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James River Writer’s Conference

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James River Writers 

This past weekend, I was able to attend my very first conference.  I have to admit, it was a very interesting experience.  I went in, nerves high, and my stomach clenched.  The first part of the trip was trying to find parking in downtown Richmond.  Luckily for me, there was a pay to park lot right next door!  I spent $20 to park, but I didn’t care.  I knew where my car was.

Walking in, the people congregated around the sign in table were extremely friendly and willing to help with any questions we may have.  I signed in, got my free tote bag with a whole list of their events for the weekend.  Skipping the free breakfast, I took a seat in the Miller conference room, waiting in anticipation for everything to begin.  As soon as everything began, the energy of the room rose, lowering my anxiety a little.  I was able to listen to Stacy Whitman and Brian Jay Jones which was a good start to the day.

Between 10am and noon, there were eight concurrent session occurring during the conference.  Out of the first four options, I decided to attend the session A Book is Born: A Debut Author and her Editor Tell All.  With her brand new book recently released, Kristen Lippert-Martin and her editor Alison Weiss spoke about their interactions with one another.  They were very pleasant to listen to, and all I could think was that I hoped one day I’d be able to share the same story.

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Check out her book Tabula Rasa.  I bought a copy myself. 🙂  I wish I had gotten her to sign it!

The second session I went to was Romance Across the Genres.  I myself have no experience with romance.  Having no experience makes it hard to write about.  Authors Iris Bolling, Kelly O’Connor McNees, and Kwame Alexander spoke about their novels and experiences with writing romance into their novels.  Although it was awkward at times for me and I hid my face while laughing, I learned a lot.  In the middle of the session, I suddenly got an idea for a possibly romance for Brenna in the Dead Dreamer series.  I was already playing around with the idea for a while, but no one seemed right for Brenna.  But now, things are changing!  Thank you for helping inspire me!

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Around noon, I was able to meet M. M. Finck and Mary-Chris Escobar while walking towards the John Marshall Ballroom for lunch.  The Literary Luncheon was for the Virginia Literary Festival and was interesting to attend.  Finck and Escobar were nice enough to let me sit with them and chat with everyone.  It was cool to hang out with them for a little bit.  During the delicious lunch, we were able to watch Lifetime Achievement Award winner Barbara Kingsolver being interviewed by Erica Orloff.  They were fun to watch.

At the end of the conference, they were having Agent One on Ones.  When I first signed up for the conference, I put numbers next to a list of agents of who I could meet.  They set me up with Peter Knapp from The Park Literary Group.  My nerves were once again shooting through the roof.  But I walked in regardless and gave him my pitch.  My nerves did hit me as I stumbled over every other word.  Unfortunately, I was told that my book was not a good fit for him.  The news put my stomach into a fit of knots.  It was disheartening, even though I figured it would happen.

However, he did have something to say.  According to my description, he believed that my book was not YA but New Adult Fiction.  I had never even heard of the genre before.  The genre has to do with characters roughly between he ages of 18-24.  Which means, I have been querying the wrong agencies the entire time.  But now I’ll have to work hard to find agencies that do represent New Adult Fiction.  Because the genre is fairly new, it is going to be hard to find.  Knapp suggested New Leaf Literary.  Immediately, I emailed my professor, Casey Clabough, to ask if he knew anything about the agency.  I hope to speak with him soon about the agency and how I should approach them.

Once I finished my session with Knapp, I left the conference to make my way home.  Unfortunately I was not able to make it to the Sunday portion of the conference, but I still learned a lot.  The sessions helped me a lot, and even though I was turned down by an agent, he still gave me some advice.  He didn’t even have to do that for me, but I was grateful he did.  It was very kind.

I hope I’ll be able to attend next year’s conference and keep improving my craft!  And of course it would be cool to continue meeting amazing people!

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