writer conference convention

Write-Up on the Minnesota Writing Workshop 2023

So this weekend I attended the 2023 Minnesota Writing Workshop in Saint Paul. I am averse to writing conferences because A) I’m extremely introverted and B) I can’t stand spending that much money on something that could potentially go nowhere. I’m not a gambler. I like to know I’m getting something for my money. Maybe I’m a Scrooge that way. Maybe I have to realize there are no guarantees in life.

But for one thing, I wanted to make some writer friends. To at least try and socialize and pretend I’m part of this community. And every time I read about how XYZ author got their book deal, a lot of them say it’s luck. Then right after, they say they met their agent at a conference.

I am not certain it was worth it, but I did get plenty of opportunity to revise my query letter and first pages for The Mudbow Sisters and Replaneted. That was because a lot of the panels gave me information I already knew. One just went over the “Save the Cat” outline, which I already follow religiously. Another went over anatomy of a query letter, which I already knew from research and especially QueryShark.

One was a “Writer’s Got Talent” panel that was intended to mimic the game show. Someone would read the first page of someone’s work and the panelists (who were editors or agents) would “raise their hands “buzz” at the point they would stop reading. So many of them let it continue to the end where I would have buzzed at least halfway through just out of boredom. Either editors are more tolerant than I think they are or they were just too shy/too polite to say anything. One of the agents just seemed to give up and sit there, just letting others speak. Then everyone else seemed to either get bored or have nothing to say. If only every editor or agent were as tolerant of mediocre writing, I would be in like Flint.

I feel like the panelists that they got for this convention weren’t advanced or experienced enough to help me refine my writing or query, at least not more than practice would serve. They were editors for children’s books and picture books and middle-grade male audience YA. They weren’t from any big agency or publishing house. And many were young, in their 20s or 30s.

Two big things I took away are A) stop starting your story with dialogue — without context the dialogue just washes over the reader and B) include something personal in the query letter that shows you’ve done research on the agent. Otherwise, it’s indistinguishable from a spam message.

So it wasn’t all without results, though they weren’t the results I intended to get. I didn’t come away with an agent, but I didn’t really intend to, because I didn’t buy a pitch. It was only $29, but since this was my first conference of this kind and didn’t know what to expect, I took the minimal risk of getting outside my comfort zone. I don’t feel I’m any better talking about my story than I am writing about it (maybe worse?) so I didn’t see how making a pitch could help. I guess I’ll never know for sure, because I can’t read the future. But I can read the stars.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.