Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Found the Gold in Denver

By Pat Stoltey

From Friday morning through Sunday lunch, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference kept me so busy I didn't have time to post updates on Facebook, tweet conference notes on Twitter, or write weekend reports on my own blog. I returned home physically exhausted, mentally drained, and yet creatively energized. I'm so ready to get back to writing and revising and editing that I can hardly bring myself to look at my calendar and my To Do List for fear there are things on there I absolutely must do instead.

On Friday morning, I attended the almost four-hour master class on Contracts and Copyrights: How to Read and Understand a Publishing Deal. This presentation was given by attorney and historical mystery author Susan Spann who is an outstanding (and entertaining) presenter. I won't deny I came away from that session with so much information I may have worn one of those "deer in the headlights" expressions, but I took lots of notes on the excellent handout so I could remember stuff later.

Even simple contracts can trip us up. Those who don't have an agent to represent them in negotiations would be wise to find a qualified attorney to at least perform that review, explain the contract, and point out where the author should ask for changes.

After spending a couple of hours as a volunteer at the registration table, I grabbed a late lunch and headed for a session called Perfecting the Pitch -- Life isn't Just an Elevator Ride by Karen Albright Lin. It never hurts to brush up on technique. For those of you who will be attending a conference soon, remember: (1) don't take an armload of materials with you, (2) keep your plot explanation (beginning with the logline) simple, exciting, and don't complicate it with character names, (3) don't try to memorize enough words to fill your 8-10 minute slot as though you're giving a speech , and (4) have a conversation with the agent or editor including a friendly greeting at the beginning and a thank you at the end.

There were many other great sessions on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the guest speakers, book sale, and meals, but two other workshops stood out for me.

One was the three-hour presentation on Saturday afternoon called From Proposal to Publication (and Everything in Between) from literary agent Rachelle Gardner. Rachelle packs a lot of the information from her presentations in her blog as well.

The second was How to Write That Script from Chantelle Aimee Osman of A Twist of Karma Entertainment LLC. Again, lots of information, an excellent presenter, and a top-notch handout with illustrations.

If you've never been to a writers' conference, you're missing opportunities to educate yourself on all aspects of writing and getting published, to network with writers, editors and agents from all over the country, and to find the support and encouragement we can only get from those who share our passion.


Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - It sounds like you had a wonderful and productive time at the conference. That's terrific! Thanks for sharing what you learned, and thanks for the links to some of the presenters!

Giles Hash said...

It was an invaluable experience! Linda Rohrbough's master class on pitching changed my life! I don't have an agent (yet), but I FINALLY learned how to put together a live agent pitch, and it utterly transformed my understanding of query letters!

You must, must, MUST check out her website and iPhone app (lindarohrbough.us)!

It was great to finally meet you, too, Pat :D

Patricia Stoltey said...

Margot, we need to meet up at a writers' conference once of these days. I met Giles (see his comment below), after I heard his name called in the pitch session waiting room. I hopped over and introduced myself.

Giles -- I heard wonderful things about Linda's presentation from my roommate. One thing RMFW has always done well is prepare the writers for those scary pitch sessions. It was great meeting you in person. Good luck with your novel.

Marlena Cassidy said...

It sounds like you learned a lot and thanks for passing it on to us here on the blog-o-sphere, Patricia. The contracts are what're scaring me the most right now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's some intensive learning!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Marlena -- I took care of my first contracts, fairly simple ones, on my own, but I still missed some things I didn't fully understand. It's always good to have an expert in your corner.

Alex -- it's exhausting, but I'd go back and do another round tomorrow if I could. I heard many good things about the workshops I didn't get to attend. They do record most of the sessions though, so I could have bought more of the CDs.

Mark Stevens said...

Great recap ! I loved Karen Lin's on the pitch, too. Never hurts to sharpen how you describe what you're up to.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks, Mark. You're right. Hearing good advice right before you pitch can't hurt a thing.

Chris Devlin said...

Susan Spann's contract Master Class was eye-opening. Great to see you there, thanks for the post.
(Today's captcha: 'tionneta.' Sounds like a tiny, musical cheese.)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Chris -- It didn't take long for Susan to convince me I needed an agent (or a very good lawyer). It was often what the contract didn't say that more significant than what it did say. Mind-boggling.

My captcha is "inesathi" -- sounds like a condition one suffers from attending a writer's conference.

Jan Morrison said...

Sounds like you had a jam-packed time, missy! I'm getting my pitch ready for our Word on the Street event in a week and a half. I did well last year - I won - but I pitched a mystery and there were no publishers present who handle genre so...
This year I'll do my so-called literary novel.
Harder to pitch though!!!
my captcha is cousneu - which I think is a tiny shellfish off the Malagash coast. Or a bird in Scotland.

Kay Theodoratus said...

Sounds like a rewarding time ... and you are more of "guru" than you were before.

Susan Spann said...

Thanks so much for the great compliments, Pat - I had a wonderful time at the conference myself. I learned a lot too, met a bunch of fantastic writers (yourself included!) and already can't wait for next year's conference. For me, one of the best aspects of RMFW's Colorado Gold is the combination of truly excellent resources (speakers, but also the opportunity to interact with industry professionals at all levels of publishing), amazing and welcoming people, and the opportunity to spend three days truly immersed in such a supportive and educational atmosphere.

In case you hadn't guessed...I might be fond of RMFW!