Category Archives: Writers Conferences

The Writer’s Connection: Notes from a Presentation Offered by @RobertDugoni #amwriting #PNWA60 #mystery

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Image of man in red tie and black business suit standing at a podium. Meant to represent Crime Thriller author Robert Dugoni.

Illustration flat icon of orator speaking from rostrum, long shadow style – vector

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard crime thriller author Robert Dugoni speak at a writers’ conference, but if you ever get the chance, I suggest you listen carefully and take notes like I did. He has a lot of great advice to share, as you’ll see in this blog post.

He started with two simple pieces of advice:

  1. Follow your dreams, and the money will come. Follow the money, and you’ll lose your dreams.
  2. Immerse yourself in the community of writers. Surround yourself with, and make yourself available to many, and many will be available to you.

Here are some other nuggets of advice he offered:

Stop worrying about finding an agent and focus on the writing. Think of that as your job. Consider that old saying, “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”

Dugoni changed his mind-set to stop worrying about agents and put his focus on how to improve his craft. It helped him improve his writing overall.

When he gives presentations now, as a published author, he’s literally showing other writers the mistakes he made before he made those changes.

Dugoni suggested that the friendships we make with other would-be authors can really benefit us in the long run:

Meeting people is what makes a conference like [the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference] worthwhile. At a conference like this, you might be sitting beside the next J.K. Rawling. You might be sitting beside the next Dan Brown. Why wouldn’t you want to make friends with that person?

It takes time to build an audience, and the only way to do that is to write more books. You must also get to know the people around you, because they might be someone who can help you down the road. And we all need help in this business.

Who do you need to connect with first? Yourself. Understand who you are as an author. Know the background you come from. Dugoni’s mom used to make her kids read books if they said, “I’m bored,” and that’s why Dugoni began to fall in love with stories.

Understanding who you are helps you discover the best story you can write. You can’t write honestly until you honestly know who you are and where you come from.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • Where were you raised?
  • What’s your religion? How does it impact you?
  • Did you serve in the military? Did you see combat? How did that affect you?
  • Are you married? Single? Do you have children?
  • Who are the people who influenced you most in life?

Dugoni’s dad made a profound statement about worldly things: “It’s just stuff.” So to Dugoni, family is what matters.

My Sister’s Grave is one of Dugoni’s best novels. At its core, it’s about relationships. Dugoni brought into that story the lessons he learned growing up in a household with four sisters.

Unlike television, reading is interactive. Reading is collaboration with the writer’s mind. So as an author, you’re trying to write a book that your readers can identify with. That’s when people start talking about your book, start saying to people, “Hey, you really have to read this.”

Dugoni addressed common fears and flaws among novice writers:

As a writer, you must get past the fear of the skeletons in your closet. All of your characters are of you (created by you), but they are not you. So don’t be afraid to let your characters out.

 

Become a detailed observer of people. Don’t just talk about a character’s hands; offer details. Do they wear a ring? Do they have callouses?

Don’t just tell the character’s eye color. How do they use them? Do they wear too much eye makeup? Do they squint? Do they look down when they talk, or do they look people in the eyes?

Ask your characters the same kinds of questions you would ask strangers, if you could. If they have pierced ears but they don’t wear earrings, ask your characters if they regret getting their ears pierced.

You can’t develop your characters unless you really know and understand who they are.

Here’s an exercise you can do: Write five things that would make your character stand out in a police lineup.

Dugoni also talked about writer’s block:

One method to get a story moving, is to get your characters talking, because dialogue inspires action.

 

When you get writers’ block, it’s possible that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. So do some research and you might find it helps. If that doesn’t work, go get some exercise. That may help get the endorphins moving and jump start your muse.

If you’re ever writing and you’re wondering why your characters are doing something, that’s a red flag. A character’s motives need to be believable.

We control the writing, so take pride in that. Make it as good as you can possibly make it, and understand that this is why you’re here.

Also, don’t be afraid of failure. Failing is the first step to success. We all go through it. You can either give up or push through it. Don’t let it keep you from doing what you really want to do.

