What I learned at the Muse & Marketplace Conference for Writers

What I learned at this year’s Muse & Marketplace, Grub Street’s National Conference for Writers:

  1. “Brevity is not the soul of a good pitch.” You need to give magazine editors enough information to help them decide if your story, essay, or op-ed is a good fit for their publication (Adam McGee, managing editor of Boston Review).
  2. Before choosing which publishing path – traditional, small press, self-publishing, partner-publishing – is best, literary agent  April Eberhardt encourages us to answer the following questions: What is my goal? What is my timetable? How much time am I willing to put into searching for an agent? How much money am I willing to invest? How much patience do I have? How do I define success?
  3. Don’t buy a $12 glass of mediocre wine at the conference’s lit lounge event when you could take the elevator seven flights to your room, where you have a $12 bottle of cabernet rated 90 points by Wine Spectator.
  4. Characters in our stories should not fit into neat categories. “Real characters lack perfect insight” (Nathan Hill, author of The Nix).
  5. Go through the first 30 pages of your manuscript, and look at each paragraph, asking yourself where your book really begins (Sorche Fairbank, Literary agent).
  6. When rejections from editors or agents are making you feel like you should never have quit your day job, or you’re experiencing burn out, try writing in a new genre: if you usually write memoir, try fiction, or poetry (Jennifer Brown, author of the debut novel Modern Girls).
  7. Never have a resolution at the end of a chapter; you want to keep the reader reading (Adam Stumacher, author and educator).
  8.  When a Grubbie offers you either a chocolate or a mint before you head into the Manuscript Mart to meet with an agent, ALWAYS choose the chocolate, and do not eat it until after your meeting. Remember: Chocolate is a mood-lifter.
  9. Change the font in each draft of your manuscript you read. Because our eyes become accustomed to the same font, we might not see mistakes. Changing the font helps us to see the narrative with a different eye (Sorche Fairbank, Literary agent).
  10. Even if it takes you 15 years to finish your story, it’s worth it. “Whomever is intended to hear it will hear it” (Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize winner).


Photo used with permission from Grub Street.

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