From the Desk of the Editor: Kara Leigh Miller

People, Pitches, and Panels! Oh My!

I just recently returned from the annual Florida Writers Association (FWA) Conference. This was my second year attending, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have been there again. As a medium sized conference, it’s a great place to really connect with people one-on-one and make lasting relationships with authors and other industry professionals. So, I thought I’d take some time to share some highlights of this year’s conference!

The People – This is honestly my favorite part of any conference, but more so with the FWA because as I said, it’s smaller and therefore easier to have the necessary “downtime” to really talk and connect with people. As a writer and editor, 90% or my job is done in solitude from the safety of my own home, behind my computer screen. So whenever I can get out and interact with real live people, I tend to get a little excited.

This year, I was able to meet and chat with one of our very own! Jackie Minitti, author of Jacqueline, was at the conference. She graciously attended my workshop and introduced herself afterward. He had a nice talk about writing and the conference and her experiences with Anaiah Press. She did a book signing – which, sadly, I missed – but I did tell people to go meet her and pick up her book. (It’s truly amazing!)

And of course, there are the familiar faces that I’d met last year – literary agents, editors, authors, and the amazing, hardworking staff that puts on the conference.

The Pitches –I love being able to sit one-on-one with authors and listen to them tell me about their stories. There’s something special about seeing the excitement in their eyes and the passion in their voices as they pitch their book to me. Plus, it gives me an opportunity to really get to know them as a person and ask questions that I might not otherwise have the chance to ask. And let me tell you… The quality of the pitches I received this year blew me away! So many great ideas, and I can’t wait to read the pages I requested.

The Panels – In addition to hearing pitches, I had the pleasure of sitting on a few panels and hosting a couple of workshops. While I love teaching workshops and sharing my knowledge, I have to say the panels were my favorite. It’s nice to sit with other industry professionals where we can share ideas and knowledge and essentially “feed” off each other, which often lends to more thorough discussions because there are so many diverse voices and experiences being shared.

My favorite panel was the Gong Show Pitchfest! For anyone who’s familiar with the old TV show, you’ll understand the concept. For those who don’t—This is a panel in which authors stand in front of a panel of editors, agents, film producers, and book consultants and pitch his or her book. The panel then listens to the pitch, and when we feel it’s taken a wrong turn or if we would stop reading (if it were a written query), we hit the gong. Three gongs, and you’re out!

Sounds terrifying, right? Seriously, it takes a LOT of courage to get up there and do this, so to every single author who pitched during the gong show, major kudos to you! But getting gonged isn’t the end of it. The panel then takes the time to explain why you were gonged, what did or didn’t work in your pitch, and ideas on how you can make it better. So, overall, it’s really very helpful. I mean, where else can you get an entire panel full of industry professionals focused solely on you and your book?

Overall, it was another great, successful conference, and I’m excited to (hopefully) attend next year as well. In the meantime, check back soon for more helpful posts about pitching, characterization, point-of-view, and the benefits of working with a small press.

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