MWW22 Faculty Mia P. Manansala has exciting news!

Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Her debut novel, Arsenic and Adobo, is out now, and the sequel, Homicide and Halo-Halo, released February, 2022.

And let’s congratulate Mia because Arsenic and Adobo recently won the Agatha Award (from Malice Domestic) for Best First Novel!

Find out more at https://www.miamanansala.com

Mia will teach the sessions “How to Craft a Character That Can Carry a Series” and “The Inside Outline: The Perfect Tool for Outlining,” and as a panel member for “Point of Entry” (about novel openings). She is also on the MWW22 Manuscript Evaluation Team!

 

Check out the Full Faculty

Check out the Full Schedule

Q&A with Mia P. Manansala

Leah Lederman, MWW publicity chair, had a few questions for Mia P. Manansala about her sessions for MWW’s summer hybrid conference. She has helpful things to say that writers of any level can take to their practice.

Hopefully you enjoy this interview as much as we did!

MWW: You’re teaching a session about an easy outline method for writing books, the “Inside Outline.” It seems like something that could benefit outliners and pantsers alike. Are you an adamant outliner or do you find that there are specific times when pantsing might be advantageous?

MM: I’m a big proponent of “find the process that works for you.” The writing process varies from person to person and sometimes even from book to book, so I would never want it to seem like I’m delivering writing rules from on high. The Inside Outline is just another tool that a writer can utilize–the power is in its flexibility. You can use it to plan your book before drafting a single word, to figure out next steps when you get stuck midway through drafting, and/or to diagnose your book’s issues when it’s time to come up with a revision plan.

MWW: Your bio talks about your exploration of diverse voices. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters that are entirely unlike you, perhaps from a different gender, class, or race? How do you recommend writers approach this with sensitivity?

MM: For me, the most difficult thing is making sure that I’m doing these characters justice. That I’m not letting my ignorance and internal biases (which we all have) prevent me from writing a nuanced character rather than a flat caricature. I always recommend that you think of your characters as people–no group is a monolith, so making sure that you give each character the same attention to detail regarding backstory and nuance helps make them feel real. Second, get sensitivity reads and/or beta reads from people from those backgrounds. Again, no one can speak for their entire group, but hopefully they can pinpoint the areas that don’t feel right to them and make you think about your characters in a way you hadn’t before.

MWW: Your book Homicide and Halo-Halo came out in February–congratulations! Tell me, when you have a writing “win” how do you reward yourself?

MM: 99.9% of the time, a writing win means going out for a nice meal or sweet treat. If you can’t tell from my books, I LOVE food. If it’s a really big win, like signing a contract, I’ll shove aside my Midwestern frugalness to splurge on something I really want but would normally not buy.

MWW: When you’re creating characters, what elements of real live people do you use? Do you pull from people you know, people in history or celebrities, strangers on the street? How do you melt their attributes down into compelling characters? 

MM: I’ll take certain personality traits or quirks from people I know, and combine them with aspects I make up entirely. I don’t want any of my characters to be a discernible person, so I’ll decide each characters’ defining trait(s) and build around that.

MWW: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar?

MM: My website/author logo has a peacock feather because peacocks have my favorite color palette (purples, blues, and greens), but I’m not sure what that says about me as a writer!

There are takeaways for everyone, no matter your genre.

MWW22 is an important opportunity for you to network with others and build a writing community for yourself.

REGISTER NOW!

Stretch to the next level with MWW22!

MWW board member and writer Leah McNaughton Lederman encourages you to stretch your writing! 

Because I write primarily creative nonfiction, I aim for the creative nonfiction sessions at any conference I attend. Makes sense, right?

But then it happened: There wasn’t a creative nonfiction option available. Huh. Well, I supposed, a poetry session might work in a pinch.

Let me tell you, it most certainly worked.

Writing within the constraints of a different medium pulled ideas and phrases out of me that I didn’t know I had in me; it forced me to approach my ideas from a different angle and spilled my word-hoard in refreshing and delightful ways.

Now I make it a point to attend workshops outside of my chosen genre. After all, what piece of nonfiction couldn’t benefit from the scene setting, character building, and dialogue studied in fiction sessions? And the autobiographical elements of fiction can be finessed onto the page using the memory-mining techniques of nonfiction. Poetry’s precision of language and inside-out phrasing create a lyrical quality in your prose. All of these things will compel your readers to move forward and turn the page.

Of course, this isn’t an original revelation—some of you may even be thinking, “Well, duh.” But hey, it’s worth talking about. Especially as the Midwest Writers Workshop first-ever hybrid summer conference approaches…

We’re offering you the opportunity to attend ALL of our sessions in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, plus research and the writing process! Heck, watch them more than once with the recordings you’ll receive. If you’re a fiction writer, you can try on some nonfiction; a nonfiction writer can wrestle their ideas into a poem, a poet can stretch their legs into an essay. Each session features a different type of word wrangling, planning, exposition, plotting, and pacing.

Challenge yourself! Your writing will gain depths and layers that will mesmerize your readers.

Join MWW this summer for our first-ever hybrid conference. You can attend in person at the beautiful Ball State Alumni Center, or sit in from wherever you’re located (pajamas recommended).

There are takeaways for everyone, no matter your genre. MWW22 is an important opportunity for you to network with others and build a writing community for yourself. 

Stay tuned! Future E-pistle newsletters and blogs will feature faculty members with videos and interviews. They will help you write your story!

~ Leah McNaughton Lederman

Registration available for MWW22 Hybrid Conference!

Join us for the 49th Midwest Writers Workshop

MWW22 Conference: Craft + Community

Thursday, July 14 – Saturday, July 16, 2022

MWW22 is our first ever hybrid conference! This July 14 – 16, whether you attend in person or online (using Zoom), we have top-notch instructors leading interactive sessions, enlightening panels on vital topics, and networking opportunities to help you expand your writing community. Our keynote speaker is Jane Friedman! 

This version of MWW allows us to offer plenty of instruction, networking, and the sense of community that makes MWW so special. Come to Muncie, Indiana, and join us at the beautiful Ball State Alumni Center for our 49th writers’ conference, or join us virtually wherever you’re located.

Our hybrid MWW22 includes:

**In-person sessions and/or Zoom video conferencing that feature a variety of topics determined by each faculty member, writing prompts, and vital, informative, enjoyable discussions to build your skills as a writer.

**A remarkable faculty who know their stuff, providing information for aspiring writers at all stages of their journey.

**Instruction led by renowned faculty for the genres of:

  • Fiction – Katrina Kittle
  • Fiction – Martin Seay
  • Fiction/Mystery – Mia P. Manansala
  • Fiction/Thriller – Matthew Clemens
  • Young Adult – Michelle Falkoff
  • Poetry/Memoir – Kathleen Rooney
  • Nonfiction/Essays – Jack Heffron
  • Thursday evening keynote: Jane Friedman
  • Friday evening: Angela Jackson-Brown, “Autopsy of a Novel”

Why attend?

Do you dream of getting your story out of your heart and into a book? It’s time to turn that dream into reality. We’ll help you get those words onto paper and craft your story into a powerful offering.

That’s the vision behind our mission statement and our passion to help writers. We’re dedicated to maintaining and building our MWW writing community to nurture writers at every stage of their journey, giving them the tools they need to improve their craft and achieve their publishing goals.

MWW22 is designed to guide you to the next step in your writing journey. Whether you’re a beginner with zero experience or you’ve been writing for years, you’ll want the collective wisdom of our conference faculty. These authors will empower you to dream, write, and publish the story inside you. 

 **Private Facebook Group plus evening “Talkabouts” for camaraderie and to build connections with other participants and faculty.

**Can’t attend all the sessions live? No problem. MWW is offering archival video access to ALL attendees for ALL sessions for three months following the conference.

The cost for our in-person MWW22 experience is $269 [reduced from $399!] 

No more having to choose among breakout sessions! Attend ALL sessions live or watch the recordings for up to three months later. This format encourages all writers to stretch beyond their genre and learn from every instructor.

We know that a writing conference can make your head with new information and inspiration when it’s all over! Our hybrid setup gives you the chance to go back and revisit the sessions. That way you can catch any content that you missed, rewatch sessions you found particularly helpful, or get inspired all over again!

The In-Person Experience:

  • Manuscript evaluations: Evaluation of your first five pages plus a one-page synopsis of a manuscript, completed or in progress. The $50 fee covers a 15-minute one-on-one in-person appointment during the conference.
  • Office Hour with each faculty: Have you ever wanted to sit with a published author and pick their brains on topics like: publishing, revising, or anything else that relates to becoming an author? This is your opportunity. You don’t need an appointment, just drop in for these informal sessions with our faculty members.
  • Meal fellowship with participants: Sign up for lunches (pre-order when you register) and hang out with other writers at the Ball State Alumni Center. (See FAQ for details.)
  • Ball State Bookstore on-site vendor: Purchase books by our MWW22 faculty and Board. Get them autographed!
  • MWW Consignment Bookstore: If you’re a published author attending in-person, you can sell your books at our consignment bookstore. (See FAQ for details.)
  • MWW merchandise: Take something home to commemorate your MWW22 experience!

