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The Benefits of a Small Writers’ Conference

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Janice Hardy

Janice Hardy RGB 72Attending a writers’ conference can be both exhilarating and terrifying, but it’s almost always rewarding. There’s something wonderful about being in a room where everyone around you has the same passion, and no matter who you happen to sit next to, you know you have something in common. I always come away from a conference re-energized and ready to write, but I know not all writers share my enthusiasm about being around that many people.

If the idea of a large conference makes you nervous, then consider a smaller, local conference. These events can range from 20 to 250 people, with smaller workshops and a more relaxed crowd. Even better, local conferences are usually easier on the budget, but offer just as many helpful workshops and opportunities to meet agents and editors.

You’ll be able to:

  • Meet local writers and form friendships and/or critique groups
  • Interact with authors and conference faculty in a more intimate setting
  • Network with people in your area, from authors to editors to agents
  • Build confidence to attend a larger conference in the future
  • Work on your “professional author” skills in a smaller, less intimidating atmosphere
  • Attend workshops and sessions from top industry professionals
  • Get a feel for what you want from a conference in the future

Even if you enjoy large conferences (1000+ people), a smaller conference can be equally rewarding, and a nice change of pace. I find a mix of sizes provides me with the best variety of social, networking, and educational options. Sometimes I want as many workshops and I can get, other times I’d rather relax and have fun.

Finding a Local Writers’ Conference

In most cases, just Googling your state and “writers conference” will get you a list of possibilities, as most states have some kind of writers’ organization. Many of these have one or two events a year, from conferences to smaller meet and greets to single workshops at libraries or bookstores.

If you write genre, try looking at the local chapters of your national organizations. For example, my personal chapter of SCBWI is Southern Breeze, and they hold two conferences a year, plus workshops and other events all year round. Most genre organizations offer events as well. Here are a few to get you started:

Romance Writers of America (RWA) with over 145 local chapters

Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) with over 80 regions around the world

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) with eleven regional chapters across the US

These are just a few of the organizations and local events, and there are a lot more if you check their individual sites.

Why You Should Attend a Local Writers’ Conference

To get out and meet people: Most of us write in a vacuum. We sit in a room somewhere, typing on a keyboard or scribing in a notebook, and we don’t mingle with our fellow writers. Maybe once in a while we attend a critique group or have lunch with writer pals, but for the most part, we’re alone.

This can lead to uncertainty and doubts about what being a writer is all about and what’s “normal” for writers. It’s easy to feel that bout of writer’s block means you suck as a writer when you don’t have other writers telling you they go through the exact same thing and feel the same way–and that it means nothing beyond you happen to be stuck right now. A local writers’ conference allows you to meet other writers and get a healthy perspective on this crazy profession.

To network: Besides being fun, you’ll meet people who might be able to help you in your career, or those you might be able to help in return. There are great networking opportunities that will be valuable no matter what stage you’re at in your career. Just because you’re a newbie now doesn’t mean you can’t make friends and contacts for when you do publish.

To learn: There’s only so much we can learn on our own, and a conference exposes us to different ways of thinking, writing, and being a writer. Aside from the workshops and sessions, it’s an opportunity to talk with other writers and learn from their experiences.

Even if a small conference can have value and they’re worth exploring. Check out what local conferences and events are in your area and see what they have to offer.

And if you happen to be a kidlit writer (picture books to young adult novels), might I suggest the upcoming conference from my own local chapter of SCBWI? Registration for Springmingle ’15 just opened, and this is a wonderful, relaxed conference for those who write for children and teens. It’s in Decatur, GA this year, so not only is it a great conference, but a fun weekend away–the downtown Decatur area is filled with shops and restaurants and things to do, and it’s all walking distance from the conference.

What are some of your favorite writers’ conferences?

Janice Hardy is the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She lives in Georgia with her husband, one yard zombie, three cats, and a very nervous freshwater eel. Find out more about writing at her site, Fiction University, or find her on Twitter @Janice_Hardy.

