I’ve always wanted to attend a writing conference, and I got to do just that over the weekend. The virtual Kansas City Writing Workshop exceeded all of my expectations, and it was the best first conference experience. I had such a blast, so I wanted to share the highlights and some of my favorite moments from the conference.
The Kansas City Writing Workshop Friday Classes
The Kansas City Writing Workshop was packed with outstanding classes and panels. I took notes the whole time and enjoyed every moment.
Friday started off with “Tips on How to Write Like the Pros,” which was taught by Brian Klems. This class was the perfect way to kick off the weekend. Brian was so kind and enthusiastic, and he shared so many writing tips. During the class, I was thinking of the tips as a checklist. Some of the tips were great refreshers from my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, and others were new pieces of advice I haven’t thought about a whole lot. I loved being able to hear Brian’s wisdom and reflect on what I was doing well in my own writing and what I could improve on moving forward. All of the tips were incredible, but one that really resonated with me was “edit ruthlessly.” I’m currently revising both of my novels to get the word count down, so I feel like I heard this advice at the right time. Overall, this class was outstanding, and it got me super excited for the rest of the weekend.
Next, I attended “‘The End’ — Now what? Everything You Need to Understand From a Finished Draft to Your Whole Career.” This class was taught by Gabrielle Prendergast, and it was so informative and inspiring. Gabrielle shared all the things an author needs once the manuscript is finished, like courage, a thick skin, patience, and perseverance. She also talked about the importance of getting feedback and making revisions before querying agents. I loved all of her advice on the materials needed to query, like the query letter, synopsis, and types of pitches authors should have ready to go. Something Gabrielle said that jumped out at me was that it’s important to have two books ready to go because this can present more opportunities if an agent might like the author’s writing but not a specific project. Having two books to pitch, or a second ready to go while pitching the first, is such great advice. I’m so glad that I’m almost finished with revisions because I’ll have two polished manuscripts ready.
My third class of the day was “From Editor to Agent: The Differences in Each Role and Benefits of Having an Editorially-Savvy Agent.” I got super excited when I saw this class was being taught by Rachel Beck. Rachel is a literary agent, and she has so much knowledge about the publishing industry. She’s also so kind and passionate about what she does. I loved this class because Rachel gave such a great overview of the roles literary agents and publishing house editors play. She went into detail about what agents and editors do and don’t do and explained the benefits of having an editorial agent. Also, Rachel talked about how to find agents and know which ones may be a great fit. The relationship between an author and agent is a complex and special one, so I enjoyed hearing Rachel’s perspective on this as well. Toward the end of the class, Rachel gave a typical timeline for publication, from finding an agent to publication day. It was so interesting learning about each step in the process and how much time things take. I always knew publishing was a slow process, but actually getting to see the stages made it more clear why publishing a book takes so much time. I truly loved this class, and Rachel shared so many amazing insights.
Next, I attended “Craft Amazing Opening Pages,” which was taught by literary agent Kelly Peterson. This was another outstanding class that came when I needed it. Once I finish revisions for my two books, which will be extremely soon, I’m going to dive into my third project while I continue to query. Since I’m going to be drafting new opening pages for my next book soon, I loved all of Kelly’s advice about what makes amazing opening pages. She covered everything from character and world-building to action and conflict. One of the main points I took away is that the reader should get to know the character and be able to relate to them before the inciting incident. This made me look at my books in a new way and gave me a fresh perspective on writing opening pages. I’m looking forward to using my notes from this class as a checklist while I write the first chapter of my next book.
Finally, Friday wrapped up with “Legal and Copyright FAQ for Writers,” which was taught by literary agent Dana Newman. I found this class extremely valuable. Dana talked about copyright, permission to use content in a book, and contracts. I didn’t know much about the legal side of publishing before this class, so it was very informative. I loved how Dana explained what content requires permission to avoid violating copyright laws. Also, her information about contracts and terminology to look out for was extremely useful. Even though I’m a while off from signing a publishing contract, it’s great to have this information ahead of time. I feel like I have a head start on copyright law and contracts. This was a great class to wrap up the first day of the Kansas City Writing Workshop.
