"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot." ~Eleanor Roosevelt
(This is one of my top 5 all-time favorite quotes, by the way)
So here goes...
Fiction Fest 2009 on Saturday was a terrific experience! There were about 100 attendees, I'd say, mostly unpublished authors and many who were quite new to writing in general. There was a continental breakfast with 2 speakers (a "life coach" who talked about keeping balance in your life, and a book doctor who talked about the common errors she sees in manuscripts). Then 2 Breakout Sessions with 2 workshop choices each.
I went to "Creating Unforgettable Characters" with Kristan Higgins (I knew her from a book signing back in the winter, so it was nice to see her again). She talked a lot about how to give your characters history/hobbies/scars/jobs/past relationships/etc to make them "pop" off the page.
Then I went to "Avoiding Common Manuscript Errors" with Toni Andrews. She focused on issues with POV/head hopping and poor character development/dialogue as keeping new writers from getting contracts/agents. She has a great, "larger than life" personality and is quite funny to listen to...but she stood in front of the screen during her entire Power Point presentation, which was a little frustrating.
Then lunch, during which we heard "cold reads" from people who had sent in pages and listened to what the agents and editors had to say about them. (click here to see who was there). Over and over again, we heard the same thing: too much backstory and too much irrelevant description when there should have been conflict and forward movement in the opening pages. I tell you, though, those people were really brave to send their pages in! It was anonymous, but still. A couple of the agents/editors got kind of snarky by the end of it, which wasn't really cool in my book.
Then the 2 afternoon Breakout Sessions: I went to "Getting on the Query-Go-Round" which was given by Jackie Kessler. She showed us her query letter which get 11 requests for fulls and 5 offers of representation. She shared a lot of good info, though I'd say she downplayed the difficulty of finding an agent (though for her I guess it wasn't difficult, so...).
Then my Workshop, last session of the day: Cutting Deadwood:Trimming and Tightening Language. It turned out to fit in really well with all the luncheon discussion, and I used a lot of examples that the agents/editors had pointed out. Mostly, though, I shared my own experiences with One Night in Napa, and the revisions I had to make before Samhain would accept it.
It seemed to go really well (I was nervous at first, but I got over it). Afterwards, quite a few people came up and told me they really liked it, including one woman who said it was "the best of the day" for her because I seemed really genuine and shared my own frustrations and difficulties, which gave her hope.
Afterwards there was a cocktail hour and book signing, and I ended up selling 8 copies of One Night in Memphis, all to people who had been in my workshop! So it was a really great day and a terrific opportunity to network and also give back to people who are newly navigating the writing/publishing biz.
Phew...I'm worn out from typing, so I'll share the Sunday book signing tomorrow. Less to say, but I still learned a couple of things, so... see you back here Tuesday!
Oh, and here's a picture of me and my author friend Stella Price, at the signing on Saturday: