Sunday, April 12, 2009

Writer's Conference: Muse and the Marketplace

Two more weeks until the Grub Street writer's conference, The Muse and the Marketplace, April 25-26. There are still some workshops that have not sold out, so register now if you haven't already. Unfortunately, the ever popular Manuscript Mart is sold out. I didn't have a manuscript ready for a critique, so I didn't sign up.

I'm attending the Saturday session and will be a volunteer for Sunday. I haven't found out which sessions I'm attending. Meaning, I've signed up for a first and second choice. It's first come, first served, so I find out this week which workshops I got into.

Here's my wish list, by session:

Session 1:
- Marketplace Panel--An overview of the current state of the publishing industry, with panelists: Hallie Ephron, Jane Rosenman, David Langevin and Joseph Olshan. Always good to hear a realistic and up-to-the-minute discussion about this timely topic.

- From Premise to Plot, with Tess Gerritsen. She talks about how to come up with a story premise, then and how to turn that premise into a novel. Sounds good to me.

Session 2 (I chose 2 out of the following 3, but I forget which!):
- Eternal Rocks Beneath: The Relevance of Setting, with Lewis Robinson. She talks about how choosing your story locations is just as important as dialogue, characterization, plot, etc.

- Traits, Quirks, and Habits: Creating Characters from the Inside Out, with Lynne Griffin. She discusses how to create believable characters and making their motivations psychologically real.

- Literary Idol. This last one sounds terrifying. From the Grub website: "Professional actress Marty Johnson will perform the first page of YOUR unpublished manuscript for the audience and a panel of three “judges.” The judges are agents and/or editors (as of press time, Sorche Fairbank, Kirsten Manges and Asya Muchnick are the judges) with years of experience reading unsolicited submissions. When one of the judges hears a line that would make her stop reading, she will raise her hand. The actor will keep reading until a second judge raises his hand. The judges will then discuss WHY they would stop reading, and offer concrete (if subjective) suggestions to the (anonymous) author. If no agent raises his/her hand, the judges will discuss what made the excerpt work so well. All excerpts will be evaluated *anonymously.*" Yikes! Can't wait!

Session 3:
- Building Character, with Stephen McCauley. Talks about how to build a strong cast of characters, by "...look(ing) at specific examples from the Greats and Not-So-Greats to understand the ways in which writers bring their characters to life."

- Marketplace Panel: Agents on the Hot Seat. All struggling writers need an agent, so these panels are an invaluable addition to any good writer's conference. Includes panelists Mollie Glick, Rob McQuilken, Lane Zachary, and Elisabeth Weed, with moderator Michelle Seaton. They'll answer, among other questions, "What does an agent actually do? Do you really need one? How do you choose the right one to approach? What are some general “do’s” and “don’t’s” for sending them manuscripts? Then (they'll) open it up for a free-for-all Q&A." Because the publishing business changes every day, these panels are great for staying current.

I don't care which sessions I get into this year because they all sound like great and necessary tools to further a writer's craft and career. And that, my friends, is why they call it the Muse and the Marketplace.

At the end of the day comes the "hour of power," from 3:45pm to 4:45pm. There are a choice of five large-group seminars with no pre-registration, which makes it easy to check them all out:

Option 1: Blueprint for Book Publicity, with Jocelyn Kelley and Megan Kelley-Hall of Kelley and Hall Book Publicity. They answer the questions, "What makes a book a blockbuster? What pushes it to the top of bestseller lists, onto bookshelves across the country, and into the hands of eager readers? What helps an author create a strong following?" Interesting for the published and non-published.

Option 2: Jumpstart Your Writing, with Adam Stumacher. "What better way to end the day than by producing new work to take home with you? One of Grub Street’s award-winning instructors will provide unique and inspiring prompts that get you brainstorming ideas for new stories and writing new scenes." Sounds good. I better bring a pad and pencil. I never thought I could write from prompts until I took Rusty Barnes' 10 Weeks, 10 Stories class at Grub a few years ago. He gave a prompt each week as a jumping off point for a short story. I was amazed that, a) I wrote a story a week for ten weeks (albeit not always keepers), and, b) the prompts didn't stymie my output, but gave me new ideas that pushed my characters and plots down paths I never would have otherwise gone. Note: Rusty Barnes is the co-founder and editor of the most excellent Night Train magazine.

Option 3: Writing the Non-Fiction Book Proposal, with Chuck Sambuchino, Editor, Writer's Digest. I'll probably skip this one, not that it doesn't sound juicy. Just not for a novelist.

Option 4: Guided Open Mic, with leader Hank Phillippi Ryan. I've done two or three public readings, and each time I fripp it up. I generally read a piece that's too long, and either send the audience to sleep or speed-stumble through the text. I've heard Hank read before. She's excellent and will make the perfect leader for this shindig. I don't plan to read but I might check it out to see who is.

Option 5: The Art of Column Writing. With Suzette Martinez Standring. Being a blogger, I guess I fall into this category. Especially with a review gig (currently only one-time, but hopefully that'll change) at the The Review Review, this will be another helpful workshop.

After that, if you still haven't passed out or hyperventilated from the stimulation, there's a Meet and Greet (cash bar) from 4:45 to 6:00. At 6:05 all writers turn into their pale, exhausted true selves, donning coffee-stained bathrobes to chain-smoke clove cigarettes while revising pages.

So, maybe I'll see you at the Park Plaza in Boston in a couple weeks. Tune in to the Unreliable Narrator after the conference and I'll let you know how it went.

Chester is upset that he was not invited.


Cynthia Sherrick said...

Fantastic line up of authors and agents! It sounds like every workshop would be worth checking out. Can't wait to read all about your weekend. Have fun! :)

Robin said...

Dell -- This sounds like a great conference, although I would be terrified to have an actor rehashing my first page in front of editors! Thanks for the update.

Henriette Power said...

You've made me regret not signing up this year! I'm sure it will be really interesting, as always.

Can I claim some writer cred because I chain-smoked clove cigarettes onstage for a play once?

Dell Smith said...

Hi Cindy, yes it promises to be enlightening and fun.
Robin, I'm not sure I have the guts to have an actor 'blindly' perform my words, but it is tempting.
Henriette: it's not to late to sign up. You don't need to prove writer cred, but your early on-stage performance as a writer certainly doesn't hurt.