Sunday, July 7, 2019

My Experience at the 2019 Writing Workshop of Chicago

Last weekend, I attended the 2019 Writing Workshop of Chicago with fellow writer Tara Lynne Groth. (Thank you again, Tara Lynne, for sharing this one!) 

Not only was the workshop more beneficial than I expected, I got to spend time with an old college friend, attended my first Pride parade, and was able to explore a new city - all in a few short days! 



Conference/Workshop Title: 2019 Writing Workshop of Chicago

Duration: One day (9:00am-5:00pm) split into five 1-hour blocks with a 1-hour lunch break.

Cost: $189.00
($$ – Not overly expensive, but not cheap or free. Excludes conference add-ons and travel costs.)

Materials Provided: At registration we were given a folder containing the conference schedule, with three classes/sessions to choose from in each 1-hour block. Some of the sessions provided handouts, but it depended on the speaker.  

Workshop Add-ons: Attendees had the option to sign up for a 10-minute one-on-one pitch session with one of the agents in attendance ($29.00 each), an in-depth query letter critique ($69.00), and/or a critique of the first 10 pages of your novel ($89.00).

Overall Impression: I think this is an excellent option for writers who are new to workshops/conferences. It allows you to get your feet wet and network without the multi-day commitment that comes with larger conferences. Also, if you've never pitched live before, you can take the opportunity to speak with an agent who represents your genre. (Do your research ahead of time!) Even if the agent isn't interested in your current WIP, you still get that valuable practice and feedback on your pitch.

*****

Now for the really big news: I pitched my book live for the first time!

I've never done a live pitch before, and I made the (admittedly last-minute) decision to pitch my WIP while we were at the workshop. I'd originally planned on not pitching, because I'm only three-quarters of the way through my rewrite and most of the query tips I've read have said to never pitch an unfinished manuscript.

Luckily, I reached out to one of the conference coordinators and she encouraged me to sign up for a pitch meeting anyway. This might not be the case for all live pitch opportunities, so I suggest confirming with each one. She assured me that the agents they'd invited would still be willing to hear a pitch for an almost-completed book.

She was right!

I can't tell you how nervous I was. There's a big difference between submitting a query letter and
pitching your ideas in-person. To be able to spark a conversation about your book and catch an agent's interest without forgetting the important details or going overboard on enthusiasm. I saw both of these situations happen as I talked with other writers whose pitch sessions were before mine. I also spoke with several writers whose pitches had gone very well. It really does depend on how comfortable you are carrying on a conversation about your book.

One tip I have, now that I've got a live pitch under my belt, is practice out loud with a friend. Tara Lynne and I were able to bounce our pitches off each other, point out words that needed a little tweaking or made the conversation sound too stiff.  

I pitched to three agents, and they all showed some degree of interest in my WIP! Yes, I had to pay the add-on fee for each appointment, but I considered it a necessary and reasonable expense. I also figured if none of the agents were interested, I would still have that experience pitching my book to new people.

Does this guarantee I'll end up working with one of these agents? No, it doesn't. That depends entirely on my book and what they think of it once I send in the pages requested. But, what it does show me is that my book is a good idea and can generate curiosity.

I've set a deadline for myself to finish this draft - 6 weeks from now. Then, I'll be sending out my queries.

*****

Who else has experience diving into the query process? Did you find you were able to garner more interest for your work by pitching in-person, or were you better able to express yourself in a query letter? I'd love to hear your experiences!

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