Today started with a conversation with agent Chris Parris-Lamb. It was a fairly well conceived presentation, although most of this was things that I already knew. A few choice quotes:
Most important thing is to make the book as good as possible. Wait and take your time.
Your query letter needs to be as well-written as your book.
Keep query short but be able to talk about what writers you’re in conversation with/read alongside/inspired by.
I honestly don’t read query letters that carefully. What is the book about? Does the writer tell me what the book is like and what kind of writer they want to be seen as? I see a lot of impressive bios on top of really bad books.
Chris handles mostly fiction which is a somewhat rare thing in the agenting world. His list of journals that he reads looking for new talent includes: McSweeney’s, Tin House, n+1, Ploughshares, Granta, Paris Review and New England Review. Publications like Zoetrope, Harpers and The New Yorker rarely if ever publish new authors.
He commented that the big publishing companies are skewing towards blockbuster model of publishing, and while he is willing to handle people published by small and independent presses, there is only so much smaller press stuff he can afford to do.
We moved into workshop from there. Terese is a bit more directive in how she runs workshop than most of my workshop leaders in the past have been, but it does mean that things are also a bit more instructional. I rather enjoy it and I can see this doing a lot to counteract my own tendencies as a writer to be lazy and impatient.
In the afternoon, the first session was a Q&A with Miranda July followed by a workshop with Chris Parris-Lamb. It seemed a number of people were a bit disappointed in the workshop which had the entire first cohort on stage doing a critique of the two stories to be discussed with Chris as discussion leader. Many people, myself included, thought we’d get more of an insight into how Chris evaluates a work.
The evening reading had Miranda July return to read a story from No One Belongs Here More Than You, an excerpt from It Chooses You and the opening of the novel that she is working on which she unveiled for the first time.