2009 SCWW recap

I spent the weekend in Myrtle Beach at my third SCWW annual conference. This, after ten months of following the industry, studying the process of submission, and then learning about the specific steps to publication. My plan was to attend not just craft sessions as in previous years, but a smattering of business sessions as well.

I spent Friday afternoon in an intensive workshop with David Weber titled “Would you like Flaws with That? Hands-on Character Building.” He used his own writing history as a springboard to explain how he incorporates character flaws into his writing, and then explained how to show them rather than describe them. I admit, it’s a struggle for me and I was quite impressed with the level of talent in our room of 15 attendees. The snippets that some people can draft and then whip into shape in a mere 30 minutes is astounding (and enviable).

As for the rest of the workshops, over Saturday and Sunday morning I attended:

I Feel Something Crawling On Me! Creating and Building Suspense, Steve Berry

  • Shorter sentences. Precise verbs. Narrow timeframe. Ticking clock.
  • Mr. “NYT Bestseller” Berry worked his butt off for years before getting published. He collected dozens and dozens of rejection slips. Don’t ever forget this.

From Carnage to Cozy:  Understanding the Mystery Genre, Holly Root, Barbara Poelle

  • I don’t like to read – or write – cozy mysteries with the type of gimmick that continues to saturate a large section of today’s market
  • I don’t write procedurals, suspense, or thrillers, either
  • I should probably figure out what exactly it is that I write before I next meet with an agent
  • These two agents make a perfect tag team, and are just cute as can be… I could watch them for hours and hours and hours…

Ask Nicely:  Writing the Perfect Query Letter, Elaine Spencer

  • Literary agencies – and agents, for that matter – are subjective and all have different requirements
  • Admire (and try not to pity) the brave agent who stands in front of an overflowing room to field questions on behalf of the hundreds of other subjective agents currently open to submissions from a bazillion anxious hopefuls
  • More info on the Guide to Literary Agents blog: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/Agent+Elaine+Spencer+Talks+Queries.aspx

Darker Shadows: Dark Comedy, Dark Drama, Horror and Paranormal, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

  • Um… practically the only thing dark about me is my hair. How boring is that? Maybe I should try writing horror sometime. I might surprise myself.

The Terrible Twos:  Query Letters and Synopses That Sell, Janet Reid, Suzie Townsend, Joanna Stampfel-Volpe

  • Janet Reid and her minions are dynamite and professional and entertaining and patient and 200% dedicated to writers and the craft
  • I’ll still be intimidated by the Query Shark, but if I get another chance to shake her hand I’ll be in the elbow-gouging thick of things to do it again
  • More info on the Guide to Literary Agents blog

On the personal front, I signed up for two standard critiques of a 250-word synopsis and first ten pages of Mountain Malice: the first with literary agent Holly Root (Waxman Literary Agency) and the second with literary agent Janet Reid (FinePrint Literary Management), also of Query Shark infamy. While neither asked me to follow up with a partial (repeat after me: you do not attend conferences to sell your manuscript, you do not attend conferences to sell your manuscript, you do not attend conferences…), their comments were nearly opposite of each other. Both gave me lots to mull over. Naturally, I’m now stalled and need to decide how to proceed. Thoughts for a future post, I s’pose, once I’ve started down the next road.

Speaking of which, during her Terrible Twos session Janet quoted one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost that just about sums up my… uncertain solidarity…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Who else was at SCWW this year? Leave me your comments about it here. Knowing me, at the rate I’m going I might just find myself somehow involved in planning for next year’s awesomeness!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *