I'm Counting the Days...

By Mollie Glick - Foundry Literary & Media
2011 Conference Faculty Member

I'm counting the days to the SCWW because having spent summers in Kiawa Island as a child, South Carolina holds a special place in my heart! And I'm dying to fall in love with some new novels.

I've been selling a lot of high concept literary fiction lately, from Ronda Rhiley's ADAM HOPE to Ecco (the same publisher as EDGAR SAWTELLE), to Carol Brunt's TELL THE WOLVES I'M HOME, which sold to Dial, to Elizabeth Garrett's THE DROWNING HOUSE, which sold to Nan Talese, but I haven't been swept off my feet for a while and I am always looking for the next TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, THE NIGHT CIRCUS or THE SPARROW.

I've also been selling a lot of great YA projects like Gennifer Albin's CREWEL to FSG Kids, and Josie Angelini's STARCROSSED series to Harper, and can't wait to find my next YA crush. And as always, I adore popular science, memoir and narrative nonfiction of all stripes. I just read an article about a blind man who taught himself to navigate by a form of sonar, that absolutely fascinated me, and I'd love to find a great one of a kid story like that.

The publishing market is tough these days, but I firmly believe that cream rises to the top, and if you're passionate about a project, you can make it work. One of the best things about being an agent is the close collaborative relationship you form with your authors, so I very much look forward to meeting all of you this October. And if you've got a novel I won't be able to out down, send it my way!

Warmest wishes,
Mollie Glick

New Faculty Member & Other Updates

We’ve added our final faculty member for the 2011 conference – Mollie Glick of Foundry Media. For more information on Mollie, please be sure to visit the SCWW website, www.myscww.org/conference. You’ll also find updated pages on many of the faculty members, as well as more information on critiques.

Speaking of critiques and other faculty appointments, we've got several faculty members selling out or close to selling out. Here's a quick udate:

Frenkel Extended Critiques
Plummer Standard Critiques

Baker-Baughman Standard Critiques
LaPolla Real-Time Queries
Barr Pitches
Barr Extended Critiques
Jeglinski Extended Critiques
Henkin Standard Critiques
O'Neil Standard Critiques
Sun Pitches
Sun Real-Time Queries

If you haven't registered yet, be sure to do so soon if you want the best chance to grab an appointment with your dream faculty member. All appointments are scheduled on a first-come, first served basis. And, to clarify some confusion from last year, that means first-to-register-online basis. Do not lose the chance to get one-on-one time with a faculty member because you think you can sign up for time when you get to the conference. All appointments must be purchased before the conference. In addition, to lessen confusion at the appointment rooms, you may not change, transfer or swap appointment times. This way, all attendees will be able to make the most of every second of their appointment times.

As mentioned before, attendees who register for critiques will be notified within five business days of receipt of critique materials who their appointments will be with in October. Shortly before the conference, attendees with appointments will receive emails with their times.

Should you have any questions about other faculty appointments, please wait until at least five business days after you register and then email scwwconference2011@gmail.com.

Finally, if you've already registered and would like to add an appointment, please email scwwconference2011@gmail for more information.

Why You Should Enter the Carrie McCray Contest…WHY NOT?

If you check out the Carrie McCray Contest, you will see that there are four first place prizes. One for poetry, one for first chapter novel, one for short fiction and one for non-fiction. There’s a two hundred dollar first prize in each event. Win one of them and you’ve paid for half of your conference registration. Win two, and well…you can do the math. Win all four and you can walk away with money in your pocket. I’m beginning to sound like a carnival vendor.

Writing contests flourish across the country. You are often competing against a thousand or more other entries. In the Carrie McCray Contest you are only competing against other writers who are attending the SCWW Conference with you. Do the math.

Entering contests is a good discipline to incorporate to polish your skills. It forces you to lock into a due date, limit yourself to a specific word count and re-write that feature article you’ve had sitting on the shelf for ..how long has it been? Plus it doesn’t look half-bad on your bio. You’re a writer, right? It never hurts to get your work evaluated by judges who make their living as wordsmiths. Keep in mind, this is not a critique. You are not going to get your entry back with red ink on it. You will only know whether you won or not.

Here’s how it works. Read the requirements for submission at www.myscww.org/conference/mccray. Choose one or more forums to submit your work. Give it your best shot. Mail us four copies…that’s right, FOUR COPIES, no later than AUGUST 20TH. That’s a biggie. We have to have them in by August 20th to mail out to the three judges in each category. (hence the need for four copies – see our previous blog to get information on the judges) and to give them adequate time to evaluate and return.

Three judges will read your submission and score it based on a thirty point scale: ten points for content, i.e. originality and creativity; ten points for structure, i.e. grammar and mechanics; and ten points on style, i.e. cohesiveness, story arch, and success in fulfilling your objective. After these three judges have each separately scored the entries, the scores will be sent back for a cumulative score between all three judges.

That’s it. We want to see your best stuff and we want to give you credit, along with $100, for your hard work.

Overcoming Your Fears

By Sarah LaPolla - Associate Agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd.
2011 Conference Faculty Member

I attended my first conference about a year ago. At the time, I was a shiny new agent with only one client to my name. I was very, very nervous, but in that excited way, like the first day of school. Will the other agents accept me? Will I make friends? Will the writers respect me? What if they don’t want to pitch to me? As a life-long introvert, I was terrified at what might be expected of me.

Turns out, everything was fine. Both colleagues and writers were professional, welcoming, and pleasant. I’ve since attended many other conferences, and even served on panels with only minimal anxiety. At these other conferences, I’ve encountered many different types of writers, many of whom were suffering from their own forms of anxiety that manifested in ways that sometimes effected their pitch sessions. There were five common afflictions.

The Overachiever: This writer is ALL business. To them, a handshake wastes precious "getting out my binder and carefully typed notes" time and “hello” is just another word for "I will read you my query letter, credentials, and bio in under three minutes." An agent will respond positively to this approach only if they are interested in the project. Otherwise, it is a bit daunting and scary.

The BFF: This writer so excited and is such a fan of [something agent's done]. He or she might use the phrase "I feel like I know you!" and the agent will be forced to think of a game plan lest the writer attempts to hug them. It’s always good to be personable, especially if you follow an agent on Twitter, read their blog, or have met them before. But you do not want to appear so familiar that you lose your sense of professional boundaries.

The Lost Puppy: This writer is adorably nervous, but also slightly exhausting. They will stammer and stare until, finally, they're able to get out their one-sentence pitch just as their time is up. All they need is a little love, encouragement, and a gentle shove to keep moving, but sometimes it’s very hard not to lose patience with them.

The Fast Talker: As someone who fears public speaking more than death, I can relate to The Fast Talker. I know what it's like to think oh god if I just get through this as quickly as possible it'll all be over and I'll never have to speak again! In the rare instances I was unable to feign illness to get out of speaking, remembering these two things helped me: 1) Be an expert. No one knows your book better than you do, so don’t be afraid to talk about with confidence and authority. 2) Breathe. Before you sit down with an agent, count to three and exhale. It's pretty textbook, but it tends to work.

The Mumbler: What if the agent doesn’t think it’s good? What if I’m pitching it all wrong? What if I die in here?? When these thoughts run through a writer’s head, their words come out too jumbled and quiet to understand. All they want to do is disappear.

Hopefully none of you suffer from these nervous side effects, but if you do, know that you are not alone. You can overcome them! Just remember that conferences aren’t mandatory. We’re all here by choice and both agents and writers attend conferences for the same reason – to get your amazing book published. A good project will always shine through, so don’t worry about presentation or appropriate amount of eye contact. Just trust that you wrote the story you wanted to tell, and share it with confidence.

