Hey you guys! I've been really excited to share with you my experience at the Writing Workshop of Chicago that took place this past Saturday, June 23, 2018 at the Congress Plaza Hotel in Chicago. First, I will begin by saying this writing workshop is a great experience for novice writers like myself but also experienced writers who are looking to hone in on their skills, meet new people, make valuable connections, stay abreast on an ever-changing industry and also get feedback from veteran writers.
I'll rewind so that I may give a recap for those who are new to my site. I've always enjoyed writing and reading and for as long as I can remember, people have always told me I should write a book. Well, not to say I didn't believe in myself, I just never gave it a second thought. I've always enjoyed writing for the fun of it and a way to share my thoughts and feelings in a safe space. I've explored so many other creative outlets in my life and for some reason, writing a book just wasn't one of them. Well, about two years ago, a psychic told me he saw some major writing in my future. We'll get on the topic of me meeting with psychics another day but even when he told me that, I guess I didn't take it too seriously because I was thinking, well, the email I sent him to inquire about his services was probably just well written and he wanted to appear being good at his job, lol. Anywho, last August, I literally woke up one day, and it hit me like a ton of bricks, "Angie, it is time to write a book", and I literally pulled out my computer and started writing that day. I even knew exactly what I wanted my book to be about and I think what really sparked this new venture of mine was for two years, I unplugged from social media, I unplugged from going to a lot of events, I unplugged from constantly being busy and I just basked in that time by myself and time with close family and friends. I ventured into some DIY projects and shopping at thrift stores became my favorite past time. This time allowed me to be in the present moment and it's amazing what can happen when you're fully present showing up for life everyday, hence how I became aligned with writing this book.
Now that you have some backstory, we can dive into this writing workshop. Being in the present moment has allowed me to work in tandem with life and not against it so when thoughts and ideas come to me, I let it guide me and I flow with it. So like I said, I started writing my book in August and I finished the first draft in April. Even with taking some breaks in between, I continued to stay inspired. During this time, I began searching for writing groups so that I may learn more about the world of writing, gain feedback and "find my tribe" so to speak. I'm no stranger to attending conferences and workshops so I researched writing conferences and immediately, I stumbled across this particular writing workshop that I attended this past Saturday. For some reason, I thought I would have to purchase a plane ticket somewhere but thankfully, this one was in Chicago! It was the beginning of April at the time and my manuscript was about 80% complete and the workshop was scheduled for June. This was perfect because it gave me time to finish the manuscript and actually have it edited by then. I didn't think too long about attending the workshop because I didn't want to talk myself out of it. I was in the present moment and I felt this workshop revealed itself to me for a reason so I purchased my ticket which gave me motivation to get everything in order by June.
Fast forward to the day of the workshop, manuscript is completed and edited, I now have a book cover, website, and social media pages. Oh, I was ready. I've had some experience in owning a business for five years so I took everything I'd learned about business and applied it here but I continuously did my research on what to expect while attending a workshop such as this. I brushed up on my knowledge of pursuing self-publishing as well as traditional publishing routes, what questions to ask, and how to gain the most out of my experience because I really wanted to get my monies worth and I was extremely serious about the craft.
I arrived about thirty minutes early just to make sure I had enough time to check in, scope out the conference rooms and take care of any last minute necessities such as going to the bathroom, lol. I would advise when attending these conferences, always bring a sweater as typically the rooms are chilly and one thing I decided to do was actually bring a lunch instead of going out to lunch. I'm so happy I did that because the time it would've taken to walk to a restaurant, wait in line and wait for my order would've taken up my time. In addition, I met with an agent for about ten minutes during that time and I probably would not have had that opportunity if I was trying to find something to eat. I also did some posting on social media during this time to keep my followers up to speed on what was taking place. This is all apart of your marketing and branding and should definitely be a priority when you're trying to carve out a name for yourself and what you do.
