Monday, October 18

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, October 18, 2010 14 comments
As I'd mentioned last week, I headed to a great little local writer's conference on Saturday called "Push to Publish," run by Philadelphia Stories magazine. The conference featured a reading and Q&A with Paul Lisicky; "speed dates" with an agent, editor or author; and breakout sessions on various aspects of seeking publication.

Getting a speed date was my first challenge--you had to sign up on site. Though I was 10 minutes early, the sign-up line was looooong and I'd heard the agent slots had filled already. I got to the table, ready to sign up with one of two local YA authors, only to see the agent who was my top pick had ONE slot left, which I nabbed!

My speed date was fabulous. I'd had a chance to practice my pitch on a CP, so I wasn't really that nervous going in to the meeting with the agent herself. I got extremely positive feedback on the pitch and was also able to get the feedback I craved most--what's wrong with these opening pages? She read my opening scene and said she felt the emotion wasn't quite right. She pinpointed the line where the tone started going wrong and we talked through how I might approach a rewrite. My issue is very fixable, and her approach, so encouraging. I'd be blessed indeed to get to work with her regularly.

One thing she said that bears repeating: teen readers are looking for an emotional experience. They're willing to overlook somewhat clunky writing and plot holes if you move them deeply. Get the emotions right and teen readers will love you fiercely.

Anyway, once I get that new opening hammered out, she'd like to take a look again. It's so incredibly encouraging to have an action plan and agent interest!

In the next few days, I'll blog other highlights from the conference.

How was your weekend? Did you make any breakthroughs?
What are your thoughts on this agent's insights about giving readers an emotional experience?


  1. Great post!!!! Especially the part about what teens want. That is one area of my writing that I've been working really hard on.

    My breakthrough was based on my first chapter after getting feedback from an agent (I won a 10 page crit from her). I read the one sentence explanation as to why my opening was only decent (I didn't read the detail feedback) and decided to step away from the book for a bit while I finished off my new wip. That plan only lasted two days. I went running yesterday and started to have all kinds of ideas how to deal with the beginning. Of course, I still have to read the agent's comments, which I'll do this week. :D

  2. Hmmm, every once in a while I feel like the universe puts things in my path...I've been struggling with this since last night. I finished Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson last night and was demolished. It was such a great read, and Melinda (the MC) comes through so strongly from sentence one. Even though I knew what was coming (it's hard to avoid spoilers on that book at this point), the journey she takes is still heart wrenching. It inspired me to tell a story important to me, too, but it involves going back to a place that I'm not sure I want to visit yet. I think the hardest/most challenging thing about writing for teens is getting in touch with some emotional places that were difficult to live through. But I know if I would have had something to understand, something that told my story, it might have gone differently.
    I'm glad your experience was such a good one, I hope to hear more this week!

  3. That's fantastic, Laurel - how encouraging to get such postive feedback directly from an agent!

  4. So glad to hear you had an encouraging time! Great feedback from the agent--so true.

  5. The conference sounds amazing! Thanks for posting; the bit about emotional experience is so true and perfectly worded.
    ANd thanks for your great comment on my blog; it was wonderful advice and I really appreciate it!

  6. That's wonderful news, especially that she wants to see it again with the new opening. Best of luck!

  7. What a great conference, and congrats on the good feedback!

  8. Woo hoo! That's awesome, Laurel! And thanks for letting us in on super speshul agent info.

  9. I am so excited for you, Laurel! That is great news. I liked reading that teens are looking for a deep, emotional experience. Just yesterday, as I was pondering my writing abilities and direction, I had the thought: I need to write something that is deep and meaningful. Hmm. We'll see what transpires. Glad you had a great conference experience!!

  10. Stina: congrats on winning the critique. Sometimes it takes mulling to know what to do with comments, right? My fabulous CP Kory said exactly the same thing this agent did, but it took that second opinion for the idea to gel for me. Good luck with your revision!

    JEM: great points. In our teen years emotions are very intense because we don't have the life experience to put them into perspective. This agent's advice got me thinking about how it's easy as an adult writer to play it safe emotionally and pull away from past intensely painful experiences. But my readers need me to first be real about intense emotions before shaping a story that models a way a peer might cope with them.

    Talli: thanks. encouragement is gold in this industry, isn't it?

  11. Elle: Her tidbit was too good to not share.

    Faith: Good stuff, isn't it? And you're welcome. I'm thinking of doing a series of posts on voice after hearing your struggles to nail it. Stay tuned!

    Michelle: Thanks. Once the query and synopsis are done, writing a pitch is pretty easy.

    Susan: thanks. I'm pretty excited about the opportunity.

  12. Karen: It was great to hang out and talk shop with local writers in every genre imaginable. Very energizing.

    Tina: When she described in these terms why Twilight had such a big following, it was a real lightbulb moment.

    Mary: I'd heard others say teens are looking to feel when they read. If you can also make them think, that's an added bonus. But even action-oriented books need to have a lot of emotional punch to win over teens.

  13. Awesome! So glad the mini-con went well for you! And yay for agent advice! Also, yay for too many sentences ending in exclamation points! :)