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Top 7 #Manuscript Pitfalls With #BookDoctor @p2p_editor Jason Black at #PNWA60

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Image of stick figure standing at the bottom of a pit looking up at two other people

Image: iClipart

I’ve recently returned from the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association‘s summer writers’ conference 2015, and I’m sharing my class notes via English Emporium, for any writers who wish they could have attended but were unable to. This class, Revision: Top Seven Manuscript Pitfalls was taught by Seattle book doctor and author, Jason Black, whose website, Plot to Punctuation, has a ton of great tips for writers.

Jason has written and published a really charming “horse book” for girls, called Pebblehoof. I recommend this book for girls ages 8 to 12 who really love horses and seek stories like Brighty of the Grand CanyonMisty of Chincoteague, and Black Beauty. I had the honor of reading his book last year, and I’ve since recommended it to my oldest daughter, who collects Breyer horses and enjoys team roping.

I’m sharing my class notes here, in the hope that I can pass Jason Black’s writerly wisdom on to those who follow this blog:

 

Pitfall #1: Excessive Use of Conjunctions

It’s not that you should never use and in any of your writing, but variety can be a good thing. And is the “vanilla” of conjunctions, so it’s a good idea to try different flavors now and then.

Try replacing an “and” with a gerund instead. For example: Mad Jack took the heater out of its holster,  and opened opening the cylinder…

It’s also possible to use an infinitive verb instead of a conjunction:

And sipped => to sip

Or try a preposition:

And felt => until he felt

 

Pitfall #2: Disregarding Assumed Motion

Any motion that readers can reasonably assume happened in the story, is something you should leave out of your description. So instead of “raised his flask to his lips to sip” you should just write sipped. People can assume your character lifted the flask to his lips.

It’s easy to describe the character going through the motions because when you get in the “zone” as a writer, you want to just get the story typed onto the page. But how important is a character’s motion? If your character sets a book down, then that book needs to come into the story line later. Or perhaps it’s important that she puts a book down to free her hands for action that follows in the story line.

 

Pitfall #3: Inner Monologue Problems

Inner monologue is the prose which offers the reader a character’s thoughts. In writing groups, it can be referred to as IM. The problem with IM is this: it breaks the POV (point of view). It changes the flow of narrative from 3rd to 1st person personal POV, and this can leave the reader feeling jarred.

Treat inner monologue like a spotlight. Pick the juiciest spots in your story to use it.

A new style of italics for IM has evolved with the invention of the word processor. Back in the days of typewriters, all IM had to be in quotation marks. Today some published works use italics instead, but be aware that not all publishing houses will use italics. Also, if you find your entire page is filled with italics, it might be better to go back and convert that to narrative gloss.

A narrative gloss is the narrator telling us what a character thinks.

Narrative gloss: John was sure Susie was sleeping with his best friend, Michael.

IM: I bet she’s sleeping with Mike.

Here’s something a lot of writers wonder about as well: when you use italics for IM, it isn’t necessary to end it with the words he thought.

 

Pitfall #4: Using Overly-Complex Sentences

An overly-complex sentence is one which is just too darn long. But you don’t want a bunch of simple sentences in a row either. Vary sentence lengths and sentence structures. Develop an ear for the music of your writing.

Read it out loud. This trick really works! It will help you understand where your sentence structures need to be broken up and/or varied.

 

Pitfall #5: The Use of Sensory Modalities

We learn about the world around us through our five senses. Avoid using wording like “he saw” or “she smelled” or “they heard” because this is too telly. Just make it happen. Readers can infer which sense was used (unless the sense is ambiguous).

If it’s not clear that a cop heard a gunshot when there’s a lot of other noise in a sprawling metropolis, then yes, it’s okay to use the phrase “he heard the taxi racing down the street”. But it’s even better if you use an active verb, like “the taxi barreled down the street…”

 

Pitfall #6: The Use of Weak Verbs

Think of all the words we use when cooking: braise, sear, saute, barbecue, etc… English offers a plethora of words, having pirated so many from other languages. Therefore, don’t just say your character cooked dinner. Did he roast it? Did he fry it?

