2020 Literary Writers Conference Schedule

Wednesday, December 2

1:00-3:00 PM EST
Agent Pitch Clinics

The Agent Pitch Clinics. If you’ve been asked by a friend to describe the book you’re writing and found it difficult to answer in a few sentences, then this clinic is right for you. In this group workshop, you’ll pitch your book to two agents and receive useful tips for improving it. Through practice, you won’t be caught off guard when an agent or editor asks about your work. Agent Pitch Clinic 1 (1-2 PM): Renée Jarvis, Mackenzie Wolf Literary, and Monika Woods, Triangle House Literary. Agent Pitch Clinic 2 (2:05-3PM): Maggie Kane, Irene Goodman Literary Agency, and Jacey Mitziga, DeFiore and Company.

1:00-2:30 PM EST
Query Letter Clinic

The Query Letter Clinic. Often, the query letter is your first contact with an agent, and therefore the first impression you make. A strong letter that hits in the right places might be the deciding factor between an agent being interested in your manuscript or passing altogether. In this intensive workshop, two agents read participants’ query letters ahead of time and discuss each one with the group, offering specific guidance for improvement. (Query letters must be submitted to David Gibbs, Director of Programs, [email protected], prior to the conference.) Agents: Alia Hanna Habib, The Gernert Company; Alexis Hurley, InkWell Management.

3:00-4:15 PM EST
Literary Agents 101

In this panel, literary agents share what they do to help build authors’ careers, as well as tips and best practices for crafting a successful pitch and query letter. Learn what you need to know about an agent before querying them and why it’s important to understand their role in the marketplace. Get a fresh perspective on how to get their attention, connect with them, and appropriately follow up with their requests. Moderator: Nathan Bransford, former literary agent and author of How to Write a Novel. Panelists: Regina Brooks, Founder and President, Serendipity Literary Agency; Jacqueline Ko, The Wylie Agency; Carol Taylor, Editorial Director, McKinnon Literary Agency; Renée Zuckerbrot, Agent, Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

Thursday, December 3

1:00-2:15 PM EST
Publishing in Literary Magazines

Publishing essays, stories, and interviews in literary magazines can help a writer launch their career. While accumulating smaller publications as they work on a full-length book, a writer can circulate their work and get their name out there. We’ve gathered a group of editors to explore the benefits of publishing in literary magazines and offer advice on how to find the right ones to submit your work to, and what the best practices are for submitting to editors. Moderator: Emma Hine, Communications Manager, CLMP. Panelists: Danielle A. Jackson, Managing Editor, Oxford American; Lena Valencia, Managing Editor, One Story; Randy Brown Winston, Associate Fiction Editor, Slice Literary; Joanna Yas, Editor-in-Chief, Washington Square Review.

2:30-3:45 PM EST
The Author and Their Publishing Partners

Although isolation may help you finish your manuscript, it takes a team to bring that story into publication. Author Emily Temple, agent Claudia Ballard, and editor Jessica Willliams discuss the acquisition of Temple’s debut novel, The Lightness, and its editing. Behind the stages of writing, pitching, and revising is an unseen journey.

Hailed as a “whip-smart and transcendently wise” debut by author Jenny Offill, Temple’s novel offers readers a stylish, stunningly precise, and suspenseful meditation on adolescent desire, female friendship, and the female body that shimmers with rage, wit, and fierce longing.

Moderator: Jenny Tinghui Zhang, Prose Editor, The Adroit Journal. Panelists: Claudia Ballard, Literary Agent, William Morris Endeavor; Emily Temple, author of The Lightness; Jessica Williams, Executive Editor, Harper Collins/William Morrow.

4:00-5:30 PM EST
Agent Pitch Sessions

Two Agent Pitch Sessions. Meet with agents from the Association of Author’s Representatives for two quick-pitch sessions. Each session is 6 minutes long. All pitches are verbal and do not include a manuscript review. Please note that we will do our best to pair participants with agents who represent related genres. Although we cannot accommodate requests for specific agents or specific meeting times, we encourage you to let us know who you prefer to meet or not meet and days that you would prefer to have the meetings. Each registration is limited to two meetings per writer.

Friday, December 4

2:30-3:45 PM EST
Publishing with an Independent Press

While larger presses are more inclined to publish known celebrities or writers with a successful track-record, independent publishers have long supported new voices within the literary marketplace and invested in under-published stories that go on to form the building blocks of a writer’s career. Debut novelist Zaina Arafat discusses what it’s like to publish with the independent press Catapult and why she chose to go the indie route.

Arafat’s book, You Exist Too Much, was praised by O, The Oprah Magazine as “a provocative and seductive debut” and has received rave reviews by Elle, Vogue, Good Morning America, and other media venues. You Exist Too Much chronicles the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, and is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love, and a place to call home.

Moderator: Jyothi Natarajan, Editorial Director, The Margins. Panelists: Zaina Arafat, author of You Exist Too Much; Jonathan Lee, Editor-in-Chief, Catapult.

Start Preparing Now

Agent Pitch Sessions: During each of your two 6-minute sessions with an agent, you’ll be delivering verbal quick pitches, also known as the elevator pitch—a clear, concise, compelling description of your book that can be delivered in the time it takes to ride an elevator with someone. You’ll learn how to hone your pitch at the conference, but delivering a strong pitch takes practice. To make the most of your Agent Pitch Sessions, we recommend you take time before the conference to write and practice your delivery.


The Literary Writers Conference is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

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