Notes from AWP

As promised, here are my notes from the AWP conference panels, painstakingly typed up. They’re not GREAT- definitely not very thorough or anything and sometimes I found I had no idea what the context was for what I wrote or even if I heard correctly, but I figure there might be some useful stuff in there for people curious about the industry. In italics, I’ll put some of my notes/impressions.

The biggest problem with AWP is there are too many interesting panels happening at the same time. Since this was my first writing conference and I’ve been stuggling figuring out how to go about getting my book published, I decided to focus on learning more about agents, editors, small presses and how to get published, so that’s the focus you’ll see in the panels I attended. Next time, I’ll be able to attend more panels that interest me on a personal and craft level, I hope.

Without further ado:

The Pleasures and Pains of Small Press publishing- (Thais Miller, Olivia Kate Cerrone, Courtney McDermott, Monica Wendel, Peg Alford Purself)

Small Presses: Brown Paper Press, Autumn House Press, Thrush Press, Black Ocean, Octopus, Four Way Press

Questions to ask a small press: Will you be sending out review copies? Will you be promoting with social media? Contests? What are your strategies for crises? If the company goes under do you have a backup company who can take on your authors? Do you do publicity cards? What are the deadlines? What’s the timeline for my book? What are my responsibilities?

From Thesis to Published Book –Mieke Eerkens, Nicole Walker, Catina Bacote, Amy Butcher (one of these people is from my hometown, so I talked with her after the panel! She seemed very nice.)

Bacote wrote “Chronicles”, has writing residency

Kisha Schlegel- wrote “Fear Icons”(I have no idea what this was relevant to, but I clearly wrote it down for some reason0

Reply to even rejection letters with a thank you to forge connections.

Try the Waste no Time App for limiting internet use.

Lambda literary Survery the future of LBGTQ Writing (Tony Venezuela, William Johnson, Joy Ladin, Amy Scholder, Brandi Spoethe) 

I attended this one but don’t have any real notes. I actually got lost on the way to this one and was late.

Female Friendship in YA (Amy Reed, Macy Beller Paul, Anica Mrose Rissi, Sarah Nicole Smetana, Kit Frick) (As mentioned last post, I adore Amy’s book, The Nowhere Girls- this was a great panel, I got a lot of ideas for the book I’m currently writing.)

YA Book Recs for both positive and toxic female friendships for the authors: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits , Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Lessons from a Dead Girl, Done Dirt Cheap, You Don’t Know Me But I Know You,The Amazing Color of After, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Born Confused.

Every decision the character makes should lead to the next one- it should be so it’s impossible this character could make another decision than the one they made.

The Gatekeepers: Behind the Scenes of Literary Agencies (Michelle Brower, Lucy Carson, Allison Hunter, Erin Harris, Beth Staples)

Brower- does Commercial Fiction

Harris- Does YA

Commerical fiction is plot driven rather  than language driven and meant to be accessible to a wider audience.

LGBTQ Caucus (Tiff Ferentini, Miguel M. Morales, Joy McCoy, Samantha Tetangco, Sean Patrick Mulroy) (I quickly discovered what a caucus actually is)

VIDA- counts women and nb people published by orgs, also #MeToo stuff. (They had a booth at the exhibition hall it was interesting)

What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do (Peter Ginna, Erika Goldman, Calvert Morgan, Jeff Shots, Carol Fisher)

Ayesha Pande (potential literary agency to check out.

They wrote an Anthology of Editors.

Fisher- copyeditor

She says- Proofreading is specific- it’s the FINAL stage of the process, literally reading the printed proof

The style guidelines of publishers vary so watch out for that. It’s perfectly correct to split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition. Formal grammar can be out of place in a lot of books

Ginna was at St Peters with Morgan- they did Riverhead book

In the query letter, show awareness of the publishing company, be informed and personally passionate “I notice you publish this author’

At Graywolf the publishing process took 2 years.

The Editorial Freelancers association can help you find the right editor.

What Agents Want (sponsored by the Author’s Guild) (Paul Morris, Jeff Klienman, Anaji Singh, Sarah Bowlin) (This panel was among the most useful ones, agentwise)

Bowlin- Aevitas as of 2018

Singh- Ayesha pand. Does YA fiction. Was the agent for Persepolis!!!

Kleinman- Writer’s House, does no commercial fiction

Looking for an Agent- read the acknowledgements of your favorite books. Get a sense of you and the agency. Be able to articulate your premise in a few words, Show you’re engaged in the writing community (AWP stuff etc)

How do you find the best match? Publishers Marketplace Website, Poets and Writers Website, does Q and A roundtable, ask your writer friends, handouts, tell experience??/

Divide agents you find into 3 categories: A is top tier, B is okay, C is ‘if I had to’…Do 10 query letters picking from each category. Don’t use up all “A” options first round.

How do you know it’s too soon to submit? Only do it when you’re absolutely sick of it (I am). If you’ve made a personal connection with the agency that can change things though.

Write your own flap copy. For marketing, newsletters actually have a lot of impact. But the material is what matters.

