Who’s Going to Storymakers?

The LDStorymakers Conference is this weekend! I am so excited I can hardly stand myself. I have to say that as far as writing conferences go, this is one of the best. It’s well organized, has great presenters, and the atmosphere is positive and supportive. I have so much fun at these conferences. I love it!

Unfortunately, if you haven’t already registered, it’s too late. (Sorry.) But there are zillions of writers conferences going on this summer, so I’m sure if you’re determined you can find one.

But back to Storymakers. To get us in the mood, I’m dedicating the rest of this week to getting us excited. And what better way to ramp up the enthusiasm than to reminisce about past Storymakers conferences.

Here are a few snapshots from previous years of me with just a few of my favorite peeps.

These are some of the long-timers at Storymakers.
Rachel Nunes, Tristi Pinkston, BJ Rowley, Me,
Julie Wright, Jaime Theler, Crystal Liechty, and Jeff Savage

The Walnut Springs Gang
Front Row: Tristi Pinkston, Theresa Sneed, Betsy Love
Middle Row: Rhonda Hinrichsen, LC Lewis, Amy Orton
Back Row: Linda Mulleneaux, Me

Here is a bunch of us. I think it’s the Authors Incognito group.
I’m the one with the red arrow.

This is me with Howard Tayler. He’s hilarious.
If you get a chance, go to his class. He doesn’t always stay on point,
but he has lots of good information.

And here I am with Whitney Award Winning author, Dan Wells.
Also in the pic are Bron Bahlmann (when is that next book coming out, Bron?)
and James Dashner (umm, I think he might have written a book or two…)
and a future author, I suppose?

More photos to come!


*Photos provided by Tristi Pinkston and LDStorymakers.
**Special thanks to my lovely assistant for collecting and “polishing” them.
***Photos were chosen based on compatibility with me. 🙂

Skipping the Slush Pile

Yes, I know this is supposed to be Writing Tip Tuesday, but this weather swinging from cold to hot to cold again, has got me all messed up with a cold. So this week, you get what you get. And if I suddenly never show up again, it means I died of a sore throat…

Dear LDSPublisher,

Sorry I’m always peppering you with questions, but you’re just so darn helpful. [thank you!]

At the LDStorymakers conference I pitched to an LDS Publisher. They were very excited about my book, insisted that there was a definite market for this kind of story and promised to take a look at my first five pages and let me know, either way. They have my email address.

Here’s my question, not because I’m trying to be annoying, but because I am truly ignorant on this topic: How long of a wait am I looking at? I already sumitted to this Publisher (a different manuscript) and waited for 5 1/2 months before getting a response. In essence, doesn’t the fact that I pitched directly to an editor mean I get to skip the basic slush pile?

For those of us that don’t know the process, could you explain what kind of pile those pages are sitting in, waiting to be read?

Thank you so much for your time.

Yes, when you pitch to an agent—or even if you attend a conference where an agent presented—you get a bypass the slush pile free card. Your mss would be in the “Read First Chance I Get” pile.

As to how long it takes to get to your mss, it depends upon how much recovery time the agent needs after the conference (some agents do back-to-back conferences), the number of other manuscripts that came in from the conference, and what hit the fan while the agent was gone.

Even if the agent was very excited about your manuscript, even if it was his or her favorite pitch from the conference, their assistant won’t know that. So while it’s in the “Read Soon” pile, it may be #40 in the stack of manuscripts that were sent in immediately after the conference.

So, as always in this business, be patient.


Sara Megibow is an Associate Literary Agent with the Nelson Literary Agency. She writes a regular article in Kristen Nelson’s monthly newsletter. If you don’t get this newsletter, you should. You can sign up here.

The article below was from the last newsletter. I hope I don’t get in trouble for reposting it here. But I thought it was very, very good—plus I’m telling you to get the newsletter.