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A Day in the Life of a Literary Assistant…GIF Style

Industry Life


Jaida Temperly

Hi all! My name is Jaida Temperly and I’m a Literary Assistant at New Leaf Literary & Media. This is my very first post on Pub Crawl (cue confetti), so I thought it fitting that I post about what it’s like to be a Literary Assistant. But in GIF style, of course.



A Day in the Life of a Literary Assistant…GIF Style

Every day begins with a modest cup of coffee…


..followed by checking and sending email.


(And there is a lot of email.)


There will undoubtedly be questions from clients, editors, and tv/film reps that I’m not entirely sure how to answer…


…but I’m determined to learn and find answers/solutions…


…so I go to the other agents at New Leaf Literary for advice. And ask a lot of questions.


(A lot of questions.)


After a leisurely lunch with the other New Leaf assistants (Danielle, Jackie, and Jess)…


…I read queries. Sometimes, there are queries that make me feel like this:


But every once in awhile, I find an amazing query that makes me feel like this:


…which of course is accompanied by another modest cup of coffee for that all-nighter I’ll be pulling to finish reading…


…so I can take the manuscript to my boss (Joanna Volpe) the next morning and be like:


Additional duties as a Literary Assistant include: coordinating client events, appearances, and book signings…


…running the occasional errand…


…attending publishing and networking events like a boss…


…reading client manuscripts…


…and answering more email.


There’s also New Leaf’s regular Wednesday meeting, where I catch up on all the amazing things that my coworkers are working on…


…which is not to be confused with my Friday meeting with my boss, Joanna Volpe. (She’s pretty cool. Like Dumbledore.)


Which is not to be confused with the uber-serious assistant F.A.R.T. meetings (Fabulous Assistants of the Round Table) with Danielle, Jackie, and Jess. (Acronyms are the best.)


Now, there are some days when I go home feeling like this:


But most of the time I feel like this:


because every day is a guaranteed adventure. (Yes, just like Bilbo.)


Jaida Website picJaida currently assists Joanna Volpe at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. Prior to joining New Leaf, Jaida Temperly moved from Wisconsin to NYC to intern at Writers House. Before that, she had a brief stint in medical school and milked cows on her family’s dairy farm. In her down time, you can find her practicing yoga, downing modest cups of coffee, and searching for the city’s secret bars and cemeteries. You can also find her on Twitter.

Posted in Guest Post, Industry Life | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Five Tumblrs for Writers


Alex Bracken


When I first joined Tumblr in 2009, I recognized it as a paradise for fandom–practically every fandom under the sun. I was a refugee from Livejournal, looking for a little corner of the internet that was–then at least–a little quieter. What I didn’t expect, though, was for it to provide invaluable writing resources as well.

Over the years, I’ve slowly gathered a list of writing-related Tumblr blogs that I read if not every day, at least every single week. Here are five, in particular, that I think are worth a visit. If you’re unfamiliar with Tumblr, or don’t have an account, I highly recommend bookmarking them and coming back to them later.

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In the mood to write, but waiting for the muse to stop by for a visit? While it’s not updated as frequently as it used to be, there are a lot of gems to be mined from Writing Prompts if you’re looking for inspiration or are looking to practice or experiment with different forms.

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I’ve really come to love reading Writing with Color, a Tumblr that focuses on bringing racial and ethnic diversity into writing and helping others identify microaggressions, stereotypes, and tropes in their stories. They also provide fantastic starting points for research, and talk a great deal about diversity in fantasy settings.

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The Writing Cafe is a fantastic resource for… well, just about anything. I mean, look at their tags page! If the idea of following a zillion Tumblrs feels daunting to you, try TWC. In addition to creating a lot of extremely helpful, original material for the site, they also have a great eye for reblogging others’ advice and guides.

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The one kind of scene I invariably struggle to write is the fight scene. Aside from just not knowing that much about fighting and weaponry in general (nevermind how quickly someone would actually die from a wound), I still struggle with making the scene’s action clear enough to the reader that they can always picture it. Enter How to Fight Write.

