Another Midwest Writers Workshop has come and gone, but this year I had the opportunity to work behind the scenes. Last year I was just a participant, but this year I was an assistant (and intern) at MWW16. I had the pleasure of being the assistant to Uwe Stender, who was not only an agent, but he was also the founder of Triada US Literary Agency. I will admit I was nervous about meeting him. Even though I heard he was a friendly guy, I still didn’t know how he would act when he was actually here. I was glad I met him before the conference at the pizza party at Greeks in the Village. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay too long. I had to go back to my dorm to help my parents get most of the stuff out of my dorm to move back home for the rest of the summer. Also, I got to have breakfast with him the next morning. At breakfast I got to know Uwe better by asking him questions about publishing and about being an agent.
During the conference I was glad Uwe was an easygoing guy and likes to go with the flow. He wanted to make things easy for me, which was nice of him, but at the same time I wanted to do the same for him. I made sure the pitches ran smoothly and were on time. There were some no shows, but it just gave me some more time to talk to Uwe. It was nice to talk to him between pitch sessions. I told him about one of my stories and he seemed interested in it! I also asked him if he would be interested in the first couple rough chapters and he said yes! I started working on it and I will hopefully be finished writing the chapters soon.
The second day of the conference the pitches ran smoothly, but not the class Uwe was teaching. I thought they would be bringing a laptop down so he could present his PowerPoint, but I was wrong. We improvised and used my laptop, but again there were problems. Next thing we knew we discovered that the plug we had was not for a Mac, so while Uwe started presenting I had to run down and ask for a converter. After we got the converter there was even more problems because I had to figure out how to do a dual screen so we could see the PowerPoint. With some help we thankfully got the PowerPoint up and I changed the slides while he was presenting. He was very appreciative of my help. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay for the banquet that night. We said our goodbyes and I hope to keep in contact with him.
I had learned many things from him while I was assisting, but I also learned a lot of things that could help people if they want to come to a workshop and want to pitch to an agent. Here are three tips for people that want to pitch at a writing conference/workshop.
1. KEEP CHECKING THE PITCH SCHEDULE
Seriously, all of the assistants (including me) kept constantly changing and rearranging the schedules trying to fit people in. Between the six of us there were multiple no shows. We concluded the no shows happened because people didn’t check their schedules. I was lucky that we stayed in the room a little bit longer than normal for one of the pitches because he was able to do his pitch (he was to be there at 4:00pm and he showed up at 4:05pm).
2. GO BY BAND RULES
My band director always said that if you are on time, you are late and if you are early, you are on time. I would suggest following this rule.When I assisted with pitches,I was more generous than most. I gave people the benefit of the doubt and waited for them for a bit. If they didn’t show up by the time their pitch session ended I just moved to the next person. Depending on the intern they could possibly just skip you if you were not there and moved on to the next person.
3. KNOW WHAT YOUR AGENTS WANT AND ARE LOOKING FOR
There were multiple people pitching books to my agent that were not the type he was looking for. He usually gave them a lead to other agents that would be may be interested in the book. This was one of the most common complaints of the agents. Always research your agent before you make a pitch session so you do not waste neither his time nor yours.
I also have 3 tips for other interns that are helping out at the conference.
1. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES
My first day at the conference we were told to dress up because we were going to be presented at the opening ceremony and I made the poor choice of wearing new shoes. When you are an intern you have to walk around a lot and you definately don’t want blisters to form that you have to deal with for the rest of the day. Even if you have to dress a little nicer don’t wear shoes you haven’t broken in.
2. ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS
If you are like me and were assisting an agent do not be afraid to ask them questions. My agent was always happy when I asked him a question because he wanted to help me as much as I was helping him. They aren’t going to be upset and the same goes with any presenters that are at the conference. The reason they are there is because they want to help writers get better and asking questions is a perfect way to help you.
3. HAVE FUNBeing an intern is hard work, but at the same time very rewarding. So make sure to have fun and enjoy this experience because it will go faster than you think it will.