This year I will be attending the Romance Writers Convention in Nashville (July) and World Fantasy in Columbus (October). Some other conferences may yet come up, but that’s my schedule for right now. Amazingly, I am already preparing for RWA even though summer feels light years away. At these conferences, I hope to meet writers shopping for an agent and I’ve been thinking of ideas to help smooth that process.

1. If you have a completed work of fiction ready to submit, prepare a two sentence blurb that you can rattle off at any time (in the elevator, after a workshop, in a pitch session – whatever). Know your word count and your genre (and subgenre) and practice reciting these things out loud. (Example “FRANK is a completed historical romance at 100,000 words. It’s about a hero who is driven to shun society at the impetus of a mysterious and sexy bar wench.”) (I just made that up, no laughing please.)

2. Have access to your work. Who knows, I may be impressed with your pitch (the one you’ve just successfully rattled off to me while waiting in line for coffee). If I ask for 30 pages, it would be great if you could say – “heck, I have them right here on my iPhone – can I send them to you?” Have two versions ready to send electronically – the first 30 pages as one document (labeled with your name, the title of the work, genre, word count and your contact information including email address). Also, have the full manuscript ready to go (with same info attached at the beginning of the document). Save them and have them in microsoft word format (no pictures, no headshots, no weblinks) and at the very least have access to them in your hotel room.

3. Update your writer website and blog before the conference and include the addresses of those tools in anything that you submit. Yes, that means you should have a website and a blog – make sure they are professional, accurate and engaging. An update doesn’t have to be fancy – just make sure you have a recent blog entry (example, “I’m off to RWA – looking forward to finding an agent for FRANK”) and that your website mentions your writing (better yet, there is a blurb on your completed manuscript already loaded and accessible!)

I am looking forward to this year’s conferences. I enjoy meeting and talking to writers and am actively looking for new talent to represent!

Sara Megibow
Associate Literary Agent

Writing Conferences—The Lazy Way

(I’m sitting here pre-writing this week’s posts because I’ve got a horrendous schedule this week. And honestly, I’ve been looking at this screen for over an hour with no idea what to write about! I do so much better answering your questions. Please, SEND QUESTIONS.)

For today, I’m linking to a post by Chip MacGregor, literary agent, who is discussing writing conferences and how important they are to those who want to publish.

A Dozen Questions about Writing Conferences

Conference Photos

NONE of my photos of the conference turned out. I couldn’t believe it. They were blurry and yellow and featured way too many backs of heads. Oh well, I’m a word person, not a picture person I guess.

The “official” photos of the conference will show up here (soon, I hope).

If you were at the conference and you posted about it (with or without photos) on your blog or website, feel free to leave a link in the comments section of this post.

Writing Tip Tuesday: Attend a Writers Conference

One of the best ways to sharpen your writing skills—after writing and reading, of course—is to attend a good writers conference.

A good conference will send you away with lots of new ideas and remind you of things you know but have forgotten. The information you glean at a conference is worth its weight in gold. (Including the repeated advice to avoid clichĂ©s.) The creative energy at a conference can help spark new story ideas, get you unstuck if you’re blocked, and inspire you to keep going.

Another great reason to attend a good writers conference is the networking with authors and industry specialists. Talking to like-minded people, sharing stories about your writing journey, meeting people willing to help and support you—invaluable!

Of course, as with any good thing, you can overdo it. Don’t go to so many conferences that you don’t have time left to write. Look around in your area and see what’s available, then pick a good one or two to attend.

How do you know which conferences are good? Ask your writer friends who’ve attended conferences to recommend some. Or just go—knowing that it’s a gamble—then keep going to the ones that you like.

As a writer, I like to attend between two and four conferences or workshops a year. This keeps me going when I get stuck and disheartened. As a publisher, I would often attend as many as eight to ten conferences a year. I’ve been to some good ones and some pretty bad ones.

I have no official connection with LDStorymakers—I’m not a member—but I’d like to say that from both a writer’s and a publisher’s standpoint, they have the best conferences I’ve ever attended. The atmosphere is one of support and encouragement and the classes are wonderful. If you ever get a chance to attend one, do it.