A strong verb offers the reader a clearer, more detailed image in her mind, and it may even give the reader a glimpse of the character’s emotions. Strong verbs are words that literally mean more.

But how do you determine if a verb is weak?

Adverbial phrases that modify your verbs are a red flag. Instead of using the adverb, try to find the verb you originally intended.

In addition to generic verbs, new writers use too many helping verbs. You almost never need these. Quite often, they’re not “helping” verbs; they’re “hurting” verbs. So when you see a helping verb, consider revising it so it uses a more descriptive verb.

Examples:

  • was opening the cylinder => flicked open the cylinder
  • was showing inside => glinted up at him
  • had come quickly => galloped

 

Pitfall #7 Not Taking Advantage of Wording for World-building

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions that will help you understand the types of words we’re talking about:

  • denotation = dictionary definition
  • connotation = the meaning beyond the dictionary definition (what people imply, culturally, when they use that word)

When a person has learned to speak English as a second language, it’s common for them to use a word that doesn’t quite suit the occasion. For example, a foreign person might use the word “village” in a sentence about Seattle, when he/she might have been better served to use the words “city” or “population center.” They all mean the same thing, in terms of dictionary definitions, but “population center” has a scientific nuance to it. “Village” reminds us more of fairy tale lands and places in Europe. “City” is a sprawling metropolis.

All of these have the same denotation, but they each have very unique and different connotations. When world-building, it’s important to find words that have the right connotation. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, don’t use the words “small town” just because you’re too lazy to think up the right word. Find the right word for the village, berg, or hamlet you’re trying to create.

Q and A: The audience was given an opportunity to ask questions.

Q: Why is passive voice a bad thing?

A: Passive voice hides the characters. Example:

The present was opened by Susan. => Susan opened the present.

It’s not that the first sentence is grammatically incorrect. It’s fine, in terms of sentence structure. But the character of Susan is not in the center of the stage in that first sentence. The second sentence puts the character in the spotlight.

Q: When would you want to use the weak word instead of the strong word?

A: Sometimes we can burden the reader with redundancies. We want to avoid repetition and if we’ve already said that the character was slinking in the dark, then you don’t want to keep using slinking every time he moves through the compound. It’s okay to use those moved kinds of words to avoid repetition of the more complex verb that has already been established.

“Look Here!” Voice and Persona in #Poetry with Seattle #Poet Carolyne Wright at the #PNWA Summer Conference

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Image of Seattle Poet, Carolyne Wright reading a poem aloud beside a microphone

Image of Carolyne Wright at 2015 PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference

I’ve recently returned from the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association‘s summer writers’ conference 2015. This was the PNWA’s 60th anniversary, so they had quite a large turnout. As usual, the classes were taught by some phenomenal people. This class, “Look Here!” Voice and Persona in Poetry, taught by a resident poet of Seattle named Carolyne Wright, really dug at my soul as a writer and inspired me to delve into the souls of the characters I write about.

I’m sharing my class notes here, in the hope that I can pass that inspiration on to other writers who follow this blog:

In poetry we often think that the “speaker” of a poem is somehow greater than, less than, or equal to the poet. But Wright finds a poem can have a persona of its own.

In Greek, the “persona” referred to the mask worn by the actors in a theater production. The audience could identify the characters from mythology based on this mask and its features. Connect this image with the poem. Think of the poem as the mask. It hides the poet, showing us the face of someone else in all his or her emotional glory.

So when we read a poem, we need to remember that the voice in a poem isn’t always the voice of the poet.

Poems can do what plays do, without actually using dialogue. In poems we have what’s called dramatic monologues. It’s not the same thing as dialogue. Monologue is just one individual’s internal thoughts and ideas being expressed. Dialogue is between two individuals. But monologue helps us explore the inner life of a character.

We, as readers, want to understand, but often are baffled by, what makes other people tick. A writer has the gift to be able to do this exploring through the creation of a poem.

