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Conference roundup – Friday

18. August 2006

The first day of the conference. Finally!
It was a gorgeous sunny walk to the mall, even at ridiculously early AM.

Ahh, the hardships we had to endure for the sake of our craft…

(That’s my roomie Rhonda deftly dodging the picture)

We actually got there a few minutes early, which was great, and we met our first new people, lovely firsties from Sydney. What a great start!
We got our bulging heavy goodie bag full of books, flyers, a MUG (I *love* mugs. You want me to buy your books for ever and ever? Give me a great mug and I’m yours. The only thing that can beat that is a hat – not cap), a magnet and, of course, pens and a notepad. Bring it on!
We were buzzing to go in, but instead caught up with old acquaintances and met a good dozen new people before we ever sat down. Yay for e-listers!

The disturbing part? Almost everybody I spoke to had a variation of “You’re Kiki? You look completely different from what I thought.”
I’m still not sure whether to be flattered or insulted at that.

But then we got started, and I promptly managed to be in the wrong room.
Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like Debbie Macomber as a speaker, but I could tell from the start that it wasn’t what I wanted to hear (plus, I’ve heard her on tape before).
She looked really adorable though, like everybody’s favourite grandma, all sweet smiles and gleaming eyes. Seriously. If you see her, you just want to go and hug her and bring her cookies. Or maybe that’s just me.

At morning tea, I switched over to the dark side. The infamous Miriam Kriss workshop.
This event proved to be the most controversial of the whole conference. Ominously titled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Query Letters, Cover Letters and Synopses”, people either loved it (about three people, including me) or hated it.
What it was was basically a session where Miriam talked us through actual query examples, then got the audience to hand in their own query letters, and later the first two pages of their MSes, and did a cold reading.
And boy, she didn’t hold back.

Now, most people afterwards said she was harsh, cruel, or a number of much less flattering terms. But you know what? I thought she was bloody brilliant! Some of the stuff she had to read was so awful it made me want to bang my head on the table to make it stop. This poor woman reads all this crap for a living. And she doesn’t get paid for it! It’s like panning for gold. You don’t get paid for the panning. You get paid if you find the gold and can then sell it on. Frustrating work, eh?

I was amazed at how many people gave her a sweet category romance to read. It takes one google search (or alternatively, typing in her agency’s web address correctly) to find out what MK looks for:

AGENT: Miriam Kriss

AGENCY: Irene Goodman Literary Agency

LOOKING TO REPRESENT: We specialize in romance, women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and chick lit. We are also very interested in young adult fiction, both literary and those with an edgy, chick-litty voice. Paranormal romance and modern urban fantasy are especially strong areas of interest for Miriam.

But even if you didn’t know that. Do you *really* need an agent for your categories? If you’re just starting out? I doubt it. But hey.
I thought her feedback was quite gentle compared to other cold readings I’ve heard of(or heard talk about, though those made me wonder). RWA Idol anyone?

I only liked one out of all the first pages she read, and if I was looking for something to read, that would have been the only one I’d care about. I think she had maybe a handful by the end that she’d be willing to read. She was being quite generous.

But no, people hated it. Some people walked out (presumably after their pages were trashed, or at least not received with glorious praise), and one woman actually said she was going to complain and ask that Miriam never be invited again.

Sorry to say it, but that’s the publishing world for you. If you can’t take criticism, if you’re in it for the love and admiration of your peers without being willing to work your butt off, sorry, then it’s just not for you. *shrug* Maybe I’m just callous.

We had a break for lunch, and ooooh, was lunch delicious! There was a gorgeous hot and cold buffet, and dessert. *drool* I need my own personal buffet slave…
The waiters were all very friendly and professional, especially one young guy who really shone amongst all the innuendo.
He came to our table and said, “You ladies are all nuts!”
“Why,” we enquired, slightly puzzled. What had people done to him?
“It’s just all the sexual undertones. You’re driving me crazy!”
We laughed. Of course. Who knows what discussions he would have overheard!
“I was clearing that lady’s dessert plate and there was still the maraschino left. She told me I could have her cherry!”
He was lovely. I want to adopt him as my favourite waiter. I love waiters. I love anyone in the food/service industry. Yay!

The afternoon session, as mentioned before, was the cold read of the first two pages of people’s MSes. I so wish I had had something to put on the chopping block. I would have loved Miriam Kriss’ feedback!
Alas, I had to learn by proxy.

All in all, a fantastic first day of the conference. Then it was time to get dolled up for the cocktail party. Stay tuned for a short post tomorrow about that!

Today’s question:
Who has given you the harshest critique of one of your manuscripts, and what did they say?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicola Marsh permalink
    19. August 2006 10:06 am

    Great blog, Kiki (and I’m sorry we didn’t get to catch up at the conference!)

    I think you made a very pertinent point when you said that the publishing biz is tough and criticism is part and parcel of this.

    One thing I always remember is that reading a story is subjective, therefore editors, agents, readers, friends, CPs, whoever will have different opinions.
    Receiving criticism can be tough (I’ve heard varying reports about Miriam’s workshop too) but in this biz, it’s important to be able to sift the pearls of wisdom from the rest of the harsh stuff. Accept it. Learn from it. And make your next manuscript the best darn story it can be 🙂

    That’s my 2 cents worth!

  2. Maggie Nash permalink
    19. August 2006 11:37 am

    Hey Kiki…

    I agree with all your comments about Miriam’s workshop. I learnt so much from it, and you know, she was exactly what she said she was…a NY agent who is too busy to read past the first page unless it’s bloody brilliant. Her insight into what is going to grab an agent’s attention were priceless.

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