On the Scene from BEA

Hi Writers,
All apologies for my lack of promised, non-stop communication this week. The only admittedly lame excuse I can offer you is that I’m too cheap to pay 9.95 for Internet access in my room. But I got over it, charged the fee to the company credit card so here I am.

The BEA/ WD Books Writer’s Conference went by in a fabulous whirlwind. I finally got to meet our columnist Jodi Picoult in person, as she was the keynote speaker. She’s so down-to-earth, funny and extroverted and delivered a wonderful, anecdote filled talk about her writing life. She spoke about her writing process, and I have to say, she’s a writer who really knows how to break down the difficult process of writing a novel into manageable parts. Her ability to demystify and distill her writing process is remarkable.

By the way, we’re trying a new project this year. We videotaped Jodi’s speech and several other speakers as well as audio recording many of the other speakers. And in a few weeks (exact date TBA), the sessions will be available on our website at writersdigest.com/bea so check back there for the details. I’ll also announce it here, on the forum and in our e-newsletter.

I also met many of the other WD Books writers including Christina Katz, author of Writer Mama–hi Christina!

I gave a speech on breaking into magazines early in the morning, and had a great crowd. They had lots of questions, which I always appreciate when I give a talk so it’s not just me going on… and then you write the query letter, and then you e-mail it… blah, blah, blah. I always prefer to have more of a conversation, so when the audience got on my wave length and started asking  questions, it went well.

But the highlight of the day by all accounts was the Agent Pitch Slam. We had a huge number of agents participate this year–more than 60 in fact, thanks to editor extraordinaire and major playa Chuck Sambuchino, editor of the WD Guide to Literary Agents 2007 (out this fall). I got to meet many of the agents as I was in charge of passing out their badges. I know many writers are intimidated by agents, but really, you couldn’t ask for a more friendly, helpful group of people. And they all seemed into the pitch slam concept, although the three minute time limit presents a fun challenge to the writers and the agents. Since there were so many agents this year, the lines were quite short and many writers were pitching to five or ten agents.

I was in charge of a pitch slam room. The agents in my room were Michael Murphy, Peter Miller, Meg Leder, Sheree Bykofsky and Jackie Meyer. It went really smooth after the first ten minutes or so while we scrambled to figure out the right way to configure the room and get the lines moving in the right direction. Kevin Alexander was in there helping me keep things running, being the timer, talking to people about their pitches, trying to calm down the nerves. He was a champ, really, but I’m sure he’ll tell you all about how great he was on his own blog. And don’t believe it when he tells you that I slacked off toward the end and started chatting with John Warner, WD author and editor of the new WD Books humor imprint TOW Books. I can’t help it, much like Jessica Rabbit, I’m a sucker for a funny guy.

Well, today is the first official day of BEA so I’m off to the show. I’m keeping notes, and picking up as many galleys as I can. The giveaways at the show are always unbelievable. For a compulsive reader, it’s the equivalent of getting the keys to the candy shop.

Keep Writing,
(I’ve decided, like Macy’s, to change my ticker symbol to simply “M”)

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One thought on “On the Scene from BEA

  1. :Donna

    Maria, this sounded like you had one great day! The Agent Pitch Slam had to be a very exciting thing for everyone involved. I wish I could’ve been there, and was REALLY feeling envious when you described Jodi Picoult’s talk on breaking down her process for writing a novel (everyone’s got a different method), THEN — you announced the video will be online! I’m REALLY looking forward to that and more updates on your time in NY.

    Enjoy yourself (not that you need to be told that) and maybe ask the powers-that-be to turn up the air 😉


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