This year’s Write to Publish conference was held on April 21st and was nothing short of a success. On a rare (for April) sunny and 75 degree day, attendees gathered from all over the Pacific Northwest in order to engage with publishing professionals. After a complimentary breakfast for both attendees and speakers, including some delicious coffee, bagels, and fruit, the event kicked off with an amazing keynote speech from Claire McKinney, book publicist at Claire McKinney Public Relations, LLC.
Throughout the day, attendees were able to visit different panels and interactive learning sessions, depending on their interest, and browse the vendor fair where they could meet and greet industry professionals from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, the Silk Road Review, Willamette Writers, and Ooligan Press. With guest speakers including Adam O’Connor Rodriguez, Senior Editor at Hawthorne Books; Emily Suvada, author of This Mortal Coil; and Rachel Noorda, Publisher at ThunderStone Books, the panels and interactive learning sessions inspired attendees and helped demystify the publishing process. Lucky for me, I had the opportunity to visit, and even moderate, a few panels and meet some of the outstanding professionals that are shaping this industry today.
The Journey of Publishing: From Idea to Bookshelf
I had the honor of moderating and guiding discussion between panelists and attendees on the very first panel of the day, The Journey of Publishing: From Idea to Bookshelf. This panel was geared toward educating attendees about what the publishing process typically looks like from the perspectives of a writer, an agent, and a publisher. On my panel, I had Reema Zaman, author of I Am Yours; Chip MacGregor, president of MacGregor Literary Inc; and Laura Stanfill, publisher at Forest Avenue Press.
Reema Zaman, an award winning speaker, author, and actress, spoke to the audience about the steps she undertook while pursuing publication of her memoir, I Am Yours, which is set to be released in January of next year. A particularly important part of this process was the revisions she made to her manuscript based in part of the feedback she received from publishers. Zaman explained that she spent almost two years drafting, rewriting, and editing her memoir until it felt perfect. Not only did this process take a lot of time and effort, but it also took courage and strength. Zaman explained to the audience how what you write, particularly when it is a memoir that explores personal and real-life struggles, is part of you, and sending it off to be examined by strangers is a daunting part of publishing.
Chip MacGregor has served in many different roles in the publishing industry. He has worked as a publisher, as a freelance writer and editor, and as an agent. With so many years of expertise, MacGregor has a wealth of knowledge that he used to keep the audience engaged as he spoke about the process of becoming a published author and the role that literary agents play. In particular, he explained that while a literary agent is not always needed, in some cases they play an important role in guiding authors to where they are meant to be.
Laura Stanfill’s passion for the publishing industry really shone through in her responses during this panel. During her portion of the talk, she discussed the importance of finding the right publisher for your specific work. Not all publishers publish every genre, and sometimes, a submission just isn’t right for them. Stanfill further talked about how it can be a good idea for authors to shop around in order to find their best publishing fit. Just because a press publishes your genre does not automatically mean that they are the right press for you.
Travels with Tropes: Publishing and Writing for Genre
As the day continued on, I headed over to the panel that discussed writing in different genres and listened in on advice and the experiences of different authors. On this panel sat Emily Suvada, author of This Mortal Coil; Whitney Edmunds Swann, author of The Price of Perfection; Tony Wolk, author of the Abraham Lincoln: A Novel Life series; and Rachel Noorda, publisher at ThunderStone Books, specializing in children’s literature. From science fiction to romance writing, each of these panel members had different experiences to discuss with the attendees.
Emily Suvada’s novel is a science fiction thriller in which protagonist Catarina Agatta must use her gene-hacking skills to decode a mystic message from her father that conceals a vaccine with the potential to cure a horrifying disease. Suvada explained to the audience how the humans in Agatta’s world are implanted with technology that allows them to recode their DNA. Echoing today’s society and our attachment to our cell phone, Suvada’s main character’s technological advancements are built into her arm. Suvada explains that in science fiction, it’s important to include details that relate to reality for a more believable story.
Whitney Edmunds Swann’s novel takes place during the classical time period where Charlotte Henwood is in search of a perfect reputation. In this novel, Edmunds takes the trope of a “damsel in distress” and twists it to the opposite. Edmunds explained to the audience that her woman characters will never fall to the normal romance tropes and that it is important for writers to represent their own passions and beliefs in their work.
In Tony Wolk’s Abraham Lincoln series, Lincoln accidentally time travels and finds himself falling in love with a woman from the present. In this historical fiction work, Wolk takes on the voice of Lincoln and deciphers the thoughts of one of the greatest presidents in U.S. history. Lincoln’s history has always intrigued Wolk, and he built his story based on his interest in the former president.
Rachel Noorda is the founder and publisher of Thunderstone Books, which focuses on providing texts for children that educate them in a fun, inventive way. Noorda told the audience about Meh by Deborah Malcolm, one of their most recent publications, which draws attention to depression at a young age. She explained how she wanted to use this text to provide an easier way for parents to discuss pressing issues in today’s society, such as mental illness.
By the end of the panel, I was full of new ideas that I plan to use in my own writing and editing endeavors. In addition, I can’t wait to help plan and execute Write to Publish 2019 as part of next year’s Outreach and Project Development team. This year’s conference highlighted so many important aspects of the publishing industry, and I plan to take what I’ve learned from the panels and Interactive Learning Sessions to further inspire young readers and writers.
– Brennah Hale