When you read a poem, ask yourself this: if you were reading that poem as part of a play, what would you infer about the character who is saying it?

Wright directed our class to read “Look Here” by Pamela Alexander, and afterwards, we discussed that poem:

In a poem, there are no stage directions, and often no specific information about the setting. But you can imagine these things.

After reading a poem like “Look Here,” we could, as an exercise, write a new poem in the voice of the “she-bear” or the POV of the male to whom the poem is directed.

In poetry, repetition is a strategy for building power in the “speaker” within the poem. Pamela Alexander uses repetition effectively this way.

Next, our class read “Monet Refuses the Operation” by Lisel Mueller.

Here’s a woman poet, writing in the voice of a French impressionist painter who had cataracts, and whose paintings reflect his fuzzy vision. Imagine this poem being written by a novelist who wants to “inhabit” the body of Claude Monet and offer up his reasoning for not having an operation to “correct” his vision.

In doing so, Mueller explores Claude Monet’s understanding of life and the value of life as a blind person.

Next our class read “Mary Poppins II: That’s Ms. Poppins to You” by Allison Joseph.

The voice of Ms. Poppins sounds African American, not British. It’s very obvious, that in the voice of this character, this woman is no Julie Andrews. This nanny points out class differences in this poem. She also demands respect that she’s not getting.

We can always write a reply to the poems or the stories we read. Pay attention to minor characters. What might they say in a poem?

 

As our class came to a close, we read poems that were replies to each other. They were:

In conclusion, our teacher, poet Carolyne Wright, offered suggestions to those of us in the audience who consider ourselves more story-writers than poets:

Poetry and prose really blend into one another. For a certain kind of emphasis, for a certain rhetorical effect, you can blend your poetry into the prose you write as a novelist.

_____________________

In retrospect, now that I’m home and thinking back on the class I took with Carolyne Wright, I realize that I’ve been using poetry to help me create my prose for some time now. In fact, some of the scenes for which I receive the most positive feedback from my beta readers, are those for which I have written poems to help me shape their descriptive elements.

At the end of class, I happily purchased Carolyne Wright‘s book of poems, Mania Klepto: The Book of Eulene. I think my students will enjoy reading these poems in the coming school year.

How to get your #poem, #essay, or #shortstory published: a presentation by Tanya Chernov

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Image of swirly writing with a winged heart overlaid on a piece of crumpled paper

Image: iClipart

My summer blog posts are often about the writing process and how to get your written work out there for the average Joe to read. Today I’m continuing to share what I learned at the 2014 PNWA Summer Writer’s Conference, by offering my notes from a class entitled, “From Slush Pile to Printed Page,” which was presented by Tanya Chernov, author of the highly acclaimed memoir, A Real Emotional Girl.

This is what Chernov shared in her presentation:

 

When Writing…

Consider your unpublished work. Do you have a colleague or writing partner to help you edit and revise your material, to critique with you, to give you support and advice? This is crucial.

Do you ever see a piece of work that has been published and think, “I’m writing material that’s stronger than this. Why did they get published when I did not?” If so, ask a colleague to [analyze both works] and tell you why they think this person got published when you did not.

When Submitting…

If you send your material [to agents or publishers often], you will eventually become desensitized to rejection, so don’t let rejection stop you from sending your material in. Sometimes a writer’s persistence impresses an editor. Submit it again and again. Take courage.

When [reviewing other people’s] poetry submissions [from an editor’s perspective], Chernov always reads the first three stanzas before giving up. She’s often looking for a unique poetic topic, something she’s never read [in poetic form] before.

How are you grouping your stories or poems? Are you giving editors enough time to process? Don’t assault them with too many submissions all at once.

Be professional, be friendly, and be a literary citizen, offering your support and friendship to editors. Don’t get defensive after a rejection. If an editor says, “This is close, but not quite what I want. Please revise and re-submit,” don’t re-submit it the same afternoon. Wait for the next reading period to open up.

When Writing a Bio…

Make a list of your five favorite authors. Look at their websites and look up their bios. This should help you with writing a bio that you can include in your submissions to magazines and websites.

