Missouri Writer’s Guild “Just Write” Conference 2011

What an amazing weekend!

The conference committee DEFINITELY delivered on their promise to assemble a tremendous faculty of editors, agents, and writers to share their expertise in marketing, publishing, and the craft of writing.

The event kicked off Friday afternoon with an early arrival seminar given by C. Hope Clark. She discussed various funding sources for writers including grants, contests, and free lance markets. This was followed by an agent/editor panel where Kristin Nelson (who established  the Nelson Agency in 2002) threw out this daunting statistic: her agency received approx. 36,000 queries in 2010. Of these 36,000, 860 partials were requested. Of the 860, 12 full manuscripts were requested and only ONE was offered a contract! After dinner on our own (there are some great restaurants in Westport Plaza) participants could choose between a literary fiction & journal panel or a periodical/Ezine panel, which is what I chose. The main message there: be as professional and do your homework when querying them as you would when querying an agent or editor. Nightcaps-informal small groups led by the conference presenters, were then held in various locations in the hotel lobby. These were a great opportunity to get up close and personal  and ask questions!The evening ended with Open Mic hosted by David Lucas and Brad Cook. I was too tired to attend but I heard it was great fun!

On Saturday, the hard work started-I had to choose between 20 plus interesting sessions.

I started off the morning in Dialect: the Poetry of Place by Joanna Beth Tweedy, author of The Yonder Side of Sass and Texas. Her enthusiasm for language was matched only by her mastery of linguistics! She led us through a discussion of the South Midlan Dialect and I learned some great new words like piroot, collywobble, and bumfuzzle.She assured us that if we used our own invented words and phrases in context, the audience would get it. I can hardly wait to start making up words of my own!

Next, was Selling the Hard Sell by Jeannie Lin, author of Butterfly Swords, which won the 2009 Golden Heart award for historical romance. She had us looking for the red line of death and stated emphatically that we had to be willing to, “Break it and make it better.” I was encouraged by her upbeat and positive attitude. She shared she was rejected 87 times before the book won an award and became highly sought after!

I attended two sessions by p.b. smith,  Writing the Short Script and How to Use Blogging and Social Networking to Sell a Book and Increase Your Sales.  She  regaled us with humorous antidotes and is definitely passionate about writing.

After lunch (the food at both meals was fantastic!) I sat in as Kristin Nelson read a slush pile provided by participants and explained where she would stop reading  a manuscript and why.

Lastly, I attended a very informative session called Have Laptop Will Travel: Secrets to Getting Your Travel Stories Published, hosted by Deborah Reinhardt,  the managing editor of AAA Midwest Traveler. She walked us through the  requirements of a travel article query, shared several models, then had us write an opening paragraph.

I had the pleasure of eating dinner with fellow Springfield Writing Guild member, Marilyn Smith and her husband. Marilyn snagged several awards, congrats! I also enjoyed the company of New York Times best selling author, Nancy Pickard, who hails from Kansas City. We discovered we had a friend in common, Beth Groundwater, who also writes mysteries. I met Beth at last year’s Pike Peak Writing Conference.

The cherry on top of the sundae was my Sunday Master Class with Kathleen Ortiz, an agent at Lowenstein Associates. She discussed a three prong approach to marketing: Web Strategy, Internet Strategy, and Social Media.  She thinks every author would benefit from having a blog, RSS feeds,  being a member of the Twitter and Face Book social networks, participating in message boards, and lastly, video sharing. I was happy to find that I was already doing most of what she suggested and only need to fine tune/tweak a few things.

I made it home in record time-one of my favorite things about road trips is blasting music, when was the last time you heard Brass in Pocket by the Pretenders or I’m a Man by Joe Jackson- and when I arrived I discovered that EVERY tulip on the property was in bloom. What a perfect end to a great weekend.

Send me a comment if you want to know more about any of the sessions I attended-I’d love to share what I  learned with you!

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