Note* In-Person attendees will have virtual access to live sessions as well. Virtual attendees will have virtual access only.

The cost for our Virtual MWW22 experience is $199.

From the comfort of your home (think: pajamas!), enjoy sessions in real time, participating in a live chat with other writers who are joining virtually. Or tap back in later! Recordings of sessions will be available for three months after the conference.

Join us to be inspired and equipped for the next step in your writing journey!

Find the entire schedule: here.

Find the faculty bios: here.

Register HERE!

Jane Friedman talks marketing for writers

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors, and has previously worked for Writer’s Digest and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 2019, Jane was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World; her newsletter was awarded Media Outlet of the Year in 2020.

MWW presents this Jane Friedman course: Magical Marketing Trifecta for Writers, Saturday, February 26, 2022.
Morning Session (10:30 am – 12:00 pm EST); 
Afternoon Session (1:30 pm – 3:00 pm EST. Can’t attend the sessions live? No problem. MWW is offering archival video access for three months to ALL registered attendees.

EARLY BIRD REGISTRATION ENDS 1/31! Register Now!

Most published authors have some kind of online presence, including a website and email newsletter or Facebook page, but they don’t have a clue what it means to develop a cohesive, smart approach that integrates them all. For writers who want to see their online activity pay off, it requires some high-level and strategic thinking about who that writing is meant to reach and who you want to attract over the long term. This course with Jane will look at key strategies and principles for using your website, online writing (such as blogging), email, and social media in concert with each other to better reach and engage readers, both new and old.

MWW: We are thrilled to have another event with you! What’s your connection to the Midwest and Midwest Writers Workshop?

JF: I began speaking at MWW in 2003, when I was an editor at Writer’s Digest magazine in Cincinnati. My boss at the time told me I should reach out to MWW and offer my speaking services, which I thought was rather bold and aggressive—but it worked! MWW said yes.

I continued speaking at MWW for the next 15 years—I think you can say that we’re a good fit. 🙂 I’m originally from Indiana and went to school in Muncie, so I have a lot of connections to the people and the place.

MWW: What’s the number one thing you’d like participants to walk away with after attending The Magical Marketing Trifecta for Writers?

JF: A sense that whatever work needs to be done, it can be done, sustainably, in a way that matches your strengths and values. Marketing doesn’t work unless you yourself believe in what you’re doing. You don’t have to follow the crowd or do it all or push yourself to do things you hate. While there are certain foundational steps and principles surrounding websites and email that I recommend, they are not out of reach for even the most busy, tech-averse writer. It’s a serious of small steps, one after the other. And there’s a wonderful feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when you see the results of this work.

MWW: I often find incorrect or misleading advice out there for writers. What are some of the myths regarding the publishing industry’s expectations on author platform?

JF: There are a lot of misleading messages about needing a huge social media following in order to land a book deal or how you have to be active on all these different social media sites, or you need to do live video, etc. There are no “musts” here. You do not have to become some kind of superstar or influencer on social for it to be effective. It’s more about building relationships and connections with other people so you’re not working in isolation. No one wants to launch a book all alone. You want support. And social media is wonderful at building that community of support.

MWW: In what ways do you see the publishing industry changing in the next five years, and what effect will this have on writers aspiring to publish their work and maintain an online presence?

JF: More than half of all book sales now happen online, mostly at Amazon, regardless of format. That shift is only going to become more pronounced in the future. As more people discover and buy books online, an online presence becomes more important for marketing and promotion. If you have no website, no email newsletter, no online presence whatsoever, you’re making it much harder on yourself to spread the word about your book. Not impossible necessarily, just hard. The good news is that online tools offer both authors and publishers a wonderful amount of insight into who’s buying your books and where to find more readers.

MWW: Aside from your own excellent website and classes, what sources would you recommend for reliable information on publishing and online presence, and what’s the best way for writers to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry?

JF: The Writer’s Bridge is a good resource for platform building: https://thewritersbridge.com/

For industry updates, consider subscriptions to Publishers Weekly and/or Publishers Lunch. The Authors Guild and the Alliance of Independent Authors are wonderful organizations that also offer news, updates, and education on business topics and trends—for both members and non-members.

MWW: What’s the platform advice you find yourself giving to writers most often?

JF: Be patient. These things take time. Don’t abandon your efforts too early.

MWW: What are your favorite books to read?

JF: I love anything by Alain de Botton and The School of Life.

Join us and move forward with your writing goals!

22 Writing Affirmations for 2022

The new year is a great time to start fresh, reflect on our accomplishments from the past twelve months and consider what we’d like to do differently. It’s a time to set new goals!

And then somewhere around the second week, we lose track. Life gets in the way; we get in our own way.

It happens to all of us, so don’t beat yourself up! Here are 22 affirmations to keep you moving along. Read them out loud and remind yourself of them throughout the year. And add your own!

  1. I am a writer.
  2. I have a voice.
  3. My words matter.
  4. Someone out there is waiting for my words and needs to hear them.
  5. My words are worth making time for.
  6. I can let go of my writing obstacles; I can work around them.
  7. I don’t have to wait for inspiration, I just have to show up.
  8. My writing has something to show me.
  9. My words don’t have to be perfect.
  10. I have the power to create something beautiful. I can write scenes and images that resonate with my readers.
  11. Everything I need is within me.
  12. I am talented and hone my skills when I write.
  13. I can set goals and reach towards them one small step at a time.
  14. I define my writing successes.
  15. I deserve my writing successes and take satisfaction in them.
  16. Other people’s successes do not detract from mine.
  17. Constructive criticism strengthens my writing.
  18. Rejection is an opportunity for growth.
  19. I am not alone in my writing journey.
  20. I have opportunities to find and create writing communities.
  21. The Midwest Writers Workshop has my back.
  22. I got this.
And don’t forget: MWW is here to cheer you on!

Register for Jane Friedman’s The Magical Marketing Trifecta for Writers

MWW Virtual One-Day Conference with Jane Friedman

The Magical Marketing Trifecta for Writers

Saturday, February 26, 2022

  • Morning Session (10:30 am – 12:00 pm EST)
  • Afternoon Session (1:30 pm – 3:00 pm EST)
  • Cost: $79 early bird; $99 after January 31

The Magical Marketing Trifecta for Writers
Most published authors have some kind of online presence, including a website and email newsletter or Facebook page, but they don’t have a clue what it means to develop a cohesive, smart approach that integrates them all. For writers who want to see their online activity pay off, then it requires some high-level and strategic thinking about who that writing is meant to reach and who you want to attract over the long term. This seminar will look at key strategies and principles for using your website, online writing (such as blogging), email, and social media in concert with each other to better reach and engage readers, both new and old.

In this workshop, you will:

  • Uncover the principles and techniques for building a career and platform in a way that plays to your strengths, with special attention paid to lead generation (that is: finding readers).
  • Learn the concepts of “content strategy” and “marketing funnel” and why these are important to determining how you will use email, social media, and your website.
  • Understand how to use social media in a way that’s supportive of your goals and not a distraction (the big secret: focus).
  • Find out why you should start building an email list today even if you think you have nothing to say.
  • Gain insight into the best practices of online writing (and/or blogging), especially headline writing, and how to get attention for what you write and post online.
  • Explore opportunities to grow your readership through collaborations, partnerships, and influencers.

For writers who would like to be smarter and more efficient about their online presence—and see that activity pay off—this seminar will push you to connect the dots between all your efforts and get your digital ships sailing in the same direction.

Can’t attend the sessions live? No problem. MWW is offering archival video access for three months to ALL registered attendees.

REGISTER TODAY!

About Jane:

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors, and has previously worked for F+W Media and the Virginia Quarterly Review. In 2019, Jane was awarded Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World; her newsletter was awarded Media Outlet of the Year in 2020.

Jane’s newest book is The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press); Publishers Weekly said that it is “destined to become a staple reference book for writers and those interested in publishing careers.” Also, in collaboration with The Authors Guild, she wrote The Authors Guild Guide to Self-Publishing.

In addition to being a professor with The Great Courses, Jane maintains an award-winning blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.

Jane has delivered keynotes and workshops on the digital era of authorship at worldwide industry events, including the Writer’s Digest annual conference, Stockholm Writers Festival, San Miguel Writers Conference, The Muse & The Marketplace, Frankfurt Book Fair, BookExpo America, and Digital Book World. She’s also served on grant panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund, and has held positions as a professor of writing, media, and publishing at the University of Cincinnati and University of Virginia.

