Writer’s League of Texas Conference #WLT2015

I just returned from my fabulous weekend in Austin–I seriously could not have had a better experience at this conference! I would definitely recommend this conference to any author because of its professionalism and awesome selection of agents. πŸ™‚

The location for the conference was amazing; Austin is a wonderful city and the conference was held at the downtown Hyatt. This made it easy to sight see during down time as many shops, bars and restaurants were within walking distance. However, there was not much downtime because the weekend was packed full of action for writers at the conference! Friday afternoon kicked off with genre meetings where writers of the same genre got together and had a Q&A session with published genre authors. This was a great way to get acquainted with fellow attendees and hear what they were working on. My favorite part of Friday was the evening cocktail reception–and, no, not just because of the wine! Rather, this informal gathering was set up for conference goers to meet the agents and editors that were present. All the agents and editors that were featured in the program WERE present at this cocktail reception, AND they were willing to talk and be pitched to by writers. After attending the Las Vegas conference, I realize how great and important this was. In Vegas, agents were never present during the informal times; they were either hearing pitches, teaching a session, or even hiding in their rooms. The agents at WLT2015 were always there and willing to listen to writers, even though authors were veritably swarming the poor agents! Thanks to this well facilitated reception, by Friday night I already had an agent request pages of my work.

Saturday, I ran into rather the same problem that I had at the Las Vegas conference–most of the sessions and workshops presented information I already was aware of. Thus, the Saturday sessions were more about listening to variations on a common theme. Most sessions were geared towards the business side, and I (once again) went a little heavy on those, but I think it is important to see agents in action, telling you their opinions. It makes them seem like more of human beings and less of heartless entities of rejection. The best part about Saturday were the pitch sessions. Each conference attendee could have two sessions, so I got the chance to pitch to two agents, both of whom were interested in my project and asked to see pages. The first agent I pitched toΒ  was extremely nice and–although he wasn’t sure if he would be taking on a New Adult project–still wanted me to send him material that he would pass on to someone else in his agency who would lean more towards that. My second pitch was great because the agent took a great deal of effort to give me some very helpful tips for getting my pitch down into one line–she then said when I had that one line, I should send it to her along with pages. I thought that was a great opportunity as it gives me the opportunity to prove to her that I took her advice to heart and worked at it. However, possibly my most valuable agent experience was when I ran into an agent from the agency who requested my full manuscript a few weeks ago. I met this other agent by the elevator and casually mentioned that her boss had requested my full manuscript. She was super nice and said she would give Miriam (agent I’m on submission to) a nudge and tell her she had met me.

The best session of the weekend was on Sunday morning when I went to a first page workshop. I absolutely LOVED the advice that was given during that session. The session leader led us through several very successful first pages and pointed out some key elements of writing a good first page. If you have been reading my blog, you know that the first page/chapter of Capacitance has been a struggle, so this class was great for me and has inspired me to maybe give my first page another try before sending it out to more agents. Add to this the fact that even though most of the agents were trying to get to the airport, but they still stopped by the luncheon for last minute connections, and you have the perfect end to a great weekend.

In conclusion, this conference was great and I did learn a few words of advice that I will pass on to fellow writers who might be considering a conference. First of all (and this is most important), DON’T BE NERVOUS when pitching to agents!! Your words come out stilted, you forget things, and–worst of all–you don’t seem sure about yourself or your story. Agents are, at the end of the day, just people and they are nothing to be scared of. If they like you, they are more willing to like your work, so keep it on even ground when talking to them–trust me, they will appreciate it after a day of endless stammers and groveling from the majority of authors. Second, let the experience give you confidence, but don’t let it go to your head. Chances are at a conference, if you have a manuscript finished, you will get asked for material. Yes, that is thrilling, but it doesn’t mean you’ve “made it.” I made that mistake last conference–everyone asked for pages, so I came home with this enormous boost of confidence. However, from my (albeit limited) experience, if you are taking the effort to be at a conference, agents see you are one step ahead of the query slush pile, and thus, they will put you one step ahead and ask for pages almost by default. No matter what, when an agent asks you for pages, you should feel good, but don’t let it get to your head! Finally, don’t feel obligated to go to all of the sessions–this isn’t high school! If something doesn’t appeal to you, or even if you just need a nap, then by all means go take a break. You won’t burn out that way and you will be fresh and ready to make new connections. Now that you have all this advice, keep the Writer’s League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference in mind for next year! πŸ™‚

Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference 2015

I had so much fun attending the Henderson Writers’ Group Conference in Las Vegas, that I just registered for another conference next month! I will be attending the Writers’ League of Texas Agents & Editors Conference June 26-28 in Austin, Texas! Since I live in Kansas (and drive a fun little car) I am going to be road tripping down south–just me and the open road, mind clear, practicing my pitch. I can’t wait!