Readers, what are some other regular conferences and workshops that you attend that you feel are worth the time and the cost?

Attention: Storymakers Conference & Whitney Gala Attendees

If you attended the Whitney Gala and/or the LDStorymakers Conference this past weekend, I’d love for you to send me your photos and share some of what you learned. Don’t plagiarize the content of the conference classes, but do tell us what you liked best and how it helped you.

I’ll post your photos and comments to the blog this week and link back to your blog or website (so include the link you want me to use in your email).

And the Winners Are. . .

Best Romance
Best Mystery/Suspense

Best Youth Fiction

Best Speculative

Best Historical

Best General Fiction

Best Novel by a New Author

Best Novel of the Year

Congratulations to all the Whitney winners!

(standing ovation, here!)

And thank you to the Whitney Academy and all those who helped in any way with the Gala and making these awards possible.

[And thank you to those who point out when I make a social blunder.)

Appropriate Use of Writer’s Conferences

I’ve read your previous posts about writer’s conferences and I wonder if you would be willing to go into more detail about how to use attendance at conferences wisely. I will be attending the 6-7-8 Conference this weekend and have time scheduled with their manuscript acquisitions editor but now I’m panicked about how to use it. The conference info doesn’t state specifically what an author should bring or how to use that time. All I have is half of a growing manuscript so it doesn’t seem appropriate to bring a query letter and first chapter. I had planned to use that time to find out about this company’s interest in my genre, i.e. what they’re looking for and what trends they see in the LDS market for it. Is this an appropriate and professional use of this time?

The reason an editor attends a conference is to look for books they’d like to publish, not to be interviewed by authors. While you may use some of this time to talk about trends in the market and more specifically what they’re looking for, you should already know through your own research if they publish in your genre.

White the editor would be hoping for polished and finished manuscripts, it’s okay that yours is not finished. Go ahead and use this time to pitch your idea to the editor. If he/she is interested, that would certainly be inspiration to you to finish your book. If they’re not interested, due to subject matter or genre, then you could ask what specifically they are looking for.

6-7-8 Writer’s Conference

I’ve said many times on this blog that Writer’s Conferences are a great way to network, meet editors and find others who might like to be part of a critique group. Here is some info on an upcoming conference in Utah.

You’re Invited to: 6 – 7 – 8 Writer’s Conference

When: 6 7 8! (June 7, 2008)

Where: Cedar Fort, Inc., 2373 W 700 S, Springville, UT 84663

What: Writers Conference

Motivational speaker and author Eloise Owens will headline the writing conference. She is the author of Get Off The Beach and has spoken to close to a million people in her career. I saw her in 2006 at the Utah Press Convention, and when my boss said I could bring in anyone I wanted to, I thought of her first.

Schedule of Events:

10 am -10:15 Welcome by Doug Johnston, Publicist, Cedar Fort.

10:15–10:30 Jeffery Marsh, acquisitions editor for Cedar Fort and BYU professor, tells what he wants in manuscripts, book submissions, and so forth.

10:30 – 11:00 Abel Keogh, author of A Room For Two, will teach each of you the importance of websites and blogs, even if you don’t have a book yet!

11:00 – 11:30 Janet Kay Jensen, author of Don’t You Marry The Mormon Boys, will teach on publicizing yourself and your books. Janet is very good at self-promotion and will teach each of you how to do the same.

11:30am – 12:15pm Doug Johnston, Publicist and former newspaper owner, will show writers what they need to know about being an author from a Publicists point of view.

12:15 – 1:00 Lunch

1:00 – 4:00 Eloise Owens will be the keynote speaker. Ms. Owens will make you think, make you better, and make you money through your writing. Like I said above, Ms. Owens is great. You will remember her for years to come and be a better author and self-promoter after listening to her.

During the conference, you can sit down with Jeffery Marsh. Bring him your manuscripts, book ideas, or questions. You will be allowed 15 minutes to talk with him about your ideas. Please call 801-489-4084 and tell the receptionist you want to be added for a time slot. There are a limited number of slots, so call today.