In her spare time, Jane writes creative nonfiction, which has been included in the anthologies Every Father’s Daughter and Drinking Diaries. If you look hard enough, you can also find her embarrassing college poetry.

 

Looking back on this year with MWW

It was so lovely to see all of your faces at our events during 2021 (even if they were in tiny Zoom squares)! We love to watch the MWW community grow.

MWW Agent Fest 2021 was a blast!

We’re still digesting all of the information from the agents! There was so much useful advice and insight to incorporate into our pitches and queries, and that sneak peek into the publishing industry was invaluable addition to our writing journey.

 

Agent Fest Attendees weigh in:

“There was a great lineup of presenters, the assistants were very helpful and organized, and everything ran very smoothly from a technical perspective!”

“Very well organized and well executed by everyone involved with the conference. Good variety of agents, from newbies to old pros.”

“Topics were very timely for me. The best thing was being able to pitch to agents. As a person new to the group I felt welcomed. Nice ambiance. Love that I can access the videos for the sessions I couldn’t attend live.”

Our summer conference sizzled!

With a knock-out faculty lineup and plenty of opportunities to network and connect with other writers, we finished that week brimming with ideas and inspiration!

Summer Conference Attendees weigh in:

“MWW is the best value I’ve found, especially for new writers. The virtual sessions are especially easy to attend no matter where you live, but if you live in a neighboring state, the drive is worth it in order to meet the presenters and attendees personally. It’s the friendliest conference I’ve attended.”

“Writing’s a lonesome endeavor, not least of all because so many of us writers tend to be a little introverted. But MWW did a fantastic job of connecting writers with one another and with faculty. The moderators and instructors at #MWW21 were friendly, helpful, encouraging, thoughtful, smart–all the things you want out of an entertaining and educational conference. I made some amazing connections and received invaluable advice from people who’ve been where I want to be.”

“The amount of knowledge and expertise was amazing. Everyone was friendly, and respectful to each other. Loved the creativity of all.”

MWW is here for you. Follow us into 2022 and beyond!

“These conferences are well-established, organized, informative, and they draw excellent publishing professional representatives. I’ll definitely attend more in the future.” –Lynette Eklund

“I started my writing career with Midwest Writers Workshop. They get right to the core of what you need to know about the publishing industry. The programs guide you all the way through getting your book, proposal and pitch ready for successfully grabbing an agents total attention. Bravo to a dedicated team who really care about writers.” –Susan H. Holland

“MWW is the highlight of my writing year!”

Thank you all for making our events so wonderful and fun. Our goal is to provide you with the writing resources and community you need so that your writing can flourish!

We’re here to cheer you on in your writing journey!

Literary agent Regina Ryan: eager to find new nonfiction talent

Meet Regina! She’s one of eight literary agents participating in the MWW Agent Fest Online, October 13-16.

Regina Ryan has been the head of her own boutique literary agency for some 40 years, handling mainly adult nonfiction and a small, selected list of juvenile nonfiction. Her areas of interest are wide-ranging and eclectic and include narrative nonfiction, natural history (particularly birds), popular science, the environment and sustainability, gardening, women’s issues, parenting, psychology, business, health, wellness, self-improvement, lifestyle, history, food travel, popular reference and, very occasionally, memoir. She loves good stories, good writing and books that are helpful and/or offer a fresh understanding of the way things work in the world. Among her recent sales are The Appalachian Trail: A Biography by Philip D’Anieri, Birdsong for the Curious Naturalist by Donald Kroodsma, Ph.D., Your Brain on Pregnancy: A Guide to Understanding and Protecting Your Mental Health During Pregnancy and Beyond by Dawn Kingston, Ph.D., Saving Nature: One Backyard at a Time by David Deardorff, Ph.D. and Kathryn Wadsworth, The Great War and the Making of Modern Medicine by Thomas Helling, M.D.; New on Earth: Baby Animals in the Wild by Suzi Eszterhas, A Blissful Feast and Other Culinary Adventures in Italy’s Piedmont, Maremma, and Le Marche by Teresa Lust, and Birding Florida by Randi Minetor.

Regina will present the session “How to Write a Nonfiction Proposal.”

Check out the full faculty here!

Check out the full schedule here!

MWW: You belong to an impressive list of associations and organizations and have even founded some! Are there groups you would recommend to aspiring writers? 

RR: I always recommend the Authors Guild to writers. They have a wonderfully supportive community of members and also answer legal questions writers come up against. In addition, many of my authors find writer support groups in their own communities are helpful. Some libraries run these or authors start them themselves.

