The following are reviews, commentary, and contract news provided to us by up-and-coming and successful authors
who have learned their trade or received their first big break as a result of participating in Algonkian events and programs.
RIGHT OF ANSWER by Hilary Llewellyn-Thomas, a historical fiction about the first woman imprisoned in the Tower of London (who was the author's ancestor) was signed in contract to Trident Media literary agency, to be represented by Mark Gottlieb. Hilary Llewellyn-Thomas comments.
The very first day, I was told I needed to rethink the plot of my novel, and work through quite a different story from the one I wrote. I was initially devastated, but intent on keeping an open mind. I returned home wiser about the publishing industry and had to go through the stages of grief over the loss of my 400 -page baby. This was not a conference for writers with thin skin. It is a conference for those interested in the almost impossible goal of publication with a major publisher.
- Gregory Renz
Over the course of a week at the St. Augustine Author-Mentor, you pitch, rewrite your novel, hone your presentation with some of the best credentialed pros in both publishing and Hollywood. Course materials help you see where you are as a writer, and what your need to work on. You get to know your fellow writers and realize that you are not alone in the confusion of today's fast changing markets for fiction and non-fiction. And as a bonus, you are in a huge suite overlooking the Atlantic and one of the biggest beaches in Florida.
- Author Catherine Clark
J. P. Gownder's novel, THE TWILIGHT OF INVENTION, is now represented by Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media, thanks to the New York Pitch workshop that provided him with everything from a new title to helpful plotting advice. J.P. found one of the top agents in the business after sending out only eight query letters.
Although I had a strong manuscript already, the Algonkian Writer Conference played a crucial role in helping me develop commercially viable marketing materials. During the conference, I wrote a much more coherent hook, changed the title of my manuscript, and composed a much more agent-friendly query letter. I also learned how to structure the plot for commercial fiction, which will benefit me in subsequent books. The result? In less than three months, I accepted an offer of representation from Mark Gottlieb, one of the top ten literary agents in my genre, which is fantasy.
- J.P. Gownder
Robin Stewart's techno-thriller, "Kill Signal," was pitched at the March 2016 and soon signed by Talcott Notch Agency--represented at the New York Pitch event by agent Paula Munier. The ms is now undergoing edits with Algonkian staff. Congrats to Robin. This thriller is going to be a bestseller, we're certain! We love you Robin!!!
From Publishers Marketplace: Sandi Ward's "The Astonishing Thing" pitched as "The Art of Racing in the Rain" meets "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" to John Scognamiglio at Kensington, in a two-book deal, by Stacy Testa at Writers House. Congrats you old pitch conference! [more by Sandi]
Amanda Greenfield says, "Because of your conference I had 2 editors, one being Tessa Woodward, ask for my MS and/or pages and another forward my info to one of her associate editors at St. Martins. I was able to cross reference that with information on Publishers Marketplace and sent a query to an agent that worked with Tessa Woodward at Harper Collins. I sent her the first 50 pages and she was really excited about my work. She read the rest of it the next day and immediately sent me a contract. [more]
Roger Johns, an alumnus of the September 2015 New York Pitch Conference, wrote and told us: "Just wanted to let you know that Paula Munier, my group leader from the conference, took me on as a client and negotiated a deal for my book - DARK RIVER - with St. Martins. Announced tonight on Publishers Marketplace. Thanks for a wonderful experience. The conference was superb. I'm spreading the word among my critique groups in Atlanta."
Algonkian alums Tracee Hahn (on left) and Britt Tisdale (right) signed recent contracts as a result of attendance at the New York Pitch Conference. Tracee's novel, SWISS VENDETTA, was edited and sold by Algonkian NYC agent faculty to Elizabeth Lacks at St. Martins. Britt's women's fiction novel, DAUGHTERS OF ROSA LA ROUGE, found home with Marsal Lyon Literary Agency: "I re-vamped my pitch, also revised the book to reflect new emphasis. 18 agents requested the ms..." [more]
At last count, an estimated 51 total manuscripts are currently in the process of being reviewed by publishing house editors. More than 63% of total ms presented and discussed at length at our last events were requested, and 75% of all ms requested were requested by more than one editor. This high percentage is a result of intelligent project screening, great projects, attentive editors, and liberal applications of superb pitch craft.
