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Atlanta Writing Workshop Wrapup

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Finally got some time to sit down and talk about my thoughts on the Atlanta Writing Workshop.

A few of my WC friends and I attended the workshop with no real expectations. One of the major draws, for me, was a chance to pitch in front of some agents — more on that in a bit. Now, it did cost extra to pitch and extra per agent. I was apprehensive at first. But after  looking over the attendees made it seem like a good deal, so I picked two that fit my genre.

I’ll be honest, having to pay to pitch some agents at a workshop felt a bit like being taken advantage of. But, looking at it now, I believe it’s a way to offset the cost of the one-day workshop. I imagine these agents had their flights taken care of as well as their rooms. With that being the case, I would imagine the cost for the single day event would be close to $500 a person.

There was a ton of information packed into a single day and all lead by Chuck Sambuchino, editor of Guide to Literary Agents. He’s a great presenter and knows how to keep the pace moving.

That said, I really felt like I knew most of what he talked about already. Not because I’m some big hotshot, but because I’ve been at this long enough. I’ve been to enough workshops and conventions to know the information. Of course that doesn’t mean it was bad for everyone. Take me from four years ago and this workshop would have been a wealth of knowledge.

Of the panels, one stuck out to me the most. Chuck read out loud the first page of anonymously submitted manuscripts. Six agents listened and read along. Whenever an agent reached a point that they’d stop reading they’d raise their hand. Once three agents had raised a hand Chuck would stop reading all together. Afterward the agents would say exactly why they would have stopped reading. It was fascinating to get to hear their thoughts. You could tell (and it was almost said this way) that they read A LOT. Because of this they don’t want any confusion on the first page and there has to be something there that makes them want to turn the page.

Overly wrought descriptions, out.

Lots of dialect in the dialogue, out.

Confusion as to who the main character is, out.

It’s kind of scary how even the littlest of things could cause them to stop reading. But what that means is you really need to make that first page shine.

Now the highlight for me were the two pitches I took a part in. I didn’t memorize my query, one-page synopsis, or anything like that. Instead I trusted in myself to know the material so that I could easily just talk about it and be excited about it. Honestly, I think that paid off. When I pitched informally at JordanCon in front of Brandon Sanderson and Harriet McDougal I had a little speech memorized. I basically sounded like a salesman.

This time I went in without pressure on myself and just had a good time.

Both agents gave me a lot of good information and feedback. They’ve also helped me identify some areas that I’ve been struggling with since I started pitching the book. Right now I’ve straddled YA and MG. With their help I’ve been able to pick a direction and focus.

Funny though is that one agent reps MG and the other YA. What does that mean for me? I now get to have two different MSS. This should be quite the challenge, but I’m up for it.

In my next blog update I plan on talking about a theory I have on pitching books. So far my informal thoughts seem to be holding up. And by that I mean any kind of rigorous scientific study is unnecessary, as my thoughts are full proof!

Trust me.

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