MWW: I noticed you have a fondness for birds (my mother is an avid birder, and I’ve grown up loving them). What attracts you to birds, and what particular sighting do you remember most?

RR: What an interesting question. I remember my first sighting of a bird that thrilled me as a young person — it was a bright red cardinal in an evergreen bush in front of my house. I think I was about ten. I couldn’t believe my eyes! And I’m still that way about birds. They are astonishingly beautiful, mysterious, and inspiring to me. I love to watch them go about their business, hoping I’ll learn their ways.

MWW: What elements make a story stand out to you? 

RR: I think the most important thing is to keep the reader’s interest through narrative drive, even moreso than wonderful writing. Never underestimate the power of narrative and the allure of the question: what happens next? When I’m reading, I love feeling I’ve just got to find out “what happens next!” which means I’ve fallen under the spell of a story. Characterization is important too, of course — but to my mind, it’s not as crucial as narrative drive.

MWW: What’s the primary message you want attendees to take home from your Agent Fest session? 

RR: That agents and publishers are real people — not special and superior beings and they are eager to find new talent.

MWW: Are there elements of a query that make you immediately dismiss it? 

RR: Hyperbole in any area makes me very suspicious. I also want to know as soon as possible why I should pay attention to the person writing the query. Why is it going to be worth my time to read what he or she has to say. If that’s not there, I can’t take the query seriously.

Register for Agent Fest Online and pitch your nonfiction to Regina!

Follow her on Twitter — @ReginaRyanBooks

Agent Jeff Ourvan seeks page-turning narratives

Meet Jeff! He’s one of eight literary agents participating in the MWW Agent Fest Online, October 13-16.

Jeff Ourvan is a literary agent with the New York-based Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency and heads up their books-to-film efforts. He’s also an attorney, author and the founder of The WriteWorkshops, which are intensive writing workshops for debut and experienced novelists and memoirists. Some of Jeff’s recent representations include Christopher Knowlton’s Bubble In The Sun, Peter Houlahan’s Norco ’80, and Ron Ferguson and Tatsha Robertson’s The Formula. A boutique publishing imprint Jeff established, Stone Tiger Books, this summer released Chasing Butterflies: The True Story of a Daughter Of 9/11, by Ashley Bisman.

Prior to working as a literary agent, Jeff was a magazine editor, as well as a corporate attorney, public relations consultant, geologist and commercial fisherman. He is a lifelong Buddhist, loves long road trips, has been to all fifty US states, and once drove from Manhattan to the Arctic Circle.

Wish list:

Narrative nonfiction, histories, science, sports, and unusual memoirs. For fiction, I tend to seek romance, sci-fi, YA and MG, and mysteries.

Jeff will present the sessions “How to Pitch; Common Mistakes; What Not to Do When You Pitch” and “The Pros and Cons of Independent vs. Traditional Publishing.” He is also a member of the Query Letter Critique Team, which offers (for an additional fee) the opportunity to meet for a 10-minute one-on-one consultation to discuss your query letter AND the first page of your manuscript.

Check out the full faculty here!

Check out the full schedule here!

MWW: Some agents prefer a proposal for a memoir; others prefer a query letter. Do you have a preference, and why do you think there are such discrepancies within the field?

JO: When it comes to pitching a memoir, I prefer a query letter. If the query piques my interest, then I’d next ask to see a proposal or the full manuscript. I can’t speak for how other agents work, but often I collect queries in my inbox over a period of 2-6 weeks, and when I set aside time to read through what could be hundreds of emails it’s not always practical to stop to review a proposal. If an author is serious about securing an agent, that author really should devote considerable time to crafting a sparkling query letter – an excellent query letter has often made me jump all over a prospective project. In my view, whatever is outstanding in your proposal can indeed be crystallized into a fine query letter – it’s not easy, it’s a craft in itself, but this is the most effective way to get my attention as an agent. As for why there are such discrepancies within the publishing field – well, we are part of what I consider to be the most notoriously subjective business on Earth!

MWW: Is there anything writers should always ask an agent but don’t seem to know because they’re new to being represented?

