Notes from the Hugo House Writers’ Conference, Part I

By Midge Raymond,

  Filed under: Events, News, On Publishing, On Reading, On Writing

I spent the entire weekend blissfully immersed in all things writing at Richard Hugo House’s first writers’ conference, which centered around the theme of Finding Your Readers in the 21st Century. Panels and sessions were divided into three tracks: publishing, self-promotion, and writers’ tools. Other than the fact that I was, sadly, unable to be in two (or three) places at once, it was a fantastic weekend — and I thought I’d share a few highlights.

Saturday morning’s plenary with Matthew Stadler was inspiring. A novelist as well as a longtime publishing pro and co-founder of Clear Cut Press, Stadler believes that, despite all the current woes and gloom currently surrounding the publishing industry, the twenty-first century will be better for writers than the twentieth. He believes publication should be cheap and easy, and that our goal as writers should be to connect to our audiences one person at a time, one book at a time, and to develop lasting conversations within our communities. His current project, Publication Studio, is “an experiment in sustainable publication” whose books include works by Seattle authors Stacey Levine and Matt Briggs.

After the plenary, I sat on a panel about support networks for writers with Janna Cawrse Esarey, Tamara Kaye Sellman, and Jennifer Culkin, in which we shared our experiences of how writing networks have helped us market our work, from the submission stage through book promotion. Most important, we all agreed, is having clear goals in mind, meeting regularly, and not only sharing ideas but joining together for events and conferences.

Publicist Alice B. Acheson offered an invaluable session on book marketing, speaking on everything from a writer’s “pre-pub platform” to filling out that seemingly endless Author Questionnaire (and yes, every single paragraph of that thing is important for one reason or another). She had good, practical advice for planning events (BYO postcards and posters; always confirm in advance that books have been ordered), reminded everyone that marketing starts when you begin your book (think of your audience), and encouraged good karma: visit independent bookstores often.

Priscilla Long‘s Tricks of Virtuoso Creators focused on the balance between creating work and getting it out into the world, and she pointed out that most masters of their art are able to create masterpieces because they are constantly creating. She set herself a goal of submitting one work each day, and while she fell a little short, she did finish 300 submissions, and got 11 acceptances. Doing this, she points out, not only gives you an idea of your acceptance rate but also keeps the cycle going: In order to submit, you must create; once you create, you then have work to submit. A couple more tips from this session: Keep a list of everything you’ve ever written, and write for at least fifteen minutes a day.

More coming soon, covering Sunday’s sessions…


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