Industry Spotlight: Literary Agent Eric Smith on Conference Scholarships

When writing conferences invite Eric Smith of P.S. Literary to join their roster of attending literary agents, he’s usually happy to comply, pending one request: a guest pass, so that he can bring along a marginalized writer from the surrounding area.
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The following article first appeared in Writer's Digest's May/June 2018 issue. 

When writing conferences invite Eric Smith of P.S. Literary to join their roster of attending literary agents, he’s usually happy to comply, pending one request: a guest pass, so that he can bring along a marginalized writer from the surrounding area.

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“These conferences and workshops can be expensive,” Smith says. “Not everyone can drop $100 on a one-day workshop, or several hundred on a weekend conference. And forget about being able to afford it as a teenager or college student.”

In response—wouldn’t you know it—conference coordinators have readily agreed. And writers have jumped at the chance to take advantage of opportunities like this and other conference scholarships.

Smith puts out the calls on his blog, then weighs responses from interested applicants. In 2017, he brought writers from historically underrepresented groups to events in Pennsylvania and Indiana, and so far in 2018 he’s securing free registrations to conferences in Boston, Minneapolis and beyond.

“In the end, it costs the conference zero dollars. It costs you, the person bringing the writers, zero dollars. It’s a lot less work than it seems for something that has the potential to make a real difference for a writer.”

Enabling conference scholarships is an approach worth noting—both for its impact and for the sentiment behind it. “I’ve been lucky. Others haven’t. It’s a really easy way to give back.”

Learn more about agents who might be open to hosting conference scholarships in the Guide to Literary Agents 2018.

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