A New Resource for Chapters

Thanks to a generous monetary donation from an anonymous source specifically ear-marked, we have printed 3,500 membership brochures. This updated pamphlet is generic in nature so it has universal appeal for prospective SCWW members. If your chapter or community would like a supply to encourage new membership (there’s even an application inside), please email Membership Chair Steve Gordy (scwwmembership@gmail.com) or Ginny Padgett (scwwpresident@gmail.com). We will get them to you right away.

While I’m here, I want to thank, in advance, our conference faculty members for their blogs. From now until October 21, we’ll have a blog from one of them at least once a week. Be sure to keep visiting here at the SCWW blog page for their tips for getting the most out of your conference experience and other helpful tidbits.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we are poised on the brink of one of our best writers’ conferences in 21 years. The structure is a bit different this year which we hope will better accommodate more attendees. Our sessions will address a greater variety of topics. Be sure to register as soon as possible to ensure your first-choice appointments for critiques, pitches, and queries. Early-bird rates end September 1. Also, your work for critique must be received by Carrie by September 1.

Meeting an Agent

By Jon Sternfeld – The Irene Goodman Agency
2011 SCWW Conference Faculty Member

There is always an awkward power dynamic at work when a writer first sits down to meet an agent. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s the chaotic environment of conferences, or maybe it’s the magical feeling writers have, the misconception really, that an agent is the gateway to a writing career of fame and fortune. It’s true that agents have the knowledge and contacts to help start a writing career, but we are not the issue. The book in your hand (or head) is the issue. That and how you come across when you pitch it to us.

When I go to conferences, I immediately try to disarm the writers who sit down with me for one on ones. I give them a smile, tell them to relax, make a light joke or just anything to ease the tension – the reason is that I want them to lower their expectations that I am anything but a listener for the moment. It’s like a helpful boost to start things off - I want myself to be lowered so there’s room for them to feel a bit raised. A committed, disciplined writer is confident and agents know this and respond to this. Agents don’t travel weekends and miss time with their family to chat with uncommitted amateurs. We do it because we truly believe that out there are professional (though as of yet unpublished) writers that are just golden and waiting to be discovered.

If you’re shy, just fake the confidence, because often it’s the deciding factor as to whether or not an agent takes you seriously when you first sit down. Your passion, conviction, and sometimes, even your ego, will help get the agent to really see you as a writer, which I think is as important as the ‘pitch’ sometimes. I can’t do any reading in front of you, so whether or not I ask for you to send me your pages will often be based on how well you seem to know your story, how much time and work you’ve put into it, and how articulate you can be when discussing it. All of these are easier with confidence.

It’s an irony that at conferences the agents don’t read the writer’s work, but it’s the nature of the environment. Since they won’t be reading in front of you, the best you can do is get them to want to read more. Then, they’ll be rushing home to check their email to see what you sent in and the power dynamic is back as it should be – with the writers in control.

2011 Crituque Guidelines Reminder

Although the SCWW standard and extended critique guidelines are pretty much the same as it was in 2009 and 2010, please, read this before submitting your critique materials!

Before I cover some FAQs I want to make one thing totally clear. If you purchase a standard critique, send ONLY ten (10) pages of the material. You may send an optional one (1) page synopsis. I will not send any more than tweleve (12) pages to the faculty member: cover, synopsis, manuscript. The same goes for extendeds. Send only thirty (30) pages, the cover and the optional synopsis, bringing the total to thirty-two pages. If you send more, I will return the electronic copy to you and you'll have one chance to delete the extra pages. Beyond that I will destroy the copy and it will not be sent to the faculty member and you will not get a refund. Send ONLY what's asked for and included in the purchase price. Please, do not "force fit" all the information you want to get in for those pages. The material should be double spaced and with 1-inch margins. Do not change it to an 8-point font.