The cost for the conference is $25. You will receive Eloise Owen’s book Get Off The Beach and lunch.

To sign up, please do the following:
If paying by credit/debit card, call 801-489-4084 and tell them you are signing up for the 6 7 8 conference.

If you are paying by check, please make payment to
Cedar Fort
Attn 6 7 8
2373 W 700 S
Springville, Ut 84663

We are limited to 200 seats, so RSVP as soon as possible.

NOTE: After you sign up, you can make some money too. For every person that signs up and mentions they heard about it from you (Janet Jensen/Tristi Pinkston*), you will get $5 back from us at the conference. They MUST mention you when they sign up for you to get the money.

If you have any questions, you can email me at djohnston@cedarfort.com or you can call me at 801-489-4084.

I look forward to this wonderful day full of learning!


Doug Johnston

Doug Johnston
Public Relations Director
Cedar Fort Inc.
(801) 489-4084
See us online at cedarfort.com
Blog at www.atonofauthorsandawannabe.blogspot.com

**Both women sent this to me so if you sign up, pick whomever you’d like as your reference person.

Writing Organizations

Should writers join organizations like SCBWI or LDStorymakers?

You don’t have to, but yes, I think you should. And RWA, and SFWA, and MWA, and LUW (or your state’s equivalent), and Latter-day Authors, and other writer groups and forums, and reader groups and forums, and…

There are all sorts of groups out there that provide wonderful information, networking opportunities and support. Don’t join them all or you’ll spread yourself too thin and never have time to actually write. And don’t join any that are out of your budget. But check into some of them and find one or two that fit your needs.

Readers, which organizations have you found to be most helpful?

To Go or Not to Go

Can you give me a definitive opinion on writers conferences? I hear conflicting opinions from everyone: Go to a conference because you’ll learn so much; Conferences are a waste of time, stay home and write instead. Take sample manuscripts to give to agents or editors; only take queries. I have a chance to go to a conference next month, but I don’t know if it will be worth the time, effort and money.

Not all conferences are the same. Some are worth the effort to attend. Some are not. Here are some things to consider (not necessarily in order of importance):

Cost and Location: Can you afford it? You will not see any immediate return on this investment so make sure it fits your budget. Is it close to your home or at a location that you want to visit? Do you have friends or family nearby who might let you stay with them? Do you have other reasons for going to that location, like a family vacation?

Quality: Who is hosting the conference? Do you have confidence that this entity can produce a conference that is worth the time and effort to attend? How long have they been doing it? Do you know anyone who has attended in the past? If so, did they have a positive experience and are they going again?

Speakers: Who are the speakers? Have you heard of them? Are they people you want to hear? If they are authors, have you read and do you like their work? (If you hate their novel, you probably won’t like their workshop. Unfortunately, the converse does not always hold true. Some people write well, but are not good at public speaking.) If agents and editors will be there, are they ones that you would like to submit to.

Focus/Genre: Is the focus of the conference compatible with what you’re writing? It’s not really helpful for you to attend a sci-fi writers conference if you write children’s picture books.

Networking: In my opinion, networking is THE reason to go to writers conferences. Workshops may offer good information, but you can find the same info in a book somewhere. If the conference allows you to meet and interact with agents, editors and authors who you feel will help you publish your book OR they are people that you really, really want to meet, then go. Meet them. Trade business cards. If you connect with some other attendees on a personal level, they may be interested in forming a writers critique group.

What to Take: If you have a one-on-one scheduled with an agent or editor, bring what they’ve asked for—usually a query letter (for finished manuscripts only). Bring a few queries, in case you get an unexpected opportunity, but don’t just hand them out willy-nilly to every agent or editor there. We get bombarded with stuff at these conferences and you’ll make a better impression if you send me a customized query after the conference.

Time Commitment: An occasional conference can break up the writing routine, give you fresh inspiration, and rev up your motivation to write. But if you find you’re going to conference after conference rather than writing, you might want to skip some and actually write.