The Classes and Panels on Saturday
After such a great first day at the Kansas City Writing Workshop, I was ready to dive headfirst into day two. It was another outstanding day.
The classes started off with “Everything You Need to Know about Agents and Query Letters.” This class was taught by Chuck Sambuchino. I loved hearing Chuck’s advice and valuable information about agents and query letters. He gave an overview of how it’s important to have a literary agent and how to find potential agents. Also, he broke down all the parts of a query letter and gave tips for writing pitches and a synopsis. I found it super valuable how Chuck used examples during the class and explained what makes a strong pitch. Since I’m in the process of querying, I can apply what I learned to my own query letter to make it stronger.
Next, I attended “How to Think Like a Developmental Editor,” which was taught by editor Shirin Leos. Revising is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I think it’s so important to spend time making a book the best it can be before querying. This class was outstanding and gave me a glimpse into the role of a developmental editor. Shirin started off by providing a list of questions that developmental editors ask while considering a book. Then, she dove into various elements, like plot, character, tension, tense, and POV. I feel like this class gave me so many great tools to take a developmental editor approach to my own work while I write and revise.
I couldn’t wait for a special panel called “Writers Got Talent — A Page 1 Critique Fest.” After the class the day before about crafting amazing opening pages, I was looking forward to this panel. Agents critiqued the first page of novels that were anonymously submitted by conference attendees. I didn’t submit my first page this time around, but it was so valuable hearing what the agents thought about others’ work. The biggest lesson I took away from listening to the agents is that there are a handful of things most agents look for in opening pages but they still have some different perspectives. Publishing is a very subjective industry, and I enjoyed seeing that in action while the agents shared their thoughts. I learned so much from this panel, and if I attend another conference with this panel again, I’m definitely going to consider submitting my work.
Next, some of the agents did a panel where we could ask them anything. I got some of my questions answered, and I loved hearing the agents’ answers to all the questions. Again, I saw how the industry is subjective during this panel. It’s clear that agents have a variety of styles and preferences, and this makes me hopeful because it’s all about finding the right agent for me. I truly appreciate the agents taking the time to do this panel because I got so much out of it.
Finally, the last class of the weekend was “Be Brief, Bright, and Bold! How to Create Epic Picture Books That Sell,” which was taught by author and former literary agent Eve Porinchak. Even though I don’t write picture books, I loved attending this class. It was so interesting learning about how to create, pitch, and sell picture books. I loved picture books as a child, and it’s clear creating them takes a special set of skills. This class was such a fun and informative way to end a perfect weekend.
Pitching Agents at the Kansas City Writing Workshop
One of the biggest highlights of the Kansas City Writing Workshop was getting the opportunity to meet with agents to chat and pitch my book. I think networking is so important, so when I saw the conference had pitching opportunities, I jumped on it.
On Saturday, I met with three agents. I’m not going to say their names, but all three of them were so kind. Beyond talking about my book, I loved the chance to get to know the agents. Building personal connections is key, so I made it a point to show interest in the agents and learn more about them and their work.
All three meetings went amazing. After talking with the agents, I could honestly imagine myself being represented by all of them. I don’t know what the future holds, but regardless of what happens with my queries, I’m grateful I got the opportunity to have met the agents. I couldn’t have had a more perfect experience with this part of the conference.
Final Thoughts about Attending the Conference
The Kansas City Writing Workshop was the best way to kick off my writing conference journey. I know I’ll definitely attend more conferences in the future, and I can honestly say the Kansas City Writing Workshop set the bar really high. It was everything I imagined a writing conference would be and more.
I can’t thank Brian Klems, the agents, editors, authors, and other publishing industry professionals enough for making this weekend one to remember. I can’t wait for what’s next on my author journey. Here’s to writing, revising, querying, and building relationships in the publishing world!