On Writing

NYC – Day 2 – Backspace Writers Conference Day 1 (and Photos)

*Backspace Conference – Day 1

*Please note: There is profanity in this post. 

Day 1 Agenda  & Notes

Agent Panel #1 – Listen to four agents talk about what they do, what they’re looking for, etc..

  • Make notes in my notebook such as: She’s sarcastic. I like it! and She’s funny! I like her sense of humour and I definitely want to send my work to her!
  • One of the agents is very intrigued by yarn bombs. Thank goodness Windsor is no stranger to yarn bombings. Note to self: send this agent some yarn!
  • This panel was pretty interesting. A lot of the things the agents talked about I’d learned from books and blogs, but there were a few tidbits that I either didn’t retain in my research or that were just brand spanking new:

a)    use comparisons (as in your story to another previously published novel/film) if possible

b)   categorize where you’d want your book go on the shelf in the bookstore – think of your book in these terms so you can help the agents understand where your story belongs.

  • I’ve heard many titles of books and many names of writers that I haven’t read or heard of. No biggie…but if an agent gives me the name of a book they love,  I should probably get my hands on it, right?

Agent Panel #2 – Listen to five agents and an editor talk about query letters, and answer questions.

  • First things first: never begin a query letter with a question (rhetorical or otherwise). Guess who started her query with a question? ME. FUCK!
  • Format is very important. An agent doesn’t want to see blocks of writing on the page. They don’t have the stomach or the time for that.
  • Again, comparisons within the query really help the agent understand where your book fits in.
  • Try not to confuse your logline with your hookline, which is the first line of your query. The hookline is meant to grab the agent’s attention and pull him in. The logline doesn’t even necessarily have to be in the query letter, unless specifically requested.
  • Always include your main character’s name in the query/hookline.
  • The most memorable thing in a query letter for an agent is ‘voice’ and ‘personality’. Make a personal connection. Get an emotional response.
  • If you have author endorsements for your book, include them in the last paragraph of your letter.
  • Use the words your character would use in the query letter.

Small Group Session 1 – The Query Letter – Sit in a room with 15 other writers and 2 agents. Everyone gets a copy of your query letter. Each person reads her letter out loud – whereby the agent(s) may stop you if they have a question or comment.

  • So, we literally listened to 15 authors read their query letters, and listened to 2 agents give feedback on all of them.
  • It took an hour and a half.
  • We stopped to take a pee break.


  • Madly rushed around Korea town looking for a diner. Didn’t find it. Opted for a deli. Got a BLT with so much bacon I couldn’t even bite the sandwich…and inwardly screamed in pain as the crunchy bacon scraped the swollen gums behind my top front teeth (a lovely side effect of PMS) whilst standing on 31st and Broadway dodging people and intermittent rain drops.

Small Group Session  2 – First Two Pages

  • Joined the same group of writers, and two new agents. We each read the first two pages of our manuscripts. The agents made comments, and some of the writers shared their insights/suggestions as well.

I wasn’t as nervous for this session (and the query letter) session as I thought I would be. I think I was prepared for the worst, so when it came around for me to read my query and pages I just did my best, read loud and clearly, and braced myself for the comments. The comments were very good! All the agents liked my idea. Two of them asked me to send them my query (revised, of course!). This is truly fantastic news! I’m thrilled…alas, my manuscript is far from finished so I can’t send them my query yet. I can’t send it until it’s done, actually. GAH!!! But, let me tell you, what better incentive to get a manuscript finished than to know that there are agents waiting to potentially read it?!

There was one final agent panel entitled ‘What Agents Love About Agenting’. It gave me another opportunity to see and learn about these agents and what they do and like. Seems to me that agents are extremely busy, they are always reading queries and/or manuscript, they are editing, they are advocating, they are attending conferences and blogging – and even though they are doing all these things, they are passionate about writers and their stories.

Overall, my first day of the Backspace Writers Conference was great. Informative, educational, exciting and great.

I was able to snap a few more photos on my way to the conference in the morning as well as later in the evening. Lucky me…you’ll see why. Oh, and I (we-I was with my girl Amy) saw a ‘set’ for the film The Other Woman starring Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann (directed by Nick Cassevetes), in Tribeca. Big budget. Know how you can tell? Lots and lots of massive trucks, RVs, people with walkie-talkies, black Escalades and drivers in black suits. I didn’t see Cameron Diaz…but just knowing she was close made me feel warm and fuzzy. (That’s one degree of separation to Tom Cruise, by the way. Cameron did Knight & Day and Vanilla Sky with Tom.)

I went into the Whole Foods store in Tribeca. Holy balls was it ever a gorgeous grocery store! Wow! And I saw Ben Foster (I remember him when he was in Six Feet Under) shopping there! This guy:

image: http://blog.chuckjones.com/chuck_redux/2009/12/actor-ben-foster-gives-chuck-jones-a-shoutout.html

My photos:

Worker – NYC

Workers – suit and sweats – NYC

Blurry man reading – NYC

Man walking – NYC

Scaffolding and lights – NYC

Signs – NYC

Chair 2 – NYC

Traffic cop – NYC

Rubber boots – NYC

Ed Sheeran – through lights – NYC – Yes! We saw Ed Sheeran playing for a small crowd in a bar called Delta (or Delta Airlines set up a bar?!). A bunch of girls were singing and screaming outside, that’s what got our attention!

Ed Sheeran smiles – NYC

Ed Sheeran eyes – NYC

Ed Sheeran sings – NYC

3 thoughts on “NYC – Day 2 – Backspace Writers Conference Day 1 (and Photos)

  1. Hi Vanessa, sounds like you’re having a fabulous time. Don’t forget to have a pickle!! Best pickles in the world in NYC. xtac


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