Thoughts from the Willamette Writers Conference: Part Four

In my previous post, I talked about the end of the first day of the Willamette Writers Conference, and the beginning of the second. In that post I discussed what I learned about making book promotion fun, horror writing, perfecting a final draft of your manuscript, and different applications that can aid you career in writing. If you haven’t read it, you should go check it out.

I ended on a cliffhanger, right as I entered the room where all pitches to agents, film producers, and acquisition directors were held:

All of the “buyers” (those that were interested in pitches and what you had to sell) were all seated at two person tables with their name cards. I scanned around briefly and then finally saw who I was looking for: Kisa Whipkey of REUTS Publications.

Kisa Whipkey is the acquisitions director of Reuts Publications, a boutique publisher that takes the traditional publishing method and puts a self-publishing spin on it. Basically, they do things traditionally, but give authors more control and more percentage of the royalties.

As I sat down, a sense of calm came over me, and I got through my pitch really well. I explained my Concept and then my Premise (go to my last post to understand!), and then set up my two main characters personalities in one sentence, and then ended on the final conflict.

I was rather impressed with myself, actually. I didn’t stutter or act meek! And apparently Ms. Whipkey was impressed too, because she asked for 50 pages to be sent to her for review!

I’m still between elation and dead calm, because I know that my manuscript has to be next to perfect if I want this relationship to progress further.

If nothing comes of it, it’s been an amazing experience and a serious boost to my confidence. Meanwhile, I’m editing the heck out of my manuscript (again) and pulling all comments possible from my beta readers.

After my pitch, I was in a daze, and got in line for lunch a little like a space cadet. I’d signed up for a lunch with a panel of NY Bestselling Authors, and during being fed, attendees could submit questions via Twitter. I got two of my questions answered! The panel was good overall, and I got to sit next to some amazing writer ladies, one of which I taught about how to use Twitter as a writer, and how to find other writers. That was fun.

After lunch I headed to How to Develop an Author Platform, which was… unhelpful. It was a lot of generalizations and me being really confused as to how the information was helpful at all. So I’m going to skip over that bit, because I’m not sure if I was just being oblivious or if the panel really didn’t know how to impart information.

Anyway, so after that, I didn’t feel like sitting through another business related class, so I didn’t end up going to How To Negociate Your Book Contract Like a Pro (which I probably should have gone to), and instead went to Dream World: The Irreducible Image by Susan DeFreitas.

That was an interesting class. DeFreitas was an amazing speaker, and the class was based around those images or symbols in fiction that you just can’t forget, long after you’ve forgotten the main points of the actual story. She examples such as Pennywise from Stephen King, Daenerys suckling baby dragons from George R. R. Martin, and several other images from other authors.

DeFreitas said that creating those Irreducible Images comes from using both the unconscious and conscious brain. The unconscious brain holds those images and feelings that have the power to stick in your mind, and the conscious brain is the part that can be used to implement those powerful images into your writing. Apparently, the best way to tap into the unconscious brain is by dreaming. Those strange things that stick in our mind after dreams are the things that hold power as images in fiction; by remembering those strange things in dreams and using them in your writing, you can create the things that people remember, long after they’ve forgotten the details of your story.

It’s something to think about.

After that, classes were done with. I headed for the ballroom, where they had food and a few other things going on. I ran into a guy I’d briefly explained my manuscript before, and we set up at a table with two other people we barged in on (it’s fun to barge in on people. You make friends), and were soon followed by two ladies who one of the group knew.

The talking began. We had to try to be quiet, as there was an award ceremony of some such sort going on, and after that they showed a short film that won the Willamette Writer’s short screenplay contest. The film was pretty neat, actually.

It took me a bit to realize it, but one of the guys that joined the party was an agent I almost pitched to (named Dongwon Song). I only ended up pitching once because of money constraints and because I wanted to attend classes, and Whipkey won out because she mentioned she loved snarky characters and complex narrative (of which my manuscript is filled with).

There was a funny moment where Song realized I wrote fantasy and he represented fantasy. I smiled slyly and told him I wouldn’t force my pitch on him, and he laughed and said he’d listen for free. I decided not to, because he’d just gotten through his story about how he and his fellow “buyers” were stuck in a room from 9 – 5, changing people every ten minutes, and after a while it was nearly impossible to absorb was people were saying (how many people is that? 9 – 5 is 8 hours… every ten minutes there’s a new person, so 10*8 = 80? That’s 80 people A DAY, and this conference is 3 days. Holy moses on a cracker). The last thing he really wanted was to be done with work and drinking a beer and have some overly eager unpublished author trying to get him to listen. Besides that, it sounds like he’s really looking for High Fantasy, which mine doesn’t really fit into.

Anyway, I was between Song and a gentleman who was an expert in self-publishing, and got to listen to them duke out the pros and cons of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing for almost an hour. That was very interesting. And somehow, talking about farming and goats came up as well (if you’re hanging out with me over a few hours, you kinda have to figure I pull out the goat pictures at some point). Needless to say, I found some new friends at that table.

But it was great: as Song went to leave, he handed me his card and told me to email him. I don’t know if he’ll be interested in my project and want to take on fantasy that’s more Urban than High, but hey, the personal contact always helps. And he was great to talk to.

The next hour and a half was filled with more talking about all things ridiculous and writer-y, including us finding a lady who writes adult children’s novels. She was freaking great!

And that, my writer friends, about concludes my Willamette Writers Conference adventures. I did not attend the final day of the Conference (Sunday) because of money constraints of because it was my mother’s birthday, so I don’t have much information to impart about that day.

But! I met some amazing people, pitched my ideas to all sorts of friends and professionals who thought my work sounded great, and learned so much about both writing and how to pursue a career in writing. I’d say the experience was invaluable, and not necessarily because of the classes and professional contacts. That might be about 60% of it; but the rest is because of the newfound friends and the, well, nourishment of being surrounded by such talented and like-minded people.

If anybody can afford it, I really recommend going. There’s a lot more there than just classes and professional contacts, at least in my experience.

Hey, thanks for reading through my journey! I hope it was interesting and that you learned a few of the things. Anybody have any questions?

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About R. K. Brainerd

I've been writing since my pre-teens, mostly in the realm of fantasy and sci-fi. My characters are pretty much always clamoring for attention, and if I don't listen, they plague me with insane dreams and nightmares until I start writing. I also raise dairy goats, the evidence of which can be found on my Instagram. My debut novel -- an alternate-history fantasy -- it set to come out in 2018, probably Fall time. Welcome to the adventure. View all posts by R. K. Brainerd

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