Another trick is to ask someone else to write your bio for you. If you have a writing partner or critique buddy, they can sometimes help you out in that arena. Write down some bullet points and hand it to them. Ask them to put it all together in essay format and then edit it to suit you.

When Building Platform…

Duotrope and news pages are hub sites for literary magazines. Their websites will give you the low-down, like submission requirements and such.

Write the stuff you like to read. Writing can be a miserable experience if you don’t, so don’t try to follow trends when being creative. You will find a home for your writing, as long as you give it your best shot.

Furthermore, writers should get in the habit of googling themselves to see what other people are writing about you. You want to make sure you see what’s being said about you and your work. In the Information Age, it’s a good practice.

 

Closing Statements…

At the end of Chernov’s presentation, one writer told how he kept submitting his material to a website. After a while, they sent him a suggestion that he should join their writing contest. Chernov said, “Be wary of contests that have reading fees.”

Another member of the audience asked, “Can you suggest some magazines that publish humorous essays?”

Chernov responded with this list:

Q and A With #LiteraryAgents and #Authors on EnglishEmporium.WordPress.com #AmWriting

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As my regular followers know, I attend the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference in Seattle every year. As I attend classes, I take notes on my laptop, so I can later share what I’ve learned with the masses. This class was a little question-and-answer forum for authors and their literary agents. Here’s the cast of characters who attended this forum:

Question: What advice do you have for authors seeking agents?

Answers:

  • Katie Reed: “You shouldn’t submit to an agent you have doubts about. If you don’t trust her to do everything she can to get your book sold, she’s not the right agent to query.”
  • Dan Gemeinhart:  “Some writers like an agent who gives lots of editorial advice; other writers like an agent who does very little editorial work on a manuscript. So it’s important to find an agent who suits your style and your vision.”
  • Jim Satterfield: “If you get an offer from an agent you don’t think you’ll enjoy working with, you need to have the willpower to walk away from that agent’s offer.”

Question: How should writers make a positive impression on an agent?

Answers:

  • Katie Reed: “One of the things I like about working with Halie is that she’s responsive to revision ideas.”
  • Liz Kracht: “[Attending] conference[s] and entering contests is one way to make an impression on an agent. By coming to a conference, it says a lot about an author’s willingness to edit, revise, and hone their craft.”
  • Dan Gemeinhart shared a brief story about how he connected with his agent at a conference like this one: He was a helper at a Winachee conference, and he walked agents and editors in and out of the conference meetings. He didn’t feel it was polite to pitch to his agent, but while she was packing up after the conference, she asked, “Do you write?” He said, “Yes,” and she said, “Well, what do you write?” So he pitched, she signed him, and in a very short amount of time she sold his material.

Question: When meeting prospective clients, what’s a red flag that leaves a negative impression on an agent?

Answers:

  • Katie Reed: “I don’t mind authors who pitch multiple books in a conference pitch session, but in a written query letter, I’m usually unimpressed by that.”
  • Liz Kracht: “I won’t work with authors who won’t create a website and promote their work online. In an earlier conference class, I heard someone say, ‘Platform isn’t that important for a fiction writer,’ but I disagree with that. Platform and online presence is profoundly important in the changing landscape of the online world.”
  • Jim Satterfield: “I was visiting with Gordon Warnock at Flathead River Writer’s Conference, and Warnock was talking about the writers he signed. I noticed that Warnock’s discussion was more about the personalities of the writers than it was about the material they wrote.”

Question: Will agents represent self-published authors?

Answer:

  • Liz Kracht: “There’s a risk involved in that situation, because publishers can see your book sales online. So if the author has a very low sales count, it will likely be a turn-off to the publisher. So there’s a gamble involved in repping a self-published author. If you aren’t good at self-promotion and self-marketing, it’s likely that your book won’t sell. My best suggestion is that if you plan to self-publish, market that book until your numbers are high. Otherwise it will hurt your chances of getting a publishing deal for your next book.”
  • Katie Reed: “It’s hard to convince a publisher that they should take a chance on the indie author who hasn’t done well with their self-published material. It’s a plus to take a manuscript to a publisher with the words, ‘…and this writer has personally done this or that to get her noticed…'”

Question: What’s a good number for sales?