JO: I think this is sort of a two-part question – what to ask an agent before you have one, and what to ask that agent once you’re signed on. If you find yourself in the fortunate position to choose between two or more offering agents, then you’ll want to consider a few matters: the agent’s client roster and track record; the terms of the offered agency agreement; the enthusiasm the agent appears to have for your project, and whether there’s a shared experience with respect to the material; and the general nature of the relationship a specific agent looks to have with his or her authors. As for the agent or agency’s client roster, it can cut both ways. We all would want the most powerful and successful of agencies, but does that mean you might get “lost” in a client base with celebrity authors? At the same time, you don’t necessarily want an agency that’s too small or just starting out – what contacts in the industry does an unknown agency have? The happy medium, I think, is best – a boutique literary agency with a strong client list, one that has excellent publishing contacts but not too, too many author superstars dominating the lion’s share of their time.

Once you’ve signed on to an agency, then I think you ought to take full advantage of the resources offered. For example, as an agent, I expect to work with my authors on editing or brainstorming their manuscripts to help get them ready to be marketed. I know some agents don’t do this, viewing their roles as simply salespersons, but many other agents are eager to “get in under the hood” with the author to help craft the work. In part, this is why you should choose an agent that has some personal affinity for what you’re writing, whether it be subject matter, theme or genre. Also make sure you understand every provision in the agency agreement and, even more importantly, the publishing contract – your agent should walk you through all the elements of a deal until you understand exactly what will be expected of you.

MWW: Are there specific elements in a manuscript that help determine whether you think you’d like to work that story, or do you approach each manuscript differently?

JO: Again, because “what’s good” is so inherently subjective, I would think every agent is attracted to certain stories or themes that resonate with them. For example, I like well-paced stories, and I look for them – when I’m told by an author that he or she needs five chapters to really develop the characterization before the plot kicks in at around chapter six, I know this work might not be for me. So one of the dynamics I’m keen to discover in a work is the interplay between the plot and the protagonist – does every plot development compel the protagonist to adjust? Does the character adjustment affect the subsequent development of the plot line? This interplay precipitates a story’s energy and keeps the pace from flagging. I was a geologist, so I love science themes; I’m a nut for Shakespeare and have lived long enough to have been burned a few times, so bring me stories about betrayal; I love love, so I adore romantic fiction; and I’m fascinated by Alaska, so books set there always get my attention – my list of interests, of course, goes on and on. Ideally you want to find an agent who is fully invested in your subject matter – an agent ought to be your audience, your guide and certainly your biggest cheerleader. An agent can’t be all that if they’re insincere – so, yes, every agent worth their salt looks for specific elements in each work that appeal to them. We’re not stuck on one genre, usually, and we approach each manuscript differently, but every author I take on has a work that strikes within me a personal chord.

MWW: A lot of authors out there are debating if they need an agent. What are the advantages of having an agent versus not having an agent, and when should an author seek out agent representation?

JO: This is a pretty simple equation. Many acquiring editors will only read manuscripts pitched to them by established agents. So if you’re hoping for a trade publisher to publish your work, chances are you need an agent to get your foot in the door. Of course, not every publisher relies on agencies to be their gatekeepers. Some medium or smaller publishers are open to pitches from authors directly. There are also the times where an editor sees a news story or a social media post and approaches that individual to write a book – that author may not necessarily need an agent. An agent, generally, provides for an author the “passport” to access major publishing houses; the agent also offers important guidance with respect to the terms of a publishing agreement; an agent, additionally, should serve as an editorial sounding board, helping the author to “fix” what might be “wrong” in what he or she thought was a finished manuscript. Not every author needs all this, of course, but it still seems to me that an agent provides important advantages to those seeking traditional trade publication.

On the other hand, the agent takes a 15-20% commission, depending on the terms of the agency agreement and the sales of specific rights. So an author, of course, is paying for the above-described work and guidance.

Lastly, I’d mention that independent (self-) publishing has grown into a dominating presence in the book market. Naturally, if the goal is to independently publish – and there are both advantages and relative disadvantages to doing so – then the author has no real need for an agent.

And, lastly lastly – don’t seek out agent representation until your manuscript (or proposal) is actually finished and ready to be seen!

Register for Agent Fest Online and pitch your fiction to Jeff!

Follow him on Twitter — @WriteWorkshopNY

Agent Amanda Orozco represents both fiction and nonfiction

Meet Amanda! She’s one of eight literary agents participating in the MWW Agent Fest Online, October 13-16.

