Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Besides this blog, which I update sporadically, I write fiction. Right now I'm working on the first book of what I hope will be a trilogy for "Middle Grade" kids. I never intended to write for this age group, but I had an idea one Saturday morning and I got up and started writing - in my PJ's - until about 3 PM at which time I got dressed and went down to the taqueria for some lunch. I brought my notebook along and continued writing longhand. By the end of the weekend I had four chapters and I realized I was writing a book. So, I guess it's time to get serious about writing. Because now I have about 80% of a book. Hence...

I went to the Surrey International Writer's Conference in Surrey BC in October. It was a three day thing with lots of workshops and networking - there were over 500 people there. Part of the perks of paying the price (nice alliteration, eh?) of admission is that you get an appoint with an agent, or an editor, or a publisher (I also got a blue pencil appointment). I decided that I needed to start at the beginning and get an agent. There were eleven there, and I researched all of them thoroughly before I decided which might be the best fit - I pitched to Rachel Vader from the Folio Literary Agency in NYC. She reps YA writers and likes to find new writers - some don't want to work with new writers, and some had a web presence that was so unprofessional that I wondered how professional they were in the industry?

I did my pitch and she seemed to like it - she asked some questions and then she asked if I had pages for her to see. I had pages because I was having the blue pencil appointment later that day - but I didn't think I'd be showing them to the agent. Anyway, I pulled out my first chapter and she read it and liked it - she gave me some feedback that all made sense and I'm going to make the changes she suggested. She mentioned that it looked like a first draft and I said it was - that I was trying to get through the whole thing before I started re-writing. She said no problem. We agreed I had a lot of work to do still, but she said when I got it to the point where I thought it was ready to send out - to send her the first three chapters.

That was pretty huge for me. I have friends that have been pitching their books for over a year, and no one has yet asked for a partial. So, I feel really lucky. She may still pass on it, but the validation that I needed was that, what I thought might be good, in fact might really be good and not the other option which is: crap!

My blue pencil appointment was with Meg Tilly. She doesn't act any more, only writes books (and raises her kids) and she lives in Vancouver and so, often attends the conference. I originally was signed up with an Australian YA writer, but she was doing pitch practice sessions instead of blue pencil so they rescheduled me with Ms. Tilly. Who was great. Very down to earth and sweet. And may I add, she is the tiniest slip of a thing. When I went to shake her hand she extended what felt like a delicate fern frond that I feared I might crush in my massive Hungarian peasant hand.

It was a great weekend - definitely worth the money, even though my savings are quite dwindled now. I left feeling rejuvenated and validated and like there was a community of writers that I kind of belonged to (which is nice when you consider how solitary writing is).

So, if there is anyone out there who considering attending a writer's conference, I can recommend SIWC. The workshops were very good, the meals were a great time to meet new people and do a bit of networking, and with keynote speakers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, mealtimes were also informative and in one case especially, entertaining - we were led to sing a song about flirting hippopotomi - and it was truly special.

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