I Got Shot in Niagara!

The four days of the Algonkian-Niagara Writers Conference were grueling, exciting, frustrating, tiring, and ultimately worthwhile.  Michael Neff worked tirelessly teaching us thirty wanna-be and wanna-be-better writers the ins and out of getting published.  Specifically he helped us hone our pitches via group sessions and one-on-one meetings whenever he could fit us in.

We started at 9 a.m. the first morning, had an hour for lunch around 1:30, and finished for the day at 7:15.  I had no idea I could sit so long.  A group of writers will do anything when the subject is improving our craft and the prize is landing an agent or a publisher.

Friday afternoon, our pitches practiced and polished, we heard two excellent writers speak.  Terry Fallis told his wonderful story of how he came to win the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour with his self-published book, The Best Laid Plans.  He is a warm, engaging and gifted speaker.  He held us enthralled for over an hour.  By the way, this first novel of his is the first ever self-published book to win the Leacock.

Next up was Barbara Kyle, author of several books, most recently her four Tudor era historical romances.  She is an organized, clear and passionate writing teacher.  She focused on the value of an outline (as did Fallis) and the hook and inciting incident at the beginning of your story.  I can never hear those points too often; they’re crucial.

Then came Saturday morning.  Sam Hiyate, owner of The Rights Factory in Toronto, gave an engaging talk about the role of an editor.  He emphasized his points with compelling stories of nine books and their authors whom he represents.  The subject matter of the books varied widely but what I got from the whole thing was a very clear idea of how much the right agent can help a writer.  This was an epiphany for me.

Finally pitch time was upon us and I stepped right up to Sam as the first person to pitch him.  Yes, I was nervous, but jumping right into the fray was the best thing to do.  He was helpful and interested, his associate, another interesting viewpoint, and the three editors, excellent.  I was thrilled to be with writers, agents and editors–all people who knew writing and the writing business.  I watched the faces of my class members.  Eager eyes, flitting smiles and laptops in hand, they moved from lineup to lineup.  We sat on chairs or on the floor, we kept ourselves organized as to who was next, and we encouraged each other.  Whenever anyone got a nod from one of the five, we were all genuinely pleased.  If it could happen to them, it could happen to us.

So, yes, I got shot in Niagara.  In the arm, that is.  My four years of honing and learning, writing and rewriting, giving up and starting again have all led to this conference. And to my chances to get published.  Watch for me, world!  I’m coming!

Are you like so many of us writers, working and learning for years?  What is the best conference you’ve been to?  Please consider leaving a comment below.


15 thoughts on “I Got Shot in Niagara!

  1. I hate to say one workshop or retreat was ‘the best’ because writing is a journey. I do like to say that Brian Henry’s classes and workshops brought down the street and through the gate and up the porch steps and gave me the courage to knock. Margie Lawson answered, and pulled me over the threshold.

    To me, any class or workshop or lecture should leave you with more knowledge than you went in with, new ways to use that skill, and a desire to apply those lessons to your writing, and to your journey. Sounds like your conference did exactly that. Here is to your success, Elaine!


    • Sherry, you are one of the best things that happened to me through Brian Henry’s classes. Interacting with others who’ve walked where you long to go is so important. And you are right. Nothing that I have done on this trek has been without merit. I even pitched the children’s lit person last weekend, not because I’m writing that genre, but for the practice. And I got the name of her agency’s historical fiction agent.
      Thanks so much for visiting and leaving your comment!


  2. Way to go Elaine! Pitching your work to someone you know is dificult enough,what with all the worries of disappointment (both yours and theirs),much less pitching at a conference…bravo!! I love your enthusiasim, it is catching, thank you!


  3. Woo Hoo! Great job Elaine. Once you start pitching it gets easier, it’s taking that first step that is truly difficult, so kudos to you! I love conferences! Of course that’s because going to school is one of my first loves, and I’m betting (my soul sister) that you are the same way! Glad you had a fantastic time and once again good for you on the pitching!


    • You’re right. Once you realize they’re just people, all different and with individual slants on what they want you to do, it gets easier. And the wave of support from the writers and also those we were pitching really was infectious.
      Yes, school was a joy for me. Probably why I taught high school for 25 years and also took almost a whole second degree. I love to learn.
      Before and during the conference, I did fall down on my writing blog for a week and on keeping up with others’, yours included. Just didn’t have the time. Now I’m working through my inbox as well as preparing for the next leg of my journey. And it’s all good.
      Thanks for visiting, Jessica. You are such a support!


    • Hi Terry! Thanks so much for your comment and for your encouraging words at the conference. I love to see people speak without notes but with a mischievous glint in the eye. It’s obvious you love life. All best to you, too.


  4. Great to hear about the conference. It makes me want to go. I have been to smaller one-day workshops, but I have only been to one conference, so I guess that has to be rated as the best. It was Write!Canada in Guelph Ontario 2009. I really enjoyed that weekend, learned a lot and was glad to interact with authors and aspiring authors I knew only from online.


  5. Pingback: FICTION FOR A CHANGE » Blog Archive » Happily ever after Algonkian

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