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Last but definitely not least, we have Write World. Like The Writing Cafe, they focus on all facets of writing–in their words “education and inspiration.” I’m obsessed with the images they use for their visual writing prompts. I even have their words list page bookmarked so I can get to it in a single click while drafting.

So tell me, have you guys found any helpful Tumblrs for writers out there? Share the wealth!

Alex lives in New York City where she writes like a fiend and lives in a charming apartment overflowing with books. She is the New York Times bestselling author of The Darkest Minds and Never Fade. You can visit her online at her website, Tumblr, or Twitter.

Posted in Writing Life | 2 Comments

Knowing Your Audience


Rachel Seigel

Earlier today I was having a discussion with friends about a highly touted YA novel just nominated for the Morris Award. We all agree that the book is beautifully written and engaging but we are scratching our heads at exactly who the intended or appropriate audience is for this book. The narrator’s voice feels adult, and the word choices and phrasing feel adult. In the end, the consensus was that this book was more in line with an adult novel that select teens might enjoy than a proper novel for teens.

As a bookseller/buyer, the question of audience in some of the books I read & am presented frequently arises. Who is this book written for, and who can I sell it to are often two very different questions, being able to answer these questions when writing is key to finding readers.

I love reading kids/YA books, but I am keenly aware that I come at them from a different place than kids/teens do. I bring adult experience and ideas to the books and while I do my best to put myself in the head of the target reader, I know that there are books I appreciate that the average kid probably won’t. I love complex ideas and language. I love it when an author does something completely mind-bending (such as Patrick Ness’ More Than This) and leaves you with your jaw on the floor thinking “Wow!” when you reach the last page. I can’t always find a mass number of readers for these books, but I firmly believe that there is a reader. There are some books however that completely miss the mark for a variety of reasons.

A book full of adult language and scenes with child/teen characters does not automatically make it a book for kids/teens. Adult books can have child protagonists (Oceans at the End of the Lane, Room or Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night for example) and be appreciated by teens, but they are not marketed to a juvenile/teen audience. Even when the age of the characters are on point, if the general tone of the book is way above the heads of the readers, it is also guilty of not knowing its audience. Consider who is telling the story. Is the narrator recounting something that has recently happened to them, or are they an adult reminiscing about events from a long time ago? Who are you hoping to appeal to with your book? What kind of reader are you trying to reach? There’s something to be said for appealing to the clever, sophisticated kid- you know the one- 10 going on 50- capable of reading far above their age group but not emotionally ready for YA- but don’t get so caught up in being clever that you write yourself out of your market. L Why is Harry Potter so universally loved? Because J.K. Rowling knew exactly who her audience was and she proved that you can provide kids with a rich reading experience while hitting all of the buttons for a wide variety of readers.

Now I turn the question to you- what in your minds causes a book to “miss the mark?” and have you read anything lately that fits this description?

Rachel Seigel is the Sales and Selection Strategist for EduReference Publisher’s Direct Inc. in Ontario. She also maintains a personal blog at and can be found on Twitter as @rachelnseigel.

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For Real: An Interview with Author Alison Cherry!

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It’s that time of year when we’re all buying books as gifts for the ones we love (at least I assume you guys all do that too), so today I want to introduce you to a book I read in one sitting! It’s a delicious behind-the-scenes peek onto the set of a Race Around The World style reality TV show — if you’re looking for a holiday gift for the reader or reality TV fan in your life, this is it! And today, I’ve dragged in author Alison Cherry to answer some questions for all you lovely readers! But first, let’s hear a little about For Real!

For RealNo parents. No limits. No clue what they’re in for.

Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister’s shadow. While Miranda’s life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.

When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it’s Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They’ll outshine Miranda’s fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.

But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life… or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what’s for real?

Alison, I looooooved For Real! Spill! How on earth did you get hold of so many fantastic details?