"My novel was requested by four of the five editors I pitched. Tessa Woodward at Harper Collins quickly made an offer for it, and Paula Munier, who had read my first page at the conference, represented me to negotiate a contract. After getting Tessa's notes, I am now working on a significant re-write that will expand and improve my novel more than I ever could have on my own."
275 queries later, I attended the New York Pitch and by lunch of the first day I knew exactly why my novel had failed. By the end of the day, I had changed the title, made editorial changes to the story, and later, when time came to query, I employed the strategy recommended at the conference: research agents on Publisher's Marketplace and use the editors from the conference who requested manuscripts as leverage. Within one hour I received an email requesting a full manuscript from an agent at Trident Media. Six days later I received another email about my novel, THE ENIGMATOLOGIST, and requesting to discuss representation. Using what I learned at the conference, I was able to do in what week what I couldn't do in three years. I'm absolutely convinced that everything I learned at the conference is responsible for my success.
- Benjamin Adams, signed by Trident Media Agency
Cate Holahan's DARK TURNS pitched at the NYC in Paula Munier's NYC mystery/thriller workshop and sold to Matt Martz at Crooked Lane, the new crime fiction imprint of Bookspan--two book deal. Publication set for 2015. Paula Munier, NYC faculty, representing Cate and DARK TURNS.
Algonkian helped me develop a discipline around the creative process, enabling me to write with a clear intention to publish. It has been a year since the program and I continue to refer to the workshop material. From the story analyses I learned to examine my own work with rigor.
- Sheela Sukumaran, PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow
"I went to an Algonkian writers workshop in the heart of the Berkshires at a pivotal time in my pre-career. I'd been trying to get published for five years, and was stuck. The Algonkian instructors offered sage advice and exposure to the industry so that I came away with a much more realistic understanding. But even more than that, the Algonkian experience brought together writers in a close knit environment that has continued to inspire me eleven years later. Now with my third novel about to come out, I credit my time in the Algonkian woods with helping me get here."
Algonkian Author Salon's Kate Cox has signed with JENNIFER LYONS AGENCY, and we couldn't be more pleased. Kate has attended several Algonkian events, been a member of AAS, and has worked periodically with Algonkian director Michael Neff on her novel, THROUGH CHAGALL'S WINDOW. Her new agent, Jennifer Lyons (the third agent she queried), represents numerous big name authors.
"Understand, before that I had never taken a writing class, attended a seminar or workshop, I didn't even have a writer's group. The beauty of this conference was that they had editors from major houses coming to listen to our pitches and to give us feedback, and even to ask for our manuscripts if they were interested. And I was one of the lucky ones. Two editors asked to see a partial. I started querying about September 20, and my agent, Sally Wofford-Girand of Brick House Literary Agents, made an offer of representation."
The pitch conference gets tons of credit for my pending publication. Plus, your advice on querying to only a few agents at a time, and Caitlin's editing all contributed to my good news. Publication set for early 2016! Thanks for putting it on and for encouraging scared newcomers like me.
- Angela Pisel, novel sold by Jill Marsal to Putnam
"I must confess that it surprised me when folks at the New York Pitch Conference fastened on Thomas Edison's dark side as the most interesting aspect of the novel ... Once you define the book as being about the struggle between the Weisses and Thomas Edison's Motion Picture Patent Company, however, a lot of diffuse stuff falls into line. Then I came home from the recent Algonkian conference at Harpers Ferry, reread the manuscript, and realized I had thrown away a great opportunity in the second-to-the-last chapter to resolve the Edison/Weiss conflict in a meaty and dramatic way. In a word, it was lame."
The Algonkian Park workshop was one of the most useful and stimulating classes I've taken lately (OK, ever). The topics are very useful in themselves; most creative people tend to hide from the business aspects of what they're doing, and most workshops barely touch on this. (Also, thanks for telling us the truth and not coddling us.) And naturally the feedback of the agents was invaluable in its concrete, one-person's-point-of-view way. But also, the writing exercises and your methodology (e.g., PDQ) were right on. Frankly, I felt that I was floundering the whole time and didn't produce very good stuff. But, oddly, that didn't really bother me.
