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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.

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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ROAR:

Writer's Digest Turns Up the Volume on Underrepresented Voices in the Writing World

Read more from this extended series, entitled "ROAR," which appears in the May/June 2018 issue of Writer's Digest. Feel the thunderous reverberations of authors and industry pros working to broaden our perspectives—as writers and readers alike. Plus, learn how underrepresented voices are rising in the writing world, all in these articles:

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Live Webinar: How to Find (and Hook) the Perfect Agent for You | April 5, 2018

Finding an agent who shares your vision for your career can be a challenge, but it's nowhere near impossible. Many agents are currently looking for new authors they can start on the path to success. Regardless of what you write, there's an agent out there for you, and this live webinar will help you learn what to look for and what to do when you want to sign with an agency.

Literary agent Carlisle Webber works with both debut and established authors and will guide you through the process of finding an agent. Making the match is about more than saying yes to the first person who offers representation. It's also about sharing a vision, having realistic expectations, and knowing you're working with a trained professional (or a professional in training). Learn more and register.

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