1.How should I format the hard copies I send to you?
Although some agents and editors have particular instructions for submissions, for the conference, it's best to stick with standard formatting. All critiques should be in Times New Roman or Courier 12pt font. They should be printed on regular printer paper (20lb., 92 brightness). Make sure all your margins are 1". For the header, place your name and the working title of your manuscript in the upper left hand corner. In the upper right, insert the page number and the estimated word count (if you know it). Send a title page, for each of the two copies, with the title of the manuscript and your contact information. You may send a one-page synopsis if you'd like--standard format. Bind each copy together with a binder clip, rubber band or paper clip. Now for the DON'T part: no report covers, no staples and please, PLEASE no cardstock weight paper.

2.How about the formatting for the electronic copy?Save the electronic copy as a .DOC or .RTF. Name the file like this:

For example, if my manuscript was named The Devil and Hotdog Smith, here's how the file would look once I save it.


Include all three elements, manuscript, synopsis, and cover page, in ONE file. If I get your manuscript and it's not in the right format, I will return it to you and ask that you save it in the right format. To select the format, To do this, open your document, go to SAVE AS. Name your document (see instructions above) and then in the drop down, below the name, select one of the above formats.I hate to be a stickler for this but it's imperative, for all sorts of compatibility issues, that I get the files in this format. While I would like to be able to just fix it for you, I neither cannot nor will not do that. I do not want to alter your work, intentionally or otherwise, in any way.

3. How will I know you got my stuff?

When I get your materials, I will send you an email confirming they arrived safe and sound. In the case of hard copies, I will stamp them with the date and file them alphabetically. In the case of electronic copies, I will open them and check for any file corruption issues. If you have emailed or mailed your materials and you have not heard from me in a reasonable time frame, feel free to email. Please give the Post Office (and me) ample time to process your materials before you email.

4. Where do I send my stuff?
For the hard copies, mail them to the address below. Please copy this address EXACTLY to avoid any snags in delivery.
Carrie McCullough
SCWW Critique
2240 Cadden Road
Augusta, GA 30906

For the electronic copies, attach your file and email them to:

5. Can I revise my manuscript once I send it to you?
No. I will only accept the first version you send, unless of course there is some major disaster like my computer crashes or your file is corrupt. There's a lot of planning behind this aspect of the conference and to be fair to everyone, I cannot accept revisions. Make sure you send the best, most polished version to me. If you attempt to send a revision, the email will be returned with the attachement unopened and any hard copies will be shredded.

6. Can I change my faculty choices after you get my materials?
No. Once the manuscript has been received and assigned, there will be no changes -- unless the faculty member is for some reason unable to accomodate your manuscript.

7. What if I query my faculty member before the conference and receive a rejection letter after I've chosen that person to critique my work?
Still, NO. My advice would be to refrain from querying the person(s) you select for critique. It can make for a very awkward meeting. Save the query letter until after you've met at the conference.

8. If my book sells before the conference, can I get a refund for my critique?Once your materials have been received, logged in and confirmed, there will be NO refunds for critiques. Check out our policy for conference attendance refunds on the registration grid.

9. Will you call me if you see something terribly wrong with my manuscript so I can change it before it's sent to a faculty member?
If there is a problem with the file--corruption, weird characters, in another language---I will contact you and offer you the opportunity to resend. However, I will not, in any way, edit or read-though your submission for content or for copy-editing purposes. I will occassionally read the first couple of paragraphs to make sure your manuscript matches the requests of the faculty member. It is your sole responsibility to be comfortable and confident with your work before you send it to me.

Email me at scwwconference2011@gmail.com with any questions you have--or post to comments--and I'll answer them. It's best to get the questions out of the way before the rush of materials in late summer.

If at First....

Greetings from Michigan. People here are complaining about the heat. Compared to South Carolina, it's delightful. Humidity at 50% here is very different from 80% or more. In South Carolina in the summertime I step out the door to get the morning paper and I need another shower. As Michigan writer, Jim Harrison, says: “Summer in Michigan is just three months of bad sledding.”

I began in the middle of the story. Traveling provides moments that make stories. There are snippets that might turn into poetry. I found ancestors' graves on the Internet. Across more than a century the silence of the forest around their graves spoke to me of those who plowed unturned earth with only horse or mule power and a child who died before he took his first step. A driver cut me off somewhere in Ohio. A police car right behind me put a swift end to that driver's fun. There's a story there.