- Helene ("L.N.") Sproules
"I met with an editor from Plume, pitched the idea and she liked it and after several weeks, and rounds of discussion and so forth, she made an offer. Meantime, Michael Neff helped to set me up with my agent, who is a lovely person at Trident Media. So I can honestly say that going to that conference changed my life. Everything turned out so much better than I had dreamed. I did sell my novel--not right at that moment, because there is a process. But I did sell it because I went to Algonkian's New York Pitch Conference."
I want to say a little something about Algonkian Conferences here, because it was the tough-love teaching method of Michael Neff that made me a much stronger writer. And it was through his Algonkian Author Salon that I connected with Carla Norton... The other wonderful (and surprising) thing that came out of my association with AAS is that I've discovered another passion -- editing.
"You may remember me participating then: I was in Charles' group - the cloak and dagger brigade - and my pitch was about a mystery set in WWII Sarajevo. I made a couple of successful pitches, one of them to Tom Colgan at Penguin, and I thought you'd like to know that I've since been offered a two-book deal with them. The first book should be coming out in June next year. I thought it important to write to you because, without the opportunity afforded by the conference, I wouldn't have made the contacts I did."
I had already sent my novel to an agent from Prospect Agency, telling her I was accepted into Algonkian and this was the ms I was pitching. When I returned, I was able to tell her I knew the novel needed a re-write (thanks to you) and that three publishing house editors were interested in seeing it when it's ready (also thanks to you). So she offered me representation! She's going to work with me on it over the next few months, and when she thinks it's ready, send it off.
- Jane Ann McLachlan, Signed by the Prospect Agency
"I'm writing to say a long-overdue thank you! Now that I'm getting into the more tangible aspects - copyediting, cover designs, etc. - it's feeling more and more that this is real and it's actually happening, and really, I have you and your workshop to thank for getting the whole ball rolling ... And even now, all this time later, I'm still using the pitch that I wrote and worked on that weekend - a large portion of the cover copy is based on it."
It was tremendously effective to receive training in specific writing-enhancing techniques immediately followed by exercises that cemented that training. Ditto the pitch development; if we had developed the pitch but hadn't presented it repeatedly to both colleagues and the agents, the effect would not have been so transforming. I appreciated the intense focus of the conference; we did not waste time.
- Author Julie Kaewert
"At the workshop we read sections of classics and contemporary works demonstrating craft concepts, we wrote vigorously, brainstormed and critiqued sections of our works in progress, meditated, had readings, and got one on one editorial attention. Many of the connections I made at the conference remain with me to this day. Whether you've just completed a first draft of a novel or a tenth draft, the Algonkian Novel Workshop could be just the step you need to take your writing public."
I attended your Algonkian Writer's Conference at San Francisco's Fort Mason back in May of 2010. I thought you'd be happy to know that after a year of sending off query letters and partial and full manuscripts, I finally found representation with Sam Stoloff of the Frances Goldin Literary Agency in New York. I'm very happy. Sam is great! We submit my YA manuscript to publishers this September. Thanks so much for all the information I learned from your conference! It was very helpful and worthwhile. How have you been and how are your conferences going? Any other success stories?
- Writer Michael Hagan, signed by Frances Goldin Literary Agency
"Several weeks ago, I attended the Algonkian Write to Market Conference, north of San Francisco. I met amazing people, made friends with wonderful fellow writers, participated in some of the best live pitch critiques you'll hear on the West Coast, and on the first evening was ceremoniously sacrificed at the altar of upmarket fiction with two fellow authors as witnesses and a horse-size cobb salad to bury my face in. I emerged re-born..."
The Algonkian conference was pivotal in moving my career forward. While I went there thinking it was just a really cool way to meet publishing editors, it turned out to be a portal into so many other avenues of the publishing business. Because of the conference, I've signed with the agent of my dreams!
