• Agents & Editors Conference

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    I’ve attended the Agents and Editors Conference in Austin several times, and it has been immensely rewarding. I’ve been told by writers who have attended conferences across the country that this is one of the best, in part because there are so many literary agents in attendance.  But it had much more to offer.

    First, it was a way to validate myself as a writer. It was like declaring “I’m a writer – I belong here!”  I had just completed my first memoir, and wanted to meet with an agent to pitch it.  As I checked in to the hotel on Friday afternoon, there was a lot of motion in the lobby.  People were lined up to pick up conference materials, others sat and chatted in the bar, numerous people walked purposefully by – it was like signing up to run in the big track meet.  There was a lot of electricity in the air!

    When I sat down in a pre-conference workshop, the whole experience became real.  I was part of something that would expand my world, and surrounded by people with a  common purpose.  The workshop was on Creative Nonfiction, led by the keynote speaker, an expert on the topic.  I’m glad I had signed up because it helped me feel involved in the conference before the official sessions began on Saturday morning.

    As I visited with the writer next to me, I had the first of a series of experiences which gave me depth perception on where I was as a writer.  The woman hadn’t finished a manuscript yet.  I ran into this a number of times over the weekend – writers who were there for that declarative moment of  “I deserve to be here” and wanting to take the next step.  Of course, on balance, there were the already published writers who were there to pick up representation for their next book, had been to a number of conferences, and were old hands at the process.  The range of experience ran the gamut, but all were very supportive, and on a common path.

    A pivotal component for me was to meet with a literary agent, as for many of the writers. I had sent query letters before, but had never met an agent face to face.  A ten minute session to pitch my book was going to be a real growth experience. My pitch meeting went well and I learned a lot about the process, but it didn’t lead to an expression of interest.  When I attended the next year, my pre-conference workshop was on “Pitching Your Manuscript.”  Like with anything, it helped to practice, and my pitch meetings that year (I had signed up for a couple of extra sessions which had come available) went much better and led to a request for manuscript.

    I found myself observing in between breakout sessions and at the Happy Hours, just to get a sense of how agents were and who I might want to approach at some point. I noticed a very interesting dynamic between the agents and the writers.  Literary agents were accorded a sort of rock star status, and many writers appeared a bit awestruck. Most of the agents were accessible and easy going – but businesslike.  I had been around a lot of businessmen at conferences, so I didn’t think I would be bothered; I must admit I was too intimidated to walk up to an agent in the lobby and just strike up a conversation.  Let’s face it, literary agents have a lot of power when it comes to writers and their manuscripts.  I guess I felt it at the event.

    The conference was a chance to interact with other writers.  The Agents and Editors did an excellent job incorporating room to mingle, and they were a vital part of the experience.  The Saturday luncheon was in a ballroom and you got to sit with other authors and form connections that way.  The Happy Hours were a chance to visit in a more informal setting and get to know a few people, or maybe chat with an agent in an informal setting.

    The workshops were invaluable in learning about various aspects of the publishing industry.  I went to sessions ranging from publicity to contracts to editing.  Each was presented by industry professionals and gave great insight and depth perception on the market.  Though the workshops were likely attended by other writers like me – either nervous about an upcoming agent pitch meeting, or coming down after a pitch meeting, they were a very solid component of the weekend.

    After I attended a writers conference, I felt much better prepared to move toward publication, but also – I had declared myself as a writer.




    Lost creativity and the effects of family alcoholism are just two of the elements of the story Dan L. Hays explores in his first published book, Freedom’s Just Another Word, which chronicles events around the time of his father’s death. It is the first of a cycle of seven books about healing old wounds with his father. That cycle will culminate with Nothing Left to Lose, written in 1993, about a critical turning point in his father’s life, depicted from a perspective of forgiveness and admiration.

    Dan has been pursuing his craft for more than 25 years. His passion has always been writing, but he had a writing block that he could not understand for many years. He wrote two books that publishers were interested in, but he backed away and the books were never published.

    Read more of Dan’s work on his blog and at Life as a Human, or follow his various radio features.  You can also catch him on Twitter and Facebook.

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