop culture for 26 years—since 1985. He said, “No one wants to read a writer that says the same thing all the time. (This hit home to me; sometimes I feel like a record hung on the same spot, playing the same thing over and over and over again.) Mark said we should look for subjects that have the potential to surprise us. He was talking about NF writing but I think we can apply his suggestions to our fiction too.  He really spoke to me when he said, “Your writing should be an extension of your passion for the world.” And “Don’t be afraid to risk being wrong.”

The best way to enjoy a conference: Don’t work it. Let everyone else do the worrying. Sit down, listen, be a sponge then go home and write.

What’s the best advice you’ve heard at a conference? Share!


Charles Gramlich said...

Red Planet noir sounds right down my alley. I've got to look that one up.

Lucy Merrill said...

Thanks for this report. I used it in my most recent blog post at

Jess said...

Charles - yes, you would enjoy Red Planet Noir. I'm surprised you haven't met David since he lives in Baton Rouge, hangs out in N.O. and participates in the Louisiana Book Festival as well as scifi functions.

Lucy-Thanks, I'm flattered. I'm going to check it out!

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Enjoyed every minute of the conference!