The pitch will be important as there are 19 literary agents from big name agencies such as Trident, Writers House, and Curtis Brown, to name a few! While pitch sessions with agents are paid add-ons to the conference fee and are limited to two agents (I won’t be table hopping my pitch to everyone like I did in Vegas, haha!), the number of agents at this conference makes it more likely that I will be able to approach them in a casual setting. This conference appears to include a lot of casual settings, like cocktail hours, that could be great opportunities to meet and network with the agents and editors. I am going for all three days of the conference rather than just one day like I did in Las Vegas, so I plan to take full advantage of the opportunities to meet new people.

Considering I already have one conference under my belt, here are some things I won’t be doing this time around.

1. Stressing about my outfit. The wardrobe choices I saw at the last conference were much more casual and varied than I expected. When it comes to conferences, stay true to your personal style and you’ll be fine–worry more about polishing your pitch.

2. Bringing my entire manuscript. This is absolutely unnecessary. I know I said otherwise last time, but my aching shoulder and the entire universe of common sense would argue otherwise–everything is done through email these days. What makes you think an agent is going to love your work so much that they would be just as eager and willing as you to lug around a 300 page boxed manuscript all day? Save your posture, leave it at home.

3. Attending only business related class sessions. In Las Vegas, I stuck to the business side of writing lectures. This led to immense boredom and repetition; I had read most of the advice on the Internet due to my extensive and slightly obsessive research on query writing, agents, etc. Of course, I still plan on attending some business aspect classes as I know I still have a lot to learn, but I want to experience some writing craft sessions as well this time around.

Leave me a comment below if you’re planning on attending the #WLT2015 ! Also, I don’t believe I have mentioned this on the blog just yet, but I will be posting the first chapter of Capacitance once my Facebook page hits 100 likes. If you want to speed this process up a bit πŸ˜‰ please like my page at https://www.facebook.com/emhardenburger ! Can’t wait to start sharing my work with you all!

Social Media & Being an Author

Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I was on a (much needed) vacation to California! The need for vacations to take a step back from your work is a topic for an entirely different post, but I can sum it up to this: sometimes it’s necessary to not think about your novel, to escape and have new experiences which will influence your writing, and to be in a more sublime environment so when an agent rejection pops up in your email, you take it in stride and order another wine sample! πŸ˜‰

Today, I wanted to focus on a subject that has been giving me major headaches–the dichotomy between being an artist and thus trying to be a free spirit while at the same time being cognizant of the pressing need to create an online presence. This need for a writer’s platform necessitates the use of social media. Writers, as a rule, hate social media. We would rather be writing! However, our ultimate goal is to be read, and to be read and gain notice in today’s world means hashtagging and blogging our way to fame. Hopefully that prospect turns everyone’s stomachs as much as it does mine. It is a very imposing goal; in the millions of individuals out there on the internet, how do you make a difference?

It’s a question I, unfortunately, cannot answer in this post. But I do welcome good suggestions! The first step for me is simply, getting out there. One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was literally: “Tweet less.” Obviously, that is not going to fly. I have been trying to force myself to tweet more lately, and have gone to excessive use of hashtags. Today, I activated a Facebook account (under much mental stress), and a LinkedIn page. I am looking into #QueryKombat, which appears to be a great way to get some exposure as well as potentially awesome contacts with agents and editors! The Internet is a crazy, intimidating place, but I hope to do my research and find some success in it.

I want to get the word out soon because I am going to be doing something very exciting here on the blog. I am going to be posting sample chapters of Capacitance! I want the novel to get exposure and hopefully build momentum. Stay tuned on chapter one coming soon!

