Webinar with Agent Rachelle Gardner

Today I spent 90 minutes online and on the phone with a literary agent.

Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

No, I don’t have an agent yet, and though I used my phone for the audio, it wasn’t exactly a personal phone call. There were probably thousands of others out there also listening in (including my friend and fellow writer, Liz Adair) as Rachelle Gardner with WordServe Literary Agency gave a power point presentation entitled “Sell Your Stuff: Learn the Secrets to Selling Your Fiction and Memoir.”

Sponsored by Writers Digest, it was definitely time and money well spent, as she covered in detail how to make sure your work is ready to pitch (particularly those first few pages), and then how to make sure you’ve got a good query letter, a good log-line (or 1-sentence pitch), and a good elevator pitch. She took questions (which we typed in and submitted throughout the presentation), promising to answer all of those she didn’t have time for by email over the next 2 weeks. As a bonus, we also get to send her an elevator pitch or 1-sentence pitch for her to critique personally.

So what did I learn? I’ll share my lessons in nuggets over the next couple of weeks through this blog. Today’s nugget:

Do NOT start your novel (or memoir) with backstory. In fact, don’t bring any backstory in during the first few pages. Then, if you need to add some backstory, weave it in skillfully. Most agents, including this one, will give the first few pages of a manuscript more weight than the query letter itself, so you’ve got to make sure you come off like a pro in those first pages and a professional writer plunges you into the story, rather than spending paragraphs and pages setting everything up.

More on what they’re looking for in those opening pages in days to come.

Originally posted 2010-05-27 17:46:29.

Beirut it is

I’ve gone back and forth over which story to write next.

First, it was going to be an historical women’s fiction piece set in a convent in 17th century Milan, Italy. I really had begun to give the main character shape and even mentally thought through her development over the course of the tale. Despite my fluency in Italian, however, all the research required intimidated me (not to mention the fact that I would likely need to return to Italy for some of that research…and we simply cannot afford such a trip just now).

Then I got all geared up to write a novel based on my experiences as a teenager in Beirut when the civil war broke out there in 1975. (I learned at the recent conference that such a story would be classified as historical YA fiction. Yes, I am officially old now.) I even began writing it until some other flashes of inspiration struck and stalled me…all speculative.

They’re good ideas, but not for now. I’ve been advised to go with my gut, not the market or even the suggestions of others. Today, I’m back on course with the Beirut story of a dysfunctional American expat family that finally comes together as a country begins to fall apart. (Now, don’t get ideas that this story is based on my own family. We were not, and are not, dysfunctional…but we were there.)

P.S. – I’ve submitted a partial of Laps to another agency. Keeping my fingers crossed because this agent is a dynamo.

Originally posted 2011-05-18 07:37:59.