I had a rare opportunity last week to get into the trenches with many aspiring writers, and a bunch of published ones, too. I thought our readers might enjoy hearing a little bit about it. There’s a great annual writer’s conference here in NYC called ThrillerFest, sponsored by ITW, an organization for thriller writers founded by the person many believe to be the creator of the modern day thriller (not to mention a client of DGLM!), David Morrell. It’s a pretty cool organization, and you can read more about its history on their website.
The conference offers several days of great author and agent panels that aspiring and published writers alike can learn from. It’s incredibly professional and well executed. It also is a wonderful opportunity for writers to meet not only other writers, but publishing professionals. One of my oldest and dearest clients, A.J. Hartley, was in town for the conference, and I offered to listen to pitches at AgentFest for 3 1/2 hours before meeting up with him for dinner and drinks. There were several dozen agents listening to pitches at AgentFest (having it in NY helps to draw lots of locals), a good number of bestselling authors (meeting R.L. Stine and Douglas Preston were person highlights), and a number of publishing executives, including my friend Jennifer Hershey from Random House, which sponsored the opening night cocktail party.
As one of the agents attending the pitch session, I can say the first hour and a half or two of pitches was enjoyable, even if the three minute pitches resembled a marathon speed dating session. The attendees were sincere, motivated, honest, sometimes nervous, but mostly excited to be there and grateful for the opportunity to meet with established agents. Writers and agents both were exhausted by the end, not to mention hungry, but most agreed it was a success. I now have a crowded in-box of queries from the conference, and I will be chipping away at them with fond memories of my short time at ThrillerFest!
Last Thursday, during ThrillerFest, there was also a great review in the Washington Post of a new collection of best-of thrillers (you know how much we love lists around here), compiled by Morrell and critic Hank Wagner with commentary from writers of the genre, including a piece by A.J. Hartley, whose day job is teaching Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte. It’s an impressive collection, worth checking out if you are interested in this kind of book.
It all got me thinking about writers, writing, and the community we all inhabit. We often find ourselves in our insular world of words, and it’s so important to get out and network within your writing community. There is such generosity and support available to aspiring writers. Even if you don’t write thrillers and can’t afford to attend a fancy New York writer’s conference, there are still a myriad of ways to reach out and connect with others who love what you love — local libraries, book clubs, bookstores all offer camaraderie and a place to surround yourself with a positive energy and renewed enthusiasm for your work that you can’t get from writing alone. I think it’s rejuvenating and inspiring to step outside the office, or get away from the computer for a blessed few days, or even a few hours, to do a different sort of work that’s unique, fun, and enlightening. When you head back to your desk, I promise you will come at it from a fresh perspective, and maybe the answers to that writer’s block you were experiencing, or that character whose fate you couldn’t figure out (or in my case that digital contract language we’ve been trying to sort out), will be waiting for you upon your return. I hope so.