Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Evening of Agent Info

Last Wednesday night Lake Writers hosted a visit by writer/editor/playwright Chuck Sambuchino, who was spending the long weekend on the south side of Smith Mountain Lake. He’s probably best known as the editor of the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents.

Since only two of us Lake Writers live in the Southlake area (albeit not on the lake), we had the job of getting Chuck to the Moneta/SML library. Well, Claudia did in her Hummer; my PT (which suffered the automotive equivalent of heart failure on Tuesday) is in the shop awaiting a transplant.

We’d planned to meet Chuck in downtown Union Hall at Donna’s Antique Shop (a clearly visible landmark with its bright orange window trim, plus most of Union Hall around it has been bull-dozed by the builder who went bankrupt, so the shop really stands out) but that didn’t quite work out. At 6:10, while Claudia and I sat in the parking lot, I called him. He was just exiting the south side of Roanoke—at least a half hour away.

We regrouped and decided to save time by meeting six miles to the west at the Glade Hill Minute Market, an easily identifiable landmark with plenty of parking. Then we could take a back road to Rt. 834 to Westlake and then to Rt. 122. I called our fearless Lake Writers leader, Jim Morrison, to let him know we’d be late. He’d warm up the crowd while they waited.

Chuck—who’d been driving for 10 hours—shortly arrived, and we made it to the library only a few minutes late.

The seventeen people in the audience included some Valley Writers and a few folks from Lynchburg. Chuck spoke about literary agents, but he also fielded some questions about related publishing topics. It was good to hear about the inside of the publishing industry from someone in the know. While he mainly addressed concerns with acquiring agents (which only one person in the group has done), Chuck gave some other good info—such as how to write a query letter (“one page humbly asking an agent to represent your work”).

His query letter instructions were easier to understand than some I’ve heard from agents and editors at conferences. He broke the query letter into three parts:
  1. 1. What the work is and why you’re contacting the agent.
  2. 2. The pitch—three to six sentences about the work itself.
  3. 3. The author’s bio and platform.
He also recommended we read a blog that critiques query letters: Query Shark. I checked it out later that evening and found it really helpful. It reminded me of Miss Snark, one of my favorite agent blogs that, alas, is no longer updated. (A digression here: Chuck claims to know the true identity of Miss Snark, but wouldn’t tell us.) Anyhow, if you enjoy Evil Editor (another of my favorite blogs), you’ll enjoy Query Shark.

He invited us to sign up for the free Guide to Literary Agents newsletter and to check out the GLA blog. (His post about visiting Lake Writers is here.)

We Lake Writers (and guests) spent a pleasant evening together—and we learned some things we didn’t know before.

Plus Sally made some really good snickerdoodles.

(Note: My sprained left hand is healing from Thursday afternoon’s housework-related freak accident. All fingers but one now function, and as long as I don’t type the letters q,a, or z, I’m fine. Thanks to all who expressed concern.)



Blogger Debi Kelly Van Cleave said...

Becky, I'm sorry about your hand! I hope it gets better real soon.

Wow, that guy did a talk after driving for ten hours?!

11:20 PM  
Blogger How Publishing Really Works said...

My first visit here--hello, everyone.

It's great to hear of a writers' group that's behaving like it should--listening to people in the business, and having fun at the same time.

I hope that your left hand is improving, and that you saved some snickerdoodles for me--if only I knew what they were!

3:43 AM  
Blogger CountryDew said...

I'm glad your hand is healing. I hate it when I hurt a hand or a digit.

Sounds like a great talk!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Becky Mushko said...

Welcome, HPRW! Snickerdoodles are a type of sugar cookie. Very tasty!

10:19 AM  
Blogger Amy Hanek said...

Good information AND snickerdoodles. I really, REALLY wish I could have been there.

Thank you for posting this good information for all of us. I will enjoy checking the links out!!

1:00 PM  
Blogger Amy Tate said...

Wow - I missed a good one! I wish I'd known about that. Thanks so much for the blog references!

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Sally said...

Becky, I'm so glad you liked my snickerdoodles! And delighted your hand is better, too.


11:48 AM  

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