Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Thoughts on the Writer's Digest Conference 2011


It's been a long weekend, filled with meeting new people and sweating--lots and lots of sweating-- but the Writer's Digest Conference 2011 has finally come to a close. Here are just a few of my thoughts on it. Overall, it was a really great experience and I advise any writer interested in improving their craft and networking to go next year if they have one. Okay, onto my impressions.

The Good

Chuck Sambuchino

(Image taken from:

Editor of Guide to Literary Agents and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack , Mr. Sambuchino started the first night off well, teaching us how to do effective pitches to agents when meeting them face-to-face. I think a lot more writer's felt more confident after that night. I certainly did.


I have a whole buttload of business cards from the event sitting on my desk, and as soon as I'm done writing this post, I'm going to email all of them. Out of everyone I met, every single one of them believed in writing as much (If not more, which I didn't think was even possible) as I do, and it was great to see so many folks so dedicated to their craft. I hope most of the connections I made stick.

The lunch on Saturday

On Saturday, midday, they served lunch, and it was much better than it had to be. There were three kinds of boxes, but I picked the one that didn't sound gross (i.e., not with rye bread or the vegetarian option). Inside my chosen box was a damn good, I think, ham sandwich, a brownie, and an apple. It seriously hit the spot.

The seminars

I don't want to call anybody out, but there was only one seminar that I went to that I didn't think was a great investment of my time, and the only reason why that one wasn't so good was because I think the presenter was pretty nervous. Besides that though, all of the other ones, like (Oh, brother, here come the shout-outs) "Branding Yourself," by Dan Blank (Look him up!), "Putting Fire in Your Fiction," by Donald Maass, "Ten Essential Things Your Must Know to Craft an Effective Query," by Janet Reid, "Revision: Learn How to Love It" by James Scott Bell, and "Creating a Backstory: How and Why It can Make or Break Your Novel" by Hallie Ephron, were all incredibly informative and made the trip worth it alone. I've never been to such a wide assortment of useful seminars in one place. If you ever see these names or seminars on a placard somewhere, definitely sign up for them.

And before you go and start thinking, "Ahhhh, you kiss-up," I can reassure you that I'm most certainly not a kiss up, as you'll see from a few of my minor complaints below.

The, "It Could Have Been Better"

The first night out Twitter event

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Being writers, most of us love talking about ourselves and our work. But that's usually on a one-on-one basis. Put us together in an area that's like some loud, cramped up, sweaty dance club, and you usually won't get the same effect. To be fair, the, I guess you could call it, after-event, didn't take place in a sweaty dance club (Though, that would have been pretty cool if there had been some old-school, 90s C&C Music Factory playing in the background), but it might as well have been. The place was so loud that I really did feel that you needed to be on Twitter just to talk to people because you couldn't really hear them, even when they were right next to you. A better location would have been appreciated. Somewhere more personal.

The actual Pitch Fest itself

(Image taken from: The lines weren't this long, but it sometimes felt like they were)

Now, this really isn't their fault at all, but it's something I was a little upset about. There where just too many people there. Yes, Writer's Digest got a lot of agents there (And the three--more on that in a second--I got to talk to were nice). But with such a large crowd, and so many great agents there, I was kind of upset that I didn't get to see more of the people I had prepared to see. As I mentioned before, I only got to see three agents in a two hour time slot. It felt like going to Six Flags Great Adventures, minus El Toro and the expensive lemonade.

If you're going just for the pitch fest next year, I don't know if that's the best idea. Personally, I found the seminars and connections to be worth the trip alone and thought the agents I got to talk to was just a nice benefit on the side. But after learning so much at the seminars, I'm not even sure I even want to turn in what I have offer for the three who wanted to see some of my manuscript. I seriously have some retooling to do.

No Donald Maass pitching

I've read a lot from legendary agent, Donald Maass, online, and when I got to see him, his seminar was really impressive. He was actually supposed to be one of the agents you could pitch to there, but because of a last minute incident where he had to leave (I hope he's alright), he wasn't there at the pitch fest. A collective groan was literally heard all across the room when it was announced.

So, in conclusion, I definitely advise that you go if they have another one next year, but not if you're only going for the pitch-fest (Go to that, too, of course, but that shouldn't be your main focus). I think it was worth the money. It might be a little pricey, but you get a lot for what you pay for. I say, spend the moolah.


Jesus Ron said...

Nice write up Rich, I enjoyed reading this. Hope all those business cards eventually lead to me walking into the local bookstore and picking up a Rich Knight paperback.

Rich Knight said...

Groovy, thanks. And I'm following your blog...even though there are no posts. Start blogging, my friend. It's the naz! What are you up to, by the way?