Welcome to Part II of this conference recap. View Part I here. As anyone who’s ever been to any conference or workshop knows the post-lunch slot is a demanding one. You are fighting afternoon sleepiness. You are fighting full-belly fatigue. Our next speaker was up to the challenge and did not disappoint.
Ally Carter returned to the podium to give a solo talk that all writers could definitely benefit from hearing.
Ally Carter – Young Adult Author
Ally Carter writes books about spies, thieves, and teenagers. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the EMBASSY ROW, HEIST SOCIETY, and GALLAGHER GIRLS series, which together have sold more than two-million copies and have been published in more than twenty countries. She lives in Oklahoma, where her life is either very ordinary or the best deep-cover legend ever.
Ally gave a fantastic talk entitled, “Dear Ally: A Letter for Baby Author Me”, where she discussed many of the mistakes she made as a beginning author. They were so insightful and encouraging.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Nothing sells backlist like frontlist.
Her first book sold about 5 copies, and yet she spent a LOT of time and money promoting that book. She learned the hard way that the best way to promote your last book is to write your next book. The first book in her Gallager Girls series didn’t hit the NY Times Bestsellers’ List, but the second one did. And once it did, the first one did too.
The type of book and the quality are the only things that authors can control. The rest of marketing that authors do may not effect sales very much.
Some people will tell you that making writer friends is going to be good for your career. They’re wrong. These friends are going to be good for your LIFE.
I have never heard a truer statement. My writer friends are the most important ones I have. They understand what it means to struggle with this creative life we have chosen and they support me through it all.
Nobody ever shares the bad news. You can’t judge your career based on the career of other people. You don’t really know how their careers are going and it doesn’t help you to worry about it.
There’s no one way to write a book.
You never learn how to write a book. You just learn how to write the book you’re writing right now. And every book will probably have a month where it gets hard.
She had so many other fantastic pearls of wisdom to share. I just loved her talk.
She closed with this:
What you do matters. If you make a kid feel happy for a little while, that’s a great thing.
Truly fantastic. Thank you, Ally.
Our next speaker shared ways to add heart into our writing.
Jill Santopolo – Editorial Director with Philomel Books
Jill received a BA in English literature from Columbia University, an MFA in writing for children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a certificate in intellectual property law from NYU. As the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group, she has edited many New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors including Atia Abawi, Terry Border, Chelsea Clinton, Andrea Cremer, Lisa Graff, and Alex London. She’s the author of the Sparkle Spa series, the Alec Flint mysteries, the Follow Your Heart books, and the upcoming adult novel The Light We Lost. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.
Jill inspired us all with her talk entitled, “Getting to the Heart of the Matter”. A talk about emotion. She began by asking the purpose of art. To connect with readers/viewers by creating empathy, understanding, or a cathartic experience. In essence, some kind of connection.
In writing, to get that connection, we use “show don’t tell”.
Why? Because You feel it instead of see it.
How? Sound, syntax, and word choice.
Jill gave many examples of how word choices and sentence structure effected a specific passage.
For example, shorter clipped sentences can convey anger or intensity.
Pauses have power.
Linking certain words to specific characters tell us how to feel about each character – ‘buzzy’ and ‘roared’ versus ‘lounged’ and ‘sippy’ give us very different feelings.
Like an artist uses brush strokes and color choices, a writer uses sentence length and word choice to create moods for evoking emotions.
The next speaker had much to discuss and much wisdom to impart for the pre-published among us.
Linda Camacho – Literary Agent with Prospect Agency
Linda joined Prospect Agency in 2015 after a decade in publishing. After graduating from Cornell University, Linda interned at Simon & Schuster and Writers House literary agency, and worked at Penguin and Random House before making the leap to agenting. She has an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Linda’s talk entitled, “Your Personal Hero’s Journey – Going from Pre-Published to Successfully Published” was full of fantastic advice. One of the main ideas was you need to get used to rejection.
“I get rejected with my clients.”
She went over some surprising facts about rejection from a Psychology Today article. Here are a few:
- Rejection runs along the same pathways as physical pain.
- Tylenol can reduce the pain of rejection.
- Rejection temporarily lowers IQ.
- Rejection does not respond to reason.
Linda went on to show several examples of rejections from writers who went on to succeed. She said embrace rejection. It means you’re a real writer.
Today’s common rejection? “It’s not for me.”
This can happen even when there’s nothing wrong with your manuscript. You cannot control rejection.
There are things you CAN control:
- Dump your excuses – “I don’t have the time”, “I’m not talented enough”, “I’m afraid of failure”, etc.
- Write the book – Pick a routine, any routine.
- Hold yourself accountable
- Learn the business
- Read. A Lot.
- Get used to revising!
- FIND A WRITING COMMUNITY – so key when faced with rejection and cloistered when working. The writerly brain is unique. We need some understanding.
She had so many other fantastic suggestions. Such a great talk!
Visit Linda’s agency site to view what she’s currently seeking and to observe her submission guidelines.
Our final speaker of the day asked us what we were willing to do to succeed.
Kristen Nelson – President and Founding Literary Agent at Nelson Literary Agency
Kristen established the Nelson Literary Agency in 2002 and over the last decade+ of her career has represented over thirty-five New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers. Clients include Ally Carter, Marie Lu, Scott Reintgen, Gail Carriger, Stacey Lee, Marcia Wells, and Simone Elkeles. When she is not busy selling books, Kristin attempts to play golf & tennis. She also enjoys playing Bridge (where she is the youngest person in her club), and can be found hiking in the mountains with her husband and their dog Chutney.
Kristen gave the final talk of the day entitled, “What Will Your Then and Now Story Be?” It was quite inspirational.
She started off with some background on how she started her literary agency by making a business plan and selling her house to fund it. She worked out of her much smaller new house for six months before closing her first deal.
She then asked, in pursuing our dream, “Do you want it badly enough to change?”
- To allow yourself zero excuses?
- To get rejected A LOT?
- To reinvent yourself?
- To change jobs to have more time to write?
- To write the fifth novel when four novel didn’t launch your career?
She asked more tough questions and gave examples of authors who’d gone through each of these situations, and then went on to succeed.
Every author faces obstacles. On average, four is the magic number. That’s four manuscripts before you write the one that sells.
Visit Kristen’s agency site to view what she’s currently seeking and to observe her submission guidelines.
Immediately following the end of the conference, there was a book signing for published authors and our speakers. (Code for time to buy more books!)
Great time to get my copy of Jennifer Latham’s new book DREAMLAND BRUNING signed. I attended her book release, but they sold out before I even arrived! (Not a bad problem to have, honestly.) Such a great turn out!
This is my fourth signed book by Ally Carter and I adore them all. She’s such a delight. (Even if she is an OSU fan!)
That’s a wrap for another outstanding spring conference. Thanks to everyone who made it possible and to all of our fantastic speakers! You were amazing and so inspiring.