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How I Came to Write SARA BAREFIELD

To the people who have read SARA BAREFIELD, her situation is so real to them that I have been asked questions that I hope to answer here. I wasn’t a social worker; nor did I know a single mother like Sara. And I have been blessed in that I have never been on welfare or have had the need to apply for food stamps. I got the idea for SARA BAREFIELD while working as a volunteer in a women’s center in the town where I live. A single woman in her mid-thirties came in for a counseling session; she wanted to go to college to study art history. When I told her that I didn’t know of any aid she could receive other than a […]

PITCHING FOR AGENTS: WHAT ARE THE ODDS?

Thousands of authors will be pitching their unpublished manuscripts to agents and editors at writers’ conferences in 2016. They will pay an extra premium above the conference cost for the privilege, and because the slots are limited, they are sold out fast. What happens during these sessions? Are they effective?

Pitching sessions are like speed dating on steroids. Authors seeking representation are given a set time, anywhere between 90 seconds and 15 minutes, to tell agents about their unpublished manuscripts. The sessions are held in rooms where nervous writers stand in lines anxiously waiting to pitch to the agents of their choice. On her blog, Faye Hicks describes the pitching session at a Pitch Slam as bedlam, packed and noisy.

Writers are told that the best pitches have no […]

Could Harper Lee Successfully Pitch “To Kill a Mockingbird” Today?

The publicity surrounding the publication of Harper Lee’s novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” led thousands of people to her first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book that is still a bestseller well over fifty years after it was published. The characters in “To Kill a Mockingbird”—Atticus Finch and his children, Jem and Scout, and their neighbor Boo Radley–have become part of our literary lexicon. But in today’s literary climate it is legitimate to wonder whether Harper Lee would stand a chance at getting an agent to represent her and a publisher to accept what has become an American classic.

It is difficult to imagine Harper Lee being rejected by literary agents. If she had written her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel within the past ten years and […]

It All Began With a Brochure

The first week in January I received a brochure from an annual writers’ conference I attended over thirty years ago. Brochures from this conference have followed me from move to move, from the North to the South, and they have changed considerably since I first started receiving them. The staff fiction writers are no longer big “literary stars,” and the mention of editors and literary agents is done carefully, promising nothing other than their presence and some interaction with the people who are paying to attend.

The suggestion to enroll in the conference I had attended had come from a former professor, who had become my mentor. I had finished writing my first novel, Realities, less than two months before the conference was scheduled to start. […]

Writers’ Conferences are More Dramatic than You Might Think

When people are asked about writers, most of them think of solitary figures sitting in front of a keyboard typing out stories. Writers are people who conjure up worlds in their heads, and then transfer those worlds to paper and electronic readers. They are also people who attend writers’ conferences for varying reasons, and it is for the reasons that they attend and how they behave while they are there that make conferences so interesting.

I knew almost immediately that there was something different in the atmosphere of the writers’ conference I attended. During the first few days everyone who introduced themselves wanted to know in which genre I wrote–fiction, nonfiction or poetry—and whether I was having my manuscript criticized. I quickly learned that the writers […]