Answer:

  • Liz Kracht: “If you can sell 5000 copies of a memoir or 10000 copies of a fiction book, that’s pretty good. I know an agent who felt like 1800 was a good number for a writer she repped, but I like to see a little bigger sales than that.”
  • Jim Satterfield: “It depends on whether you’re publishing with the ‘Big 5’ or a little indie publisher that doesn’t put books in the bookstore. It’s harder to sell 15000 copies of a book that’s not even in the bookstores.”
  • Katie Reed: “Our agency’s goal number is 10000 books.”

Question: Do you have any other advice for writers?

  • Halie Fewkes: “Winning a literary contest is how I connected with Katie. I started writing at age 12 on the book I’m now getting published, so sometimes it takes a while. You’ve got to be patient. Winning the PNWA writing competition got me a lot of attention from editors and agents, so it’s a good idea to submit to contests along the way.”
  • Liz Kracht: “A publisher once said to me that there’s an obvious connection between online presence and writers who sell lots of books. So get yourself out there.”

Holstra and Treadgold answer: What’s it like to #Publish #Books With Small Presses? #AmWriting

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As I said in last week’s post, I’m running a series of posts that reflect on the notes I took at last year’s PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference. I’ll be attending the conference again this year (in fact I’ll be speaking in one of the forums).  So I should have more notes from this year’s conference shortly. But for now, I’d like to reflect on a class I took from small publishers Tawn Holstra and Catherine Treadgold.

Brown Sparrow Publishing is only 2 yrs old. They do some POD (print on demand), but they’re mostly print run. They don’t charge authors. They do help authors develop and generally get their voices out into the world.

Tawn Holstra was the representative from Brown Sparrow Publishing who spoke at the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference where I took this class on small publishers and how to work with them. She was a very friendly lady. She greeted me before the class started with a kind smile. Since she publishes YA, she asked me to submit my latest novel to her, but of course, I already have a publishing deal with Reputation Books. So I had to decline the invitation for submission.

Ms. Holstra started in the publishing business in New York, but the environment is completely different now than what it used to be. She said, from time to time, we “feel like we’re drinking out of a fire hydrant” when trying to keep up with demands. Now, as a newer publisher, she gets one or two e-mails a day saying, “Will you please read my…..” but instead of feeling overwhelmed, she thinks, “Of course I’ll read it!”

She doesn’t want you to be afraid to submit to her. Your book doesn’t have to be perfect. A good plot twist, a good idea in rough form is better than a brilliant, well-written average idea. You might not like the feedback, because Holstra will be honest after reading it, but she doesn’t want you to be too afraid to submit your manuscript to her.

Catherine Treadgold (from Coffeetown Press, which I featured last week) seconded this thought, saying, “For me, someone who can really tell a story combined with a distinctive voice—plus characters you can really care about—that’s what makes literary fiction really good.” She publishes literary fiction with a really good story behind it. If it’s grammatically correct but doesn’t tell a captivating story, she won’t publish it. But if it needs a little grammar clean-up, yet it’s a fabulous story, she’ll publish it.

Both Brown Sparrow Publishing and Coffeetown Press work with agents, but it isn’t required for an agent to be the middle man. That’s one of the nice perks of working with a smaller publishing house.

So if you want your book to be published, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to visit these publishers’ websites and strike up a conversation with editors Tawn Holstra or Catherine Treadgold. You never know… either of these ladies might make your publishing dreams come true!

Who’s the Best #LiteraryAgent for You? — a summary of which #agents represent different #genres

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Every summer I attend the PNWA Summer Writers’ Conference in Seattle, and each year I take careful notes. Then I come home and post my conference notes for other writers to peruse. The conference usually begins with a series of interviews with in-person agents attending the conference. Each agent tells the audience what he/she is looking for. These are my notes from the agent forum at last year’s conference, along with links to each agent’s website:

Andrea Somberg – She reps adult fiction, nonfiction, sci-fi, romance, thrillers, mystery, nonfiction, memoir, YA and middle grade. When you tell her about your book, she wants to know about the characters, the conflict, and where it fits in the marketplace.