Before joining Transatlantic, Amanda Orozco gained a breadth of experience in academic publishing, publicity, subsidiary rights, and agenting. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Physiological Science and an English minor and worked as a Fine Art instructor and freelance editor for several years before moving to New York to complete the NYU Masters of Science in Publishing: Digital and Print Media. While at NYU, she worked at the National Book Foundation, Shreve Williams Public Relations, and The Gernert Company; she was also selected to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Beijing International Book Fair. Upon graduating from NYU in 2019, she worked in Subsidiary Rights at Little, Brown, where she helped sell rights for authors such as Michael Connelly, Elin Hilderbrand, and Sarah Knight, until discovering agenting was her true calling. She worked at Park & Fine Literary and Media before moving back to Los Angeles, where she is now excited to build her list at Transatlantic.

Amanda has been a member of PoCinPub since 2018 and currently works for Dryland, the literary journal born in South Central, where she aims to amplify marginalized voices from the literary underground.

Wish List:

Amanda is particularly drawn to stories from Asian and Latinx writers, though she is always looking for stories with compelling writing featuring protagonists with a distinct voice and personality; clever, quirky, gritty, and/or twisty stories that surprise her and keep her reading through the night.

For fiction, she’s looking for YA contemporary romance and fantasy, as well as literary and upmarket adult fiction in the contemporary, speculative, horror, and romance genres. She has a soft spot for coming-of-age stories, multi-generational family sagas, short story collections, and the occasional urban fantasy. Recent favorites include Mary H.K. Choi, Elizabeth Acevedo, Weike Wang, Kiley Reid, Ling Ma, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, and Leigh Bardugo. She is not the right agent for thrillers, mysteries, procedurals, space operas, or historical fiction.

For nonfiction, she’s interested in stories that offer fresh cultural, political, and/or social critiques along with personal narratives on art, pop culture, tech, and forgotten, unexamined history. She is looking for perspectives from the margins or from emerging artists and academics with original ideas and sharp commentary. She is open to select poetry, memoirs, and illustrated gift/humor books. Recent favorites include Carmen Maria Machado, Cathy Park Hong, Roxane Gay, Ayad Akhtar, and Jenny Odell.

Amanda will present the session “What Agents are Looking for in a Query Letter.” (Check full schedule here.) She is also a member of the Query Letter Critique Team, which offers (for an additional fee) the opportunity to meet for a 10-minute one-on-one consultation to discuss your query letter AND the first page of your manuscript.

MWW: You represent both fiction and nonfiction. Are there different qualities that make fiction shine as opposed to the ones that make nonfiction shine?

AO: I don’t think they’re necessarily different qualities between the two; for both, I would say the voice and writing are key! The unexpected usage of language, the unconventional format or structure, an old story told in a new way… all of these could be applied to both fiction and nonfiction and perhaps the difference would just be in how they’re applied to the project that makes it stand out.

MWW: Name the three top things you look for in a pitch.

AO: 1. Personalization (Is it addressed to me or to another agent mistakenly, which happens more than you would think… Is it clear there’s a reason why the author is querying me specifically or is the opening line a generic, “because you’re looking for fiction”?)

2. Succinct, punchy one-sentence hook (Does the author know how to summarize/market the book in an effective way? Do the comp titles feel relevant?)

3. Author bio (Who is the author as a person? What is their professional background and how does that contribute to their work?)

MWW: What do you hope for when tackling the slush pile? What are you tired of seeing?

AO: Like many in the industry, I’m hoping to fall in love… to come across a project that will make me sit up in my chair and want to read more, where the writing and characters and story are surprising and authentic and compelling. If a book can keep me reading late into the night, then it’s a home run.  I receive such a range of queries it’s hard to say if there’s one thing I’m tired of seeing… I suppose of all the queries, the most common one I’ve received has been in the YA fantasy genre. I wouldn’t say I’m tired of seeing them, because I love the genre, but it does make it difficult for a YA fantasy project to stand out in the crowd.

MWW: What makes you keep reading—or stop reading—a manuscript?

AO: What keeps me reading is superlative writing and narrative voice! When the writing serves the story and doesn’t draw attention to itself… when the characters feel real and engaging and the dialogue is sharp… when I can be immersed in the story and the narrative voice feels naturally strong and different.

What causes me to stop reading is usually if the manuscript does the opposite of any of these!

MWW: What are the biggest takeaways you want attendees to take home from your Agent Fest session?

AO: I’d love for them to know that when they’re querying, they’re querying a human being! Agents are humans, too; we’re not robots or machines or miracle workers. We are just humans, looking for connection through the stories that they’re sharing with us, that we can then help share with editors and publishers and readers all over the world. Be as genuine as you can in your queries–and be patient!

 

Register for Agent Fest Online and pitch your fiction or nonfiction to Amanda!

Follow her on Twitter — @oczoroadnama