April 23rd, 2006

PPWC, the end...

Well, I had a wonderful time at the conference. I met so many people -- authors, agents, editors. It was great! I came home absolutely exhausted last night (at 10 pm), and in a state of overwhelm. But this morning, after a night's sleep in my own bed, I'm raring to go again:)

I'm going to post notes here, as well; please feel free to ask me any questions about them or about the conference in general. Basically we had the chance to pitch with one agent and read for one editor or agent.

I pitched to Emily Sylvan Kim (who had her son with her -- he turns one today). She's a very nice person, kind of quiet and introspective. She has a gentle voice and demeanor but she knows what she likes, which is what you'd want in an agent. Personally, I don't think we connected very well (as agent/potential client); I think our approaches are too different. Although she asked me to sub to her, I think she did that for everyone who pitched to her. I haven't decided if I will or not. I don't want to waste her time, so I'm thinking I probably won't.

I sat in on the readings for Erin Clarke, but I didn't get a chance to read mine. I did read for Kristin Nelson, though. She has a very different approach. She tried to find something positive to say about everyone's story; she was able to quickly point out the potential problems, however. I like her style. I know a couple of people were initimidated by her, but I liked her 'get-to-the-point' attitude. Honestly, if I can write something that would fit with her, I think we'd work together very well. She wants writers who can put out two books a year, and, as some of you know, I could definitely do that. I'm not sure I'm savvy enough for her, however. But I do know that with all the stuff I've learned this weekend, my writing is going to drastically improve (within my own voice, of course). So we'll see.

Laura Rennert is another agent I think I'd work well with. Her preferences are much more literary than I'm used to writing, but knowing that I have more of a poetry background, I think I can find a style within my voice that might work for her -- and also be more publishable than what I write now. She and Kristin were the two I 'clicked' with most.

Linn Prentiss is another abrupt speaker. She likes a lot of involvement with her writers, more than I'd want personally. Lilly Gharemani (from Full Circle) was also there. She's a lovely person, kind, thoughtful, relaxed. Too bad she doesn't take fantasy! Erin Clarke is very nice also. Quiet, thoughtful, gentle speaker, who knows what she wants. She prefers less edgy types; she likes humor (who doesn't? -- too bad for me that I my voice isn't humorous); she likes traditionally told tales.

Well, now I'll copy my notes to here. Again, if anyone has any questions, let me know:)

Erin Clarke - Knopf
not huge fan of edgy
loves humor
historical fiction always good (for school/Library tie-in)
pbs must be able to hold up under many readings -- don't make them too complicated
classically told stories
immediacy! (same old: show v. tell)
more about story than problems (doesn't want entire book revolving around probs)

Kristin Nelson - Agent - Nelson Agency
don't just stick in description, incorporate it smoothly
YA very fast pace
start with action/something that grabs
no backstory (another thing to incorporate along the way)
always does first crit with clients
doesn't want to know in query what will happen at end of book
prefers 'Dear Kristin Nelson:'

Linn Prentiss - Agent - Prentiss Agency
only sci-fi/fantasy
sci-fi harder sell
very hands-on (used to be copy editor)
Query & synopsis (and 10 pp)

Voice: comes from everything you are, everything you've experienced, all influences; always test criticism/critiques against your voice; voice = potato, style = how it's prepared (ie french fries)

KJ Erickson - Author - What makes a book memorable
1. Companionship - characters you want to spend time with - don't have to be admirable (can also be people we enjoy looking down on) - creating a sympathetic antagonist through how they grow, how something changes them - believable people; unique; well-defined; compelling
2. Humor - can make up for the lack of other aspects
3. Knowledge - readers want to learn new things - watch for balance between technological info and characters
4. Fear - physical (injury or death); loss (wanting something to happen that might not, along with obvious sorrow); exposure (revealing the inner embarrassment/sin) - when these are really well done, you don't want the char to receive due justice - fear creates tension
5. Surprise - not with tricking, but with well-laid clues that anyone could see; best surprise comes when the readers are so caught up in one story that they miss the obvious clues in the secondary story so that the surprise catches them
6. Closure - not always happily-ever-after - must fit aura/personality/tone of story/characters; make general statements about life; universal truths revealed
7. Tourism - creating the setting so completely that reader is transported; use characters to do so (not just description)
8. Personal Insight - to give readers a better sense of themselves or their problems - choices characters make grow out of situations they're placed in, which creates sympathy
9. Self-Righteousness - readers like to feel superior to some characters

Science Fiction and Fantasy General Overview
fantasy wows you, looks to the past, magic drives story
science fiction intrigues you, looks to the future, technology drives the story
magical realism - began in S. America: real people, real environment, magical things happen
urban fantasy - "elves at rock concerts" - defn by Kage Baker
when writing, avoid confusion; start with tangible details
to pitch: show interesting person with interesting problem and the conflict

Collaboration/Critique Partners - by Todd Fahnestock and Giles Carwin
plot together -- or at least give outline of plot to partners
utilize the differing strengths to cover all bases on all projects
be willing to compromise, especially when they're in area of strength -- be true to voice, of course
maintain communication and mutual respect
make your story your own, and convince your partner of its worth (if you can convince them, you'll convince the reader)
when plotting, outline mood sought as well as character growth
revise yours and others with similar guidelines then compare notes -- make sure you're achieving what you wanted (that your partner also sees the goal)
remember there's more than one right way; if partner can't be convinced, find another path
don't be afraid to dump sections that you can't seem to rework to everyone's satisfaction
always be aware of big picture, for your story and your partner's story
find other good feedback (crit group, rather than one partner)
listen to it, weigh it, use what fits, discard the rest
first 3 chaps most important

Laura Rennert - Agent - Andrea Brown Agency
What she wants:
how will you get the word out on your book? (keep this in mind as you write)
strong emotional impact - characters that get under your skin - characters evoke emotion
authenticity
conflict within character
YA hot (though fantasy saturated right now) - action/adventure taking its place
trends come down from adult
cross-over books
Challenging Sells right now:
historical fiction (adult)
quiet literary fiction
chick-lit
YA fantasy
5 Ingredients of Successful Fiction:
1. Unique Voice - compelling - way with words combined w/ unique outlook of world; convincing/authentic; get inside head of character; voice must resonate with audience; know your position to your story (how close do you want to be?); find the part of you that is that character (character is tip of iceberg, but I must know entire berg)
2. Memorable & Dynamic Characters: change over course of novel; character arc; process of gradual change; characters who live on outside of book
3. Coherent & Satisfying Narrative Structure: forward momentum - know where it's going from the beginning and always move in that direction; character should be increasingly put at risk over course of story; keep the reader wondering; layered stories (emotionally and plot-wise); increasing significance of elements
4. Universal & Idiosyncratic: novels that explore universal truths, emotions, responses; something we can all relate to (but remember: what can you, as author, bring to this story that no one else can?)
5. Literary Voice & Commercial Conception: stories that ask intriguing 'what if' questions; find unusual angle for your action



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