I attended the NC Writer's Network Conference in Winston-Salem over the weekend. This was my first writer's conference. Not that I have anything to compare it with, but I thought it was excellent. They had a variety of session in different tracks to choose from.
There were choices for fiction, non-fiction, poetry, screen writing, playwriting, publishing, something for everybody.
The Perfect Pitch: Pitching your Manuscript
Step Away from the Desk: What to expect from a Publisher
Masks and Mirrors: Writing a Memoir
DIY Career Building Through Blogs and Self-Publishing
When Short Stories Don't Work and Why
All of the Faculty were people working in their respective fields, whether publisher's, editors for publishers, best-selling writers, or agents. In addition there were published authors chatting over morning coffee, and for evening sessions. I missed the Friday Night Opening to avoid an additional night in the hotel. The opening keynoter was Jill McCorkle. The Saturday dinner speaker was Robert Morgan. Both of these writers, as well as most of the faculty, have their roots in North Carolina. Robert Morgan was signing his newly released biography, BOONE. He also read some rather humorous passages from the life of Daniel Boone.
All of the seminars I attended were right on time for me. The DIY Career Building was most enlightening. Two of the speakers were "accidental authors" who first built a following with their blogs. Biodiesel Activist Lyle Estill started his Energy Blog out of his own personal passion, and he was happy having a small following of similar-minded people. When some national energy activist linked to his blog, his following soared, and a publisher came to him with an offer to publish his blog in a book.
Joseph Anderson started his blog as Notes to Mom while traveling through India. The internet would provide his mother with more up-to-date information on his travels than he could expect from using the postal system. I guess Mom shared it with friends who told friends, and before he knew it he had a following. He became another unexpected author.
Mur Lafferty is a self-described sci-fi geek, pod-caster, and mom. She syndicates her sci-fi novellas through weekly free pod-cast installments. She developed such a following of listeners who got impatient for the next installment that she published and sold her novellas in print.
Amy Tiemann has a doctorate in Neurosciences from Stanford Univ, but wrote MOJO MOM as the "missing manual for motherhood." Her lack of credentials as a parenting expert launched her into self-publishing and creation of a web-site that established her as an authority. She has been interviewed on the Today Show, and now is a professional blogger on parenting and technology for cnet.com.
The last session I had at the conference was Manuscript Mart. I submitted the first 20 pages of my manuscript to be read and critiqued by a literary agent. I'm still digesting that whole experience. The trouble is, there are two books in my book. There is the safe part of my story, some of the things I have blogged about, that are moderately interesting. And then there is the other part that I haven't told in my blogs, the conflict, the compelling part that makes my story unique. The compelling part is kind of buried in the safe part....the backstory. Now I need to strip away some of that backstory and cut to the chase.
I was thinking of trashing the first two chapters. Now I'm thinking how I can salvage them with more personality development in the backstory.
It's not an easy story to tell, but I'm getting better about my one-line pitch:
A coming-of-age-in-the-sixties black, single, pregnant, living in Munich for a junior year abroad...story. How does that grab you?