Mike Neff – He’s looking for a high-concept genre story, where the story premise is unique. His agency is looking for books, films, and potential TV series. Recently he signed a client who got the HBO series started while she was still working on the novel. He does fantasy, MG, YA, sci-fi, mystery, thrillers, historicals, and up-market fiction. Some people seem to think a title isn’t important, but to him, titles are incredibly important. If you have written a series, he wants you to tell him about it.

Emily Keyes – She’s looking for YA/MG and commercial fiction as well as pop culture nonfiction stories. In a pitch (or query letter), she wants YA/MG that’s voice-driven and it stands out in the marketplace.

Rosanne Wells – She likes heists and con stories. She doesn’t like Christian inspiration, but she likes the sociology of religion. She doesn’t represent short stories. She likes cookbooks. She loves it when a book mixes genres or crosses genres. She said, “If you have 100,000 Twitter followers, maybe 10% of them will buy your book.” So platform isn’t everything.

Patrick Kennedy – He’s acquiring memoirs and practical, instructional nonfiction. He likes books that offer a media connection. He thinks a book needs a clear reason to exist. A lot of authors write on autopilot, but this can produce very bad books. So, he likes to see when an author makes their one shot (at impressing an agent) matter. He likes an author to be market –savvy, but not formulaic. Don’t tell me you’ve got the next Twilight or the next Hunger Games. He looks for passion in a query letter.

Gordon Warnock – He personally handles graphic novels for adults and YA’s. But at this conference, he’s also seeking material for other agents at their agency. Michelle Richtor, formally of St. Martin’s Press, is now an agent. She does crime fiction and mysteries. Go to their website for details.

Lara Perkins – She represents everything from picture books to YA. She has an art background, so she loves dealing with authors who are also illustrators. She likes voice-driven, character-driven stories. In a pitch, she wants to know what the stakes are for your character, even in a picture book. What are you doing that’s unique? She likes to see your enthusiasm and passion in your query/pitch. MG is about what’s happening with your friends and family, whereas YA is about where the character fits in the real world. You need to know your genre and where your book fits.

Rita Rosencranz – She looks for familiar topics presented freshly. She has published about seven titles through the PNWA conference. Make it clear how your book is different and better than the competition in the marketplace. You need a platform that’s tied to your book.

Rachel Letofsky – Her agency is Canada’s 2nd largest. They take a team approach at that agency. She will pass a book along to a colleague, if she thinks it will appeal to them. She’s looking for YA/MG. After authors pitch, she asks, “What was your inspiration?” She likes authors to tell the story behind the story.

Christina Hogrebe – Christina’s agency represents Bob Dugoni, among other Seattle writers. There’s something about Seattle that just works for her. Writers are her favorite people! Agents find an author who makes them excited, and they invest time and energy into that author. Her agency represents audio and UK direct, film and translation, etc… They don’t do children’s picture books. They love cozy historical mysteries. She’d love to find a psychological YA mystery. She loves contemporary romantic YA. She likes surprise mashups.

Ken Sherman – He’s from Los Angeles. He likes a pitch that tells the essence of your story, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, in a minute or less. Answer every question he has about your characters, their conflict, and why your passion has taken you there. He likes authors who have really worked at their craft. A big part of his business is selling TV and film rights.

Sara Sciuto – You say her name like “Shoot-oh” with an accent on the first syllable. She reps picture books through YA, and she also has a select list of adult nonfiction. She likes craft, pop culture, etc. She’s not looking for narrative nonfiction. With children’s nonfiction, she’s more open to any concept. She has eclectic tastes for children and youths. She doesn’t represent chick-lit YA. For your pitch, try to sum it up in 30 seconds. She wants a sense of what the main conflict/hook is. She doesn’t need to know plot points; just tell her what the hook is.