- Dave McMenamin, Signed by Talcott Notch Literary Agency
"Rather than treating the writing and selling of fiction as two unrelated functions, Algonkian regards them as intrinsically linked. The workshops and reviews took blinders off and made me see, for instance, that the pitch is not an artificial construct to be reluctantly imposed upon your polished manuscript. It is instead a tool, with heft, that you must wield from the start. The writing business has no guarantees, but Algonkian conferences are uniquely suited to crafting work that can persuade a cynical agent to say the sweetest of words: "Yes!"
All writers - especially beginning writers - need a well-meaning mentor and editor to praise what they're doing right, point a finger at what they're doing wrong, provide them with the tools they need to fix the problems, and open their eyes to the art, craft, and business of writing. This is what I had done for countless nonfiction writers over the years in my job as a magazine editor. It's what I needed when I decided to start writing fiction. And it's why, after shopping around for a suitable fiction-writing workshop, I chose Algonkian.
- Diane Tonnessen
"Michael! Did you get my news about being signed by Simon and Schuster? I followed the advice and, voila, I sold the rewritten novel! Thank you, thank you for the miracle! I couldn't have done it without you and editor Ginger Buchannan, I swear!"
I've yet to leave without requesting manuscript pages from participants. What's more, the manuscripts deliver. I recently signed and sold Gina Damico's YA fantasy in a two book deal to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt after hearing her project pitched at the conference. Serving on the Algonkian faculty has also been tremendously gratifying. Not only does the conference attract a wide variety of writers working in many different genres, it also has a great vibe--supportive, friendly, fun. I highly recommend it.
"First write a good book; if you're not sure about that, attend an Algonkian Novel Workshop. But if you do attend the New York Pitch Conference, be prepared for the fallout. I walked away with such a successful pitch, but realized I had to rewrite my book to make sure I delivered what I sold the editors. With workshop leader Susan Breen's help, I have three publishing house editors who want read my manuscript. Wanna write a successful query to an agent? Put that in your first paragraph!"
Algonkian Workshops take one's work to the next level. With an intimate, supportive, focused atmosphere and rigorous schedule, writers can set realistic goals and get projects to the place they need to be to take them to a wider market. As an agent, I appreciate that Algonkian writers have an established sense of what works and what doesn't. Their projects are a cut above the rest.
"So pleased to share this news with you and extend my thanks once again for the career boost from the pitch conference: "Rosemary DiBattista's (writing as Rosie Genova) MURDER MARINARA, first in a new mystery series featuring a quirky Italian-American family and their restaurant on the Jersey Shore, to Sandy Harding at NAL, at auction, in a three-book deal, by Kim Lionetti at BookEnds."
I wanted to pass along the good news that I signed with Writers House this week, and they'll be representing my novel TINY DANCER. I'm certain that I would not have gained their attention were it not for the vastly improved novel and pitch I crafted at the NY conference in June.
- Kelly McNeil, signed by Writers House
"I attended Algonkian conferences in NYC and San Francisco in 2009 and 2010. They were among the best experiences in my writing life. I met some of the most powerful people in the publishing industry, both major publishers and agents ... I was offered a publishing contract by Harper Collins UK soon after my last visit to an Algonkian conference. I am now translated into 10 languages."
"The Algonkian program has forced me to more carefully consider the vital details of the novel writing process as a whole. The emphasis on backstory and the development of theme, scene creation in the context of the six act plot structure, and of course, the module on the antagonist. The course has also helped me to be more aware of marketability."
- John Loving - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews
"Algonkian's writing program modules have strengthened my novel. The most surprising was the section concerning the antagonist. I realized the character I'd identified as the antagonist was insufficiently dimensional. He was mostly off-stage, and questions pertaining to his actions and motivation revealed his lack of importance. I could have created content, but strangely enough, he was not a pivotal point. After second and third thoughts, I identified the true villain. Once I worked through the assignment, she became a fascinating creature intimately related to the theme.
Another assignment was to describe the history of a setting. I chose the novel's Texas ranch, which had been merely a literary device. After researching and considering this locale, I found it to have a rich component that added depth to the story. The discovery was thrilling."
- Chance Maree - Algonkian Novel Writing Courses and Program Reviews