In queries: Come through as an authentic person, show who you are, but don’t be too informal, use Mr/Ms.

Singh uses google docs.

Sometimes it can take years for the agent to meet the offer- they do Skype etc. When you get accepted, ask about the agent’s communication style, whether they check in a lot, and say what you need.

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Sponsored by WITS (Michele Kotler, Martin Rock, Abby Travis, Thomas Calder, Giuseppe Taurino) (found another person from my hometown on this one, talked to him, he seemed great)

Thomas Calder is a reporter for the Mountain Xpress in Asheville, Weekly Alternative

Grant writer is a career option- you tell a story of the nonprofit

Ask(h?) for a story, Foundation center (no idea what this is about)

You can list transferable skills from non-writing jobs while applying- time management, etc.

CLMP- Council of Literary Magazines and Presses

For application: Show curiosity and think critically- list you accomplishments rather than what you did- it’s not what you did but WHY it’s important that matters.

Advice for Navigating the Publishing World (Jean Kwok, Micheal S. Jackson, Rebecca Makai, Julia Fierro, Dina Nayer)

Kwok is an NYT bestselling author. (she was very funny)

Say “I love that you represent” and you are sending to “a few select agents.

When selling your book, make sure they SAY they’re your agent, let them know your needs communication wise, make sure the contract doesn’t bind you too much.

Fight for the edits you want. Fight for the cover. Know the publicity budget. Do book festivals, introduce at bookstores.

Whatever it Takes: Getting Your Book Attention (Sean Bernard, Vanessa Hua, Alice Rabins, Douglas Manuel, Ariel Lewiton)

Interview other writers during their promotions and help them so they will help you back. Go to lots of readings and so on.

Get someone to request your book from the public library so they’ll order it.

Go to Binders forthcoming books? If you’re a woman? (Google is not yielding what I could have meant by this. maybe I misheard)

Do early reads and reviews

Draft a letter of introduction to bookstores

Use the Draft2Digital app to put it on Overdrive itunes and so on, get local library to request ecopy as well

Start a mailing list ahead of time

To encourage people to buy the book, you can ask them to send a picture of themselves with it, then you’ll send a personal postcard or some other prize

You can hire an independent publicist but don’t go into debt.

Make a big announcement online but after that only talk about the book when it’s a call to action like getting people to preorder your book (or something new to show, like the cover)

They ask about details for the book, say “glad you asked, get on my mailing list”

Be sure to credit your designers etc emphasize “I’m not doing this alone”

Champion the works of others as your book is coming out, target your book’s niche (LGBTQ for me)

Writing Complex Female Characters for Young Audiences (Natalka Burian, Margaret Dilloway, Laura Shovan, Betsy Aldredge, Pintip Dunn (not here :() (I really wanted to talk to Ms. Dunn, as her book was one I read as research for my own, unfortunately she couldn’t attend the conference. She wrote a book called “Girl on the Verge.” The other panelists were great though)

Laura Shovan wrote Takedown– book about wrestling partners, boy and girl, shows emerging asexuality in a character and deals with discrimination against girls in wrestling.

Margaret Dilloway- Momotaro and Summer of a Thousand Pies

Burian- Welcome to the Slipstream

Aldredge- Sasquatch, Love and Other Imaginary Things.

Princess and the frogs- a story where a princess just wants a pet frog but they keep turning into princes! Great!

Editor: Wendy Lam

Mackenzie Lee: Badass Babes in History

Sum up characters with a guiding phrase for each act to sum up their needs and how they’ve changed Example: “What do you want?” “What do we need to do? Together?” “I’m going to get what I want”

Interview your character- how does she comfort someone who’s upset? What are they obsessed with? What do they notice?

Genderqueer Writers on Writing and Representing Outside the Gender Binary (Tiff Ferentini, Julia Leslie Guarch, Elliot Junkyard)

Tiff does marketing for Monkey Biz international, Associate editor at Kodansha, they/them pronouns

Julia hates all pronouns, didn’t catch what Elliot said

Recs: Acclamation by Vee Hoffman, “Untitled Feminist Show”, “Tomorrow Will Be Different” Carol Churchill, Sarah McBride, “Assigned Male”, “Pretty Boy”

Ask a transgender person on Reddit etc is good resource, RFTM

Writing strategy- do the original draft in black, the revision in blue, the added text red, changes you’re not sure about in blue.

Supporting New and Diverse Voices (Elizabeth Hodges, Kadija George, Paul Coates, Suzanne Dottino, Ibriham Ahmed)


Akeshic Books

Sable Magazine

St. Petersburg Review

Man wrote “Go Home”

The African American Literature Book Club

With affirmative action, there should be mentorship of other POC in place for POC

Have MFA, Will Teach (Kim Suhr, Jacque Brown, Alejandro Ramirez, Anette Marquis, Maria Louisa Arraya)

Arraya- does Workshops on multicultural poetry

Brown- university ops coordinator

Marquis- James River Writers

Ramirez- Freelancer

She partnered with the library to get grants, recs it, she’s a writer in residence

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