But for now I must set aside the stories and put on my editor's cap. The judges have made their decisions on submissions to The Petigru Review. Acceptances and rejections will be going out shortly. Some storytellers and poets will be thrilled, and some will be disappointed. I've been on both sides—receiving rejections and sending them—I understand how difficult judging and editing are.

Rejection is part of the process that makes us better writers. Really. I know no matter what the outcome, all of you will continue telling your stories. If your work is rejected by TPR send it to another market. Keep submitting.

I think a great way to hone your craft and learn about the business of writing is to attend the SCWW conference: The Method, the Market & the Muse.

You can find information at http://myscww.org/conference/

The first conference I attended a few years ago was eye-opening. I felt I was given private lessons on how professional authors and editors and agents work. I made connections with local writers, and from there I found the SCWW. The critique process still makes me nervous, but I have learned how to be a better writer and editor. The conference slush-fests are amazing. I saw how important it is to grab a reader with the first line. Since the slush-fest manuscripts are evaluated anonymously, writers can sit back and pretend aloofness.

Members of the faculty are approachable and willing to engage with conference attendees. At one conference an editor sat down with me and worked with my manuscript. I learned important self editing skills and gained insight into editing TPR anthology.

The moral: If we want to be published storytellers, we must learn the craft and the business of writing. A great way to do that is attend the conference.

I'll see you all at the conference.

Are all compliments equal?

I was joking with someone recently that my father appreciated me, but never complimented me. Then, I mentioned it was a problem many people have, including my friend.

“I don’t. I say ‘thank you’ all the time,” my friend quickly replied.

And he does. Most of us do. But a compliment is different. “Thank you” is a bit empty. In some cases, we say those two words, but really mean, “it took forever, that wasn’t the way I would have done it, but you did finally get it done.”

Praise takes effort to exhibit appreciation of someone else’s effort. It’s about making note of something specific that improves our lives. But there’s another side of the coin. It’s one that, in my opinion is worse than no compliment at all – the tongue-in-cheek compliment.

“I can’t stand this choice, but I really like this option, so great.”

“She’s got such a pretty face… but those ears!”

“He’s fairly smart, for a (pick the religion, race, sex, sexual preference different from that of the speaker).”

“You’re not a bad writer, but I can’t stand your subject matter!”

Why do I bring it up here, on the SCWW blog? Aren’t my posts usually aimed at letting members know about the conference, grammar peeves and the financial bottom line of SCWW? Well, yes, but I write about those things because those are what I know and it’s my way of helping writers put their best feet forward. And that’s what this is about, too.

As a non-profit writing organization, SCWW was started for writers to help writers. The Board members don’t get paid and volunteer their time and efforts for the betterment of that goal. Think of it the way you would the ASPCA, the Salvation Army, AARP or even your church or other religious refuge. The people who make decisions for the organization are doing it for the benefit of the members. And it’s only as strong as its weakest member.

Genuine, heartfelt statements of appreciation concerning the organization and the opportunities it offers bolster the reputation of you as a writer and the organization within the writing community. Agents, editors, best-selling authors all have their eyes on social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). And, by the same token, slights about the organization, specific members of the group or guest speakers and faculty involved in SCWW events tarnishes not only the image of SCWW, but yours, too.

Want proof? Read the Twitter, blog and Facebook posts of some of the leading agents, editors and authors. I don’t think a week goes by that I don’t see a post by one some of the most prominent in the industry, many former or current SCWW faculty, concerning writers shooting themselves in the feet with trite comments. And, wonderfully, they also post when writers do some quite clever and thoughtful things, too.

I’m certainly not demanding praise for SCWW. But I do challenge us all to think before we type.

Interested in learning how to make the most out of your words and social media? Be sure to register for the 2011 conference and consider the sessions by best-selling author M.J. Rose (our keynote) and Georgia Center for the Book Director Bill Starr.

