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Yesterday I spoke at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Blue Ridge, Georgia. If you’re looking for a valuable and affordable writer conference in the Southeast – this is for you. Some of the sessions included a literary agent’s inside look at publishing, how to revise poems, and writing children’s picture books – among a half dozen others.

Blue Ridge Georgia

The Art Center of the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association

Nestled in the quaint downtown area adjacent to the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, restaurants, outdoors shops (even one fishing store with rod-making classes), and antique stores is the Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association and Art Center. The center is housed in a converted courthouse (I did my presentation in the court room!) built in 1937 (I love old buildings!). Before and after I presented on Freelancing for Print and Digital Markets, I also attended a few other sessions. Read on for some nuggets that I wrote down from those speakers…

Stephanie Fretwell-Hill

Literary Agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill

Literary Agent Stephanie Fretwell-Hill with Red Fox Literary presented “An Insider’s Look at the Publishing Process”:

“Marketing begins at least a year in advance of publishing a book.”

“DON’T double-space after a period, please.”

Robert Lee Brewer

Editor and poet Robert Lee Brewer

I went to two sessions by Robert Lee Brewer. One on “Re-creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems” and another “Grow an Audience for Your Poetry”:

Question you should be asking yourself to guide your writing/marketing: “What’s my goal in poetry right now as a poet?”

“Be easy to find and easy to contact.”

“Put your poetry first.”

“Minimize the presence of ‘it’ in your poems.”

author panel

Authors Kristin Tubb and Jennifer Jabaley

Authors Jennifer Jabaley and Kristin Tubb presented a session called “First Pages.” Those who attended could pass up the first page of their book and it was read (mostly anonymously) aloud and feedback was given on the spot. I’m not well-versed on the children’s fiction market so this was a nice intro into length, word choice, and structure. Plus, it gave an opportunity for some issues to be presented to the audience for suggestions. For example, one author described a character’s shirt as a ‘wife beater’ – the casual not-too-PC term for those tank top undershirts men wear. Someone in the audience suggested changing it to ‘muscle shirt.’ Other items shared:

“Page one needs to be critical to the entire story.”

“The last line on the first page is important.”

On how to choose which sentence to end a page on: “The page turn is part of the story. The page turn is the pacing of the book.”

“Remove ‘as’ – it forces the reader to picture two things. Instead, take out ‘as’ and break the sentence into two sentences.”

“Most picture books are around 500 words nowadays.”

Were you at the conference too? What were your takeaways?