Scott Eagan – His literary agency is located in Puyallup, WA. He only reps romance and women’s fiction. He likes stories with happy endings. He doesn’t want to see anything with a sad ending. Know why your book fits in the romance genre. Don’t pitch stuff that has romantic elements. He wants books that have a romantic arc. Romance is about relationships, and he can’t connect with characters that are too bizarre or extreme. If you are pitching women’s fiction, he wants to see the world through a woman’s lens. He likes book-club-level, women’s fiction. He likes to see your name, your book’s title, and the premise.

Jessica Negron – She represents adult and YA books. In adult books, her one true love is sci-fi and fantasy. She also reps romance, cozies, thrillers (but she likes psychological thrillers whereas police procedurals and navy seal stuff are not her thing). She likes YA that explores the teen experience in a new way. She’d love to see a YA with a thriller twist. One major focus for her at this time is introducing diversity to her list. She wants to see diversity in gender, sexual orientation, and other under-represented groups. She wants to know the little details that make your world super unique. A new magic system, for example. What stakes drive your character forward?

Andrea Hurst – She’s primarily looking for women’s fiction. She looks for a story. That’s why she works in this business; it’s the story that grabs her and pulls her in. She’s a sucker for love stories, and they don’t have to have a happy ending. She doesn’t do sci-fi or fantasy. She loves cook books, and she likes it when a cookbook writer also has a recipe blog.

Katie Reed – She represents YA fiction, and she’s also looking for some adult fiction. As far as YA goes, she loves stories that have a literary quality to them. She loves fairy tales too. She wants to know the hook and the conflict in your pitch. She wants to know why you are the best person suited to write this story.

John Rudolph – He was a children’s book editor at Penguin for a long time. He represents everything from picture books to YA fiction. He also reps adult nonfiction. He likes to rep anything that’s got a narrative story line. He works with a very teeny-tiny bit of adult fiction. He doesn’t rep fantasy or romance for adults.

Pooja Menon – She’s open to all sorts of fiction and nonfiction. She’s looking for more adult projects. But she doesn’t like adult sci-fi / fantasy. She likes stories that surprise her. When pitching, start with the title and the word count. It’s okay to compare titles in the market. Pooja said platform isn’t as essential to fiction writers as it is for nonfiction writers.

Liz Kracht – She’s looking for both fiction and nonfiction. On the fiction side, she tends to like “guy reads” but she’s also open to all kinds of nonfiction. She doesn’t like high finance or business books, but she’s open to adventure-driven nonfiction and humor projects. She likes a pitch with the title, the word count, and the genre first, then the distillation of the story and a little about you.

Lucas Hunt – His agency is best known for bare, beautiful, philosophical crime fiction. He likes simple tales, not spy thrillers, just the ordinary pursuit of justice. He likes international fiction with stories of people who leave America and face the struggle of existing in an exotic setting. He likes road stories. In terms of nonfiction, he likes stories that are social, cultural introductions to the exotic through the lens of normality, so his parents can enjoy it too. The most successful people he has worked with are the kindest, so demonstrate that aura.

Erin Cox – She likes a good story. If you’re going to take the time to write a book, make it good. Let her know why you wrote your book. She’s all over Twitter and FB. Follow her and see why she would like your book, and then tell her what your story is and why you wanted to write it. Don’t write for fame or fortune, but write a book because you have a great story to tell. That’s what sells.

Paul Fedorko – He runs a news agency. All he cares about is a good story. Last year he sold 25 books to publishers.

Ayana Coleman – She reps MG and YA fiction, specifically. She’s looking for diverse YA/MG fiction. She wants the characters to be from diverse backgrounds, cultures, gay/lesbian, etc… She wants to fall like quicksand into your book, so when you pitch to her, tell her what’s going to make her fall into your book. She says it’s very important to know where your book fits, and with MG, it’s very tricky to cross over. MG readers are just learning that grown-ups don’t know everything whereas in YA, the reader thinks the world sucks. So it’s hard to cross over from MG to YA.