25th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference – Part II

Publishing & Editing Sessions

The three Sessions covered distinct aspects of the publishing and editing process: finding an agent, submitting work to literary magazines, and revising your writing. The approaches to these topics were also very different but enlightening.

Shedding Light on the Agent Hunt – Elle E. Ire & Jose Iriarte

Married authors Elle Ire and Jose Iriarte both write and publish science fiction. Elle writes novels, with four books published and four more under contract. Jose has published short stories and a novelette and serves on the board of directors of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Together, they gave a savvy yet laid back, personable, and polished presentation on finding an agent, writing query letters, working with an agent, and other aspects of book publishing. All while deftly using the computerized projection screen to display the outline of their talk. The information they shared could easily be applied to other genres of book publishing.

Spotlight on Literary Magazines: 10 Tips for Submitting Your Work – Melanie Figg

Melanie Figg is a widely published poet, essayist, and editor who also teaches writing and has judged writing contests. Her business-focused presentation on submitting work to literary magazines covered the 10 tips I’ve been learning from the School of “Hard Knocks”–my own experience(!): (1) How literary magazines work; (2) [You MUST!] Read literary magazines; (3) How to find homes for your work; (4) Send your best work; (5) Follow [the magazine’s] guidelines; (6) Bios and cover letters; (7) Managing rejection; (8) Keep going! As for tips 9 and 10, I must have missed the memo, but I believe they involve the maxim “Wash, rinse, repeat!” In any case, Melanie also covered many insightful tips on the varying markets for writers, including a spirited discussion of the Young Adult market, geared to both adults and young writers engaged in that market.

Revising with Focus: The Guiding Light of the Novel – Meg Eden

Meg Eden, author of five poetry chapbooks, a novel, and a poetry collection, teaches writing at a community college. Her session on editing and revising that novel you’ve written made skillful use of the “academic classroom” approach, enabling more specific, hands-on exercises and good interaction among participants. Her premise was that a novel starts with a  thesis—i.e., an underlying message—the author wants to develop and support through the plot; sub-plot, scenes, and details; characters; point of view; and the protagonist, in contrast to an academic thesis that would be developed and supported by facts and figures. In the case of a novel, that underlying message must be shown, not simply told or preached. To demonstrate her premise, short exercises on writing a thesis or synopsis of a current work in progress were assigned to participants, with discussion and feedback shared after each one. The “Guiding Light” of a novel should answer three questions: (1) What does the character want vs. need to resolve? (2) What is the main obstacle or antagonist to that resolution? And (3) What are you, the author, trying to say—what matters most about the story? The answer to this last question is the thesis of the work and should be the thread that ties all the elements together.

Keynote Address: The Year of “Yes!” – Teri Ellen Cross Davis

I was awestruck, proud, and inspired by this address, delivered by the poet whose first book, Haint, I had purchased just before the Conference began. Mrs. Davis recounted her struggles to overcome “impostor syndrome”—which afflicts most writers early on but can be doubly inhibiting for writers of color who, in addition to having to overcome their individual self-doubts, must also overcome possible racial or cultural bias and stereotyping by potential publishers of their work. In other words, those rejection slips mean much more than “your work doesn’t fit our needs,” or “maybe you should wait until next year and try again.” Davis’s road to success includes embracing her multicultural heritage in her work, especially her Irish, as well as her African, heritage! Her road also includes travel—literally and figuratively—as well as studying a wide range of writing via fellowships, scholarship, and conferences; not to mention her academic accomplishments.

Davis’s antidote to doubt is to say “Yes!”—keep writing; and dare to explore new ways of writing. Try writing a different form of poetry – haikun, haibun, sonnet, etc., or an essay or memoir or play if you’ve never done so before.

Last Words – Keep dreaming, reading, writing, studying, and meeting other writers; and Keep Submitting your Work!

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