On Saturday, June 24, 2017 I attended the Chicago Writing Workshop. It was a whirlwind day of sessions and agent pitches. It was also my first big writing conference. I’ve attended learning seminars and networking hours and BookCon and all sorts of writing-related events, but never a straight up conference. I am very glad that I went.
I’ve split up this review into four sections: Quick Observations, The Sessions, The Pitches, and Gratitude.
There were three sessions for each time slot. I thought there was a good variety of options to choose from. My day was broken up with four pitches, so there wasn’t a session I could attend in full. BUT, I did get to sit in on large chunks of them, and here’s what I observed / my general thoughts on the sessions.
Session 1: A Bird’s Eye View of Publishing Books in the Year 2017
Session 2: Everything You Need to Know about Literary Agents and Query Letters
Session 3: “Writers Got Talent” - a Page 1 Critique Fest
Session 4: Voice and Style in Your Fiction: 15 Tips on How to Write Like the Pros
Holy crap this was a nerve wracking experience!! I’m not going to get into too much detail, but here’s what I will share.
So, yes, three out of four agents asked for pages. And I learned a lot from each. I soaked in everything they said, every question they asked, every clarification they requested, and realized that I need to make sure I know what the most important parts of my story are. The more high-concept the book is, the harder that is to nail down, but I’m getting better and better at it.
I kept imagining that they must ask pages from everyone, but that’s probably not true. It’s just me trying to wrap my head around the idea that I actually got to follow-up with them. The validation of even a small amount of interest from professionals was to-the-moon-and-back cool.
What made the day even better was that I wasn’t alone. Three additional things to be thankful for.
First: I got to meet one of my #WritersQuick5 writers in person! Bibi Belford was there and we got to hug and chat. I loved getting to actually talk to her. So special. And, she was a rock star, bouncing back and forth between this event and the ALA event close by.
Second: One of my dearest friends, Margaret, came to lend me moral support. She met me for lunch and then hung out the rest of the afternoon and we even rode the El back north together. To have her there, to hug, to process things with, to lean on for support, to enjoy the afternoon, to take a walk when I needed some fresh air, to pump me up, to just have a friendly face. I am so blessed and will be forever grateful.
Third: I had a cadre of people that were texting me for updates throughout the day, including my husband and my daughter, my sister and sister-in-law, and several of my girlfriends. I felt wrapped in good will and so grateful that I could share my experience in real time.
I left the day excited and exhausted. I seriously crashed when I got home. But it was worth it. I had my first experiences of the verbal pitch. I got to be around other writers and I got to learn from some of the experts in the industry. And my query and my book are better for it.
I spent all Sunday sending out my pages (no word yet). Whatever happens next, I’m glad I went and that I’m making progress.
If you are an author, new or otherwise, I highly recommend attending a Writing Workshop event.