April 30, 2016

2016 Biennial Writers' Conference Recap

April 30, 2016

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the 2016 Biennial Writers' Conference as a student scholarship recipient.  I spent the entirety of my morning and afternoon sitting in workshops and listening to a top pick of skilled writers and orators.  Here's a quick recap of my experience.

This writers' conference, true to its name, is a biyearly affair sponsored by the National League of American Pen Women.  This year's conference took place from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM and was $150 in cost.  Yes, this may seem like a rather hefty price, but I believe conference-goers received their money's worth; I only heard positive feedback throughout the day.  Luckily, my cost was covered by the local newspaper and an anonymous donor.  I am grateful for their generosity.

The National League of American Pen Women

Conference attendees could choose four workshops to attend out of a total of about fifteen.  Here's what my schedule looked like:

Session 1 (9:15 - 10:45): Kristin Nelson, An Agent Reads the Slush Pile
Session 2 (11:00 - 12:30): Jamie Ford, Hooking the Reader
Session 3 (2:00 - 3:30): Constance Hale, Sin & Syntax: Making Sentences Sing
Session 4 (3:45 - 5:15): Jamie Ford & Kristin Nelson, Author & Agent

Kristin Nelson and Jamie Ford

I particularly enjoyed my first session with Kristin Nelson from Nelson Literary Agency.  Kristin is an acclaimed agent who has represented over 35 New York Times bestselling titles and many USA Today bestsellers.  (She's represented Marie Lu and Ally Carter!)  During this workshop, attendees had the opportunity to anonymously share the first couple of pages of a current work in progress with the group.

Before Kristin began the workshop, she made everyone stand up, put their right hand up, and swear, "I promise I will not quit writing no matter what you say."  She stressed that although the statistics are daunting (last year she read anywhere from 36,000 - 40,000 submissions, but only picked up 3 new clients), the process is all about perseverance.  She declined half of her current clients' first submissions.

After all submissions were collected, Kristin would randomly pick out a piece from the stack, and then an assistant would read the submission aloud to the room.  Kristin would stop the reading periodically to give honest feedback and tell us at exactly what point she would choose to decline the submission.

Jamie Ford
I also attended Kristin's second session with one of her clients, Jamie Ford, and his own workshop session titled "Hooking the Reader."  Jamie is the New York Times bestselling author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.  He has such a vibrant, humorous personality.

It was great to witness the author and agent dynamic and to hear the process firsthand.
Constance Hale leading the workshop

The final workshop I attended was Constance Hale's "Sin & Syntax: Making Sentences Sing."  Constance is a local girl who grew up on the North Shore of Oahu.  She posed the question, "Why are we taught to write in a way that doesn't sound alive?"  Constance is a strong champion of using slang words in writing to give a piece added personality.  Her workshop was entertaining and enlightening.

The 2016 Biennial Writers' Conference was a wholly worthwhile experience.  Again, I'd like to thank the National League of American Pen Women, the Honolulu Star Advertiser, and the anonymous donor for granting me this opportunity.  I hope to attend other Biennial Writers' Conferences in the future.

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Julia Anne

I'm a teen with a refined taste for good books and great writing, currently living in Honolulu, HI. I'm a reader. A dreamer. And an aspirant writer. One day I have hopes to travel the world, but for now, I'll settle with venturing through the written works I read.


  1. Oh how fun! So cool that you got to go and enjoyed it. :D

  2. Hiya Julia! It's super nice to meet you! <3 I'm an aspiring writer and HATE, HATE, HATE that I missed an event as good as this one! I'm kind of poor though, so I probably wouldn't have had the funds to go in the first place but I still learned a lot just from reading your lovely post! It sounds super scary, yet thrilling, to have your work read out loud in front of an audience an being told in which part it would be declined!

    Thanks for sharing this, lovely! <3

  3. GOSH. I wish I could do half of cool things you're doing but sadly... I can't. But any who, HOW COOL is it that you got to go to this event! And thanks so much for "recording it" for us (well, for giving us a play by play and taking pictures) Now we can feel like we were there! I can't wait to here about the next adventure you get to go on! xoxo!


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