With that being said, follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@elisemarie52), and Facebook (Elise Hardenburger)! And comment below with any tips how you got your online following started. πŸ™‚

Conference Contemplations

This past weekend was a big step in my career as a writer–I attended my first writers’ conference! It was the Henderson Writers’ Group conference in Las Vegas; the crowd was small (limited to 150 people), the classes offered were a mix of business and craft, and the faculty was interspersed with interesting individuals. It was a good first conference, in my now slightly more qualified opinion; since it was relatively small, it was not too overwhelming, yet it still offered the opportunity to make some influential connections with agents!

I will start with the pros of the conference. The first and foremost bonus is getting to pitch to agents. Yes, it’s scary, and intimidating–but do it! When I arrived at the conference I didn’t know that formal pitches were an option, but quickly found myself signed up to pitch to two agents and two small press editors. Did I panic slightly? Of course. But I simply reminded myself that I know my book and am confident in my book, and it went just fine. In fact, all of the agents and editors requested either partial or full manuscript after my pitch! I had a good experience, but that is not solely why I advise authors to take the plunge and pitch at conference–you should do it because chances are relatively limited for you to run into agents during breaks and such. Before I attended the conference, I had read the opposite advice which told me it’s better to try and casually run into agents and spark conversation. However, after having been to the conference, I have to say that is leaving a lot to chance. If there is a chance to get your name down for a (no matter how small) amount of time to talk to an agent or publisher about your book–do it!

The next pro for me was that I met a potentially great friend/colleague; we met at the breakfast section of the day, and ended up being in the same class sessions, so we got a lot of chances to get to know one another and talk about each others’ books. Now we plan to email regularly and exchange critiques and editing advice. This isn’t to say that I just met one person and stuck to only talking to them all day–I talked to a lot of different people, and that in itself was a pro. Meeting fellow writers is always interesting.

Now, the cons. First and foremost, I was already knowledgeable on most of the information presented in the classes. Most of this information is accessible on great websites such as AgentQuery and Writers Digest. Due to my extensive research on querying and agents after I finished my novel, I had stumbled across most of, if not all, the information presented in the class sessions (I stuck to mostly the business/querying type of presentations, so I can’t speak as much to the craft sessions). Thus, for me the conference was a learning event, but not in the sense of the structured classes.

The second con I will list is the inaccessibility of the agents that were present at the conference. The only time I saw an agent outside of the pitch session room was when they were teaching their classes. This made it difficult to interact with them (which was most likely by design, at least in the case of one particular agent!), so had I stuck to my original plan which was to organically strike up conversation, I would have been sorely disappointed. Like I said above, the pitch sessions saved my weekend from being disappointing!

Now that I have attended my first conference, I have been getting asked whether or not I will attend another one. The answer is “probably.” I think I will be more selective in the conferences that I attend; I want them to be a bit more high profile. Now that I know more about agencies and agents I may want to target, I can look out for conferences they may be attending. I will be looking to see what kind of pitch opportunities will be available. There are a couple high profile events that I will consider–namely, the New York Pitch Conference and the San Francisco Writers Conference. However, right now, I am switching gears and will be exclusively focusing on my first round of querying agents; I sent out my first materials requested email today to an agent who requested a synopsis and partial, so I am very excited about that (excited, but also fully prepared to wait for a response or simply never get one). Aside from querying, I will, of course be diving back into my work on Inductance; I think getting back in the flow of writing might be a little tricky after my mini-vacation, but I am excited to ebb back into the story!

Community

Today my baby blog is one week old, and even though everything is very fresh, I wanted to say thank you to my brand new followers who have liked, and even left comments on, my posts! As writers, we are different creatures than most–prone to tuck ourselves away in front of the computer writing or curled on the couch engrossed in yet another book. By default, writing is a lonely practice as it is a task one embarks on individually. This is why community, support and feedback is so important, and why I am so glad to get another avenue of that from my blog. When I first started seriously writing my novel, I reached out to two of my favorite former English professors from my alma mater who were published authors; it made me feel inspired and encouraged to start exchanging emails with them. I am excited to attend my first writing conference in two weeks in Las Vegas, where I am not only excited to personally connect with agents, but am also thrilled to have the opportunity to interact with more of my fellow writers! Once again, thanks to all the likes and follows so far on a constant chiaroscuro–stay posted for more on my conference prep and perhaps posting some writing samples from my novel!