I did so much research for this book! It was pretty easy to get hold of details about how to audition for reality TV effectively—I read several entire books about that. But once someone actually makes it onto a show, the network makes them sign all kinds of non-disclosure agreements, so it’s significantly harder to find behind-the-scenes information about the filming process. Fortunately, reality shows have a lot of rabid fans, and they’re pretty good at scrounging up secrets—in fact, there’s a nearly-500-page, fan-written tome about the first few seasons ofThe Amazing Race. Since the show in my book is pretty similar, I found all kinds of information I could use in there.

Of course, I also needed lots of little details that were far too specific or mundane to address in that kind of book. What’s the sign-in process like at an audition? What does the producer’s side of the conversation sound like in a daily recap interview? Are the contestants allowed to snack on camera? How do you attach a microphone to someone when he’s not wearing a shirt? Fortunately, I was able to find one reality show contestant, one casting director, and one field producer who were willing to do interviews with me. I probably drove them crazy with all my super-specific questions, but they were incredibly good sports about it, and they did an excellent job of demystifying things!

And what about the exotic locations? I’m guessing an all-expenses-paid world tour wasn’t on the cards, so how did you so convincingly convey that local flavour?

Sadly, you’re right: a world tour was not included in my advance. I actually did a lot of my local flavor research by watching The Amazing Race; there have been something like twenty-five seasons at this point, so I was able to find at least one episode that took place in each of the cities I’d chosen. I never stole a challenge from the show, but I paid a lot of attention to what was going on behind the contestants so I could accurately describe the road signs, the taxis, the locals’ clothing, etc. It often took me ninety minutes to get through a forty-five-minute episode because I had to keep pausing it to write down descriptions of cows and rooftops and bridges. The “street view” function on Google Maps was also an incredibly big help—I spent one entire afternoon virtually driving down highways in Scotland. Honestly, I can’t imagine how people did book research before the internet…

I know I looooove Race Around The World for my vicarious travel fix, and For Real felt like being allowed behind the scenes. Are you a big reality TV fan?

I used to watch a number of the competition shows pretty religiously: Amazing RaceTop ChefSo You Think You Can Dance, Work of Art, and Project Runway were my favorites. I loved watching people showcase their talents, and I used to get really into it. Unfortunately, writing this book kind of ruined reality TV for me. Maybe I just know too much about the strings behind the puppets now, but it just doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore. Scripted dramas only from now on, I think…

To leave reality TV for a moment, For Real also explores the relationship between sisters. Was that something you set out to do when you began writing the book?

Absolutely. The sister story came first, and the show came later; in fact, Claire and Miranda never even made it past the final round of auditions in my first draft! The sisters have been apart during Miranda’s four years at college, and I was most interested in exploring the way their relationship shifted and strained and morphed as they struggled to get to know each other again as adults. I sent them on this trip around the world together because it was the best way to raise the stakes and the tension; it turns out emotions bubble to the surface much faster if you surround your characters with manipulative strangers, deprive them of sleep and personal space, and stick a camera in their faces!

And finally, what’s the one book you’d pack if you were setting off around the world?

I’d bring a big, thick, plot-twisty novel full of scandal and scheming and intrigue, like Gone with the Wind or The Count of Monte Cristo. Those books are so long that they’d last me through a bunch of transcontinental flights, and if I did manage to make it to the end, I love them enough that I’d be perfectly happy starting over again right away.

Thanks Alison! Readers, I’m sure you can see now why I’m so into this book–there’s nothing like being kept up late by an amazing read, and this one kept me laughing, guessing, turning pages, and kept me from sleeping!


amie165c-twitterAmie Kaufman is the co-author of THESE BROKEN STARS, a YA sci-fi novel out now from Disney-Hyperion (US) and Allen & Unwin (Australia). Book two, THIS SHATTERED WORLD, is out now in Australia, and coming on December 23rd in the US! Her new trilogy will start with ILLUMINAE, coming from Random House/Knopf in 2015. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary. You can find her on Twitter or on Facebook, or visit the These Broken Stars website for exclusive sneak-peeks and contests. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and rescue dog.

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