Building a Solid Weekend – How to Get the Most out of Your Conference Experience - Part 1

These days I find that I’m often thinking about the conference. And lately I’ve been thinking about what some of our attendees will be doing all weekend. Conference veterans will be reconnecting with old friends, waiting impatiently for their critique or pitch and hoping to find a bit of inspiration along the shore of the Atlantic. You’re also likely to be looking for a bit of wisdom from one or several of our faculty members. This series of articles is for you.

If you’re new to writing and even conferences you may be feeling overwhelmed by all the options in front of you. You’re weekend may be a blur of information and opportunities. It’ll be over before you know it and you’re going to wish you’d planned the time a little better. This series of articles is also for you.

I’m here to help. No, really I am. It can be a bit overwhelming and I would hate for you to miss out on something because you’re not sure what to expect from a particular class. Of course, we want you to have a great time and learn as much as you can.

This is the first blog I’ll post on the topic of how to get the most out of your weekend in Myrtle Beach. The list below is all about the beginning. Facing down that blank screen or blank page may be a little less scary after you’ve sat in on one of the following sessions:

Just Getting Started

Friday 9:00 –

Seeing and Hearing is Creating: Character and Plot Development Using Point of View and Voice – David B. Coe

Saturday 9:00 –

(1) It’s Not Just the Story: Learning Ways to Tell the Backstory to Your Characters – Lisa Tucker

(2) It Really Happened: What Agents Expect in Your Non-Fiction Proposal – Stephen Barr

Saturday 1:30 –

Using Your Head to Touch Hearts: Crafting Gripping Scenes – Lisa Tucker

Saturday 3:00 –

Don’t Forget the Details: Developing Fantasy Settings and Magic Systems – David B. Coe

Sunday 9:30 –

Narrative Strategy: How Important is the Opening of a Manuscript? – James Frenkel

What Does Membership Matter?

We sometimes get questions from our members regarding our policy that individuals who have attended three chapter meetings must join SCWW or cease attending meetings. In hard economic times, this may seem harsh.

There are at least three ways in which we can look at this issue:
  • Are we asking people to pay too much money?
  • Are potential members aware of what SCWW's done for them?
  • Why does it seem that we're always focused on money?
Let me try to address these questions, in reverse order. SCWW must operate in a fiscally responsible manner. The past few years have been tough ones for many people; we understand that. That doesn't change the fact that our suppliers still expect to be paid. It still costs up-front money to plan each year's conference. We can't provide financial support to chapter workshops unless we have adequate funds in our treasury. We have to develop a publication plan for the anthology on the assumption that membership funds will be forthcoming for the projected print run. Running a nonprofit association is a business, albeit one different in some ways from other businesses. In fact, SCWW typically ends the year "in the black," but not by much. Membership dues provide the greatest component of that net income. This is a fact that will not change.

The annual cost of an SCWW membership includes a monthly newsletter (The Quill). It also includes the right to submit entries for the annual anthology judging (at no extra cost) and for the Carrie McCray awards (at a small extra fee). A one-year individual membership costs less than the submission fees for some fiction competitions. We wish we could get more of our members to attend our annual conference. A one-year membership comes as part of the deal, for non-members. If I may be permitted to encroach on the territory of one of my fellow Board members, if you want to know why it's a good deal to join SCWW, attend the annual conference. You'll find that there are few occasions in the writing business where you can make as many useful contacts within a short amount of time.

The cost of a year's individual membership does pose a barrier to some potential members. On the other hand, there's no rule against the members of a chapter "passing the hat" to help out a potential member who's in dire financial straits. An individual membership costs less than I paid twenty-five years ago to belong to my major professional association. It's about equal to the cost of one Venti Capuccino per month for a year at Starbucks. We all make our individual decisions about the value of things and conduct ourselves accordingly. If you think it over and decide that SCWW is worth the money, thank you. If not, please let us know why not; we need that information to guide us in planning the Workshop's programs.