When attending a writing workshop, typically you will be informed of various authors, agents and editors that will be in attendance before hand. As the attendee, you have an opportunity to meet with agents to pitch your fiction book if it's completed or pitch your idea if you're in the middle of writing a non-fiction piece. There are also opportunities to get critiques on query letters and the first ten pages of your manuscript. Now, these add-ons do come with a cost but you'd be surprised, it does not carry a hefty price tag. At this particular workshop, a 10-minute pitch with an agent costs $29, in-depth critiques of 1-page query letters were $69 and in-depth critiques of the first ten pages of a manuscript was $79. I decided to go with pitching the agents. I already had a finished manuscript of over 80,000 words, I was in the midst of building my social media following and mailing list, and I had a book cover so I decided to take a stab at pitching an agent. I've never queried an agent before seeing this is my first book but I'm more inclined to wanting to meet with people in person to "sell" myself so to speak as opposed sending an email. I'd read so many horror stories about people sending query letters for years and either getting turned down or no response at all so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity. I paid to meet with three agents and it was well worth it!
Meeting with agents is so important in my opinion because it gives the writer an opportunity to really show the excitement of the work you've produced and what better way to do that in person. But again, do your due diligence and review each agent's bio, the genre in which they represent and/or looking to represent, know a little bit about the history of the agency in which they come from, know a little bit about the agent's personality and what they like, educate yourself on where the agency is located and if they have local offices in your city/town and be sure to only give them what they ask for. This is not the time to read your synopsis from a piece of paper or try to give them a full manuscript unless they ask for it. Be yourself, have fun and give them a reason to be "wowed" so that the next statement that follows is: "I'd love for you to email me the first 50 pages or your full manuscript." And this is exactly what happened to me. Now I won't say which agent was my favorite, I'll keep that to myself :). But all I can say is we had amazing chemistry and I look forward to connecting with her soon because believe it or not, you as the writer are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Instead of meeting with three agents, I ended up meeting with two and one editor due to one of the agents having a last minute emergency. Again, no reason to panic, meeting with an agent or editor is still an amazing opportunity that doesn't come around too often and it's a good decision to take advantage of that opportunity.
There was also a cool segment during the writing workshop called "Writers Got Talent". If anyone wanted to participate in this part of the workshop, you were to bring 15 copies of the first page of your manuscript and the featured agents on the panel would randomly choose a writer's first page, read it aloud and make critiques. Now due to the overwhelming response, they were unable to read all of the entries of course (which was communicated before hand) but it was still a good experience seeing how an agent reviews a writer's first page and decide within a matter of seconds if they would like to continue reading or not. I submitted my first page and I was really hoping it was chosen due to the fact that one of the editors I was scheduled to meet with was on the panel. I felt that would've been a perfect segue to my pitch but it just wasn't in the cards. Some of the attendees thought the agent's critiques were pretty brutal, but honestly, I didn't. It just reminded me of attending a writers group and how people critique your writing on a regular basis. So I'm thankful for the writing group I'd recently joined as it prepared me for that moment.
So, the end result, was me meeting some amazing up and coming authors as well as established ones, exchanging business cards and other information, and I even received a text from one of the attendees the day after the event. We'll be having coffee soon :). As far as my pitches, believe it or not, two requested the first 50 pages of my manuscript and the other requested my full manuscript! I read that when this happens, this is sort of a big deal in the first phase in getting your foot in the door so I'm running with it. So for being a first time novelist, how do I know all this? Google. Lol, and I am absolutely serious. Everything you need to know is on the world wide web so I make the time to research, do the work and let the stars align. I'm a firm believer I will get this book out there one way or another, it's just a matter of which route I'm going to take and as for now, I'm keeping ALL options on the table and seeing where being in the present moment takes me.
I will be sure to keep you abreast of any callbacks from agents or editors. In the meantime, I will continue to share information about my upcoming novel and what I'll be writing in the future because I really like doing this and I think it's worth it. I believe if you have a story to tell, then tell it. No one can dictate to you whether you should write a book or not and if you decide to write that book and people take notice, then that's an added bonus!
Brian Klems, author of "Oh Boy You're Having A Girl"
He was a special guest instructor with a wealth of knowledge and he always wears pink shirts to his speaking engagements. Can you guess why? :)