Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Wow, I’m spent and it’s only day two.

I’d forgotten how exhausting this conference can be.

There are three workshop/panel sessions every day except Sunday, when there are only two. Each is 90 minutes long.

Factor in the two keynote speeches per day and the evening events, plus the blue pencil sessions with writers and the pitch sessions with agents and editors, and that’s a lot of information to take in over a four-day period.

Not to mention there are hundreds of friendly writers to talk to. You will meet so many people writing so many wonderful-sounding books in so many different genres it will make your head spin.

For example, just today I met:

  • a woman who writes Young Adult fiction partially set in North Korea
  • a guy who writes sci-fi horror about zombies
  • two adorable young sisters who collaborate on Young Adult books
  • a woman who practices a sword-fighting martial art and who has created a literary magazine
  • another woman who writes a thriller set on a commune
  • and two romance writers–one sci-fi romance and one historical.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
Today was the day I pitched Dragonfly Summer to an American agent and an editor from Penguin. Both were interested in my genres–psychological suspense, paranormal mystery, and horror, so I was very excited. These days it seems like everyone is looking for YA and nothing but YA (and NA).
I had awesome chats with both women. I talked about the symbolism of dragonflies with the agent and the lack of really good, slow-build, ominously spooky stories with the editor. It was enough to calm my nerves and make me feel better about pitching again.
I walked away with requests for the full manuscript and for a partial, which is fantastic.
But I also discovered why I was so nervous.
Dragonfly Summer is not an easy book to pitch. The teaser line I have down, but when they want to know more, it’s easy to ramble. It’s not a book I can sum up neatly yet, and I think that’s why I felt so nervous about it. It’s much simpler when you have a query letter and you can take the time you need to explain the story in writing. If you read off a query letter paragraph during a pitch session, you’ll sound like a dork.
Oh well. I did the best I could and it’s the writing that will really make up their minds, anyway. The pitch is just the foot in the door.
I’m hoping to get one more appointment with an agent tomorrow, and then I have a blue pencil session with mystery writer Hallie Ephron.
One of the best moments of the conference so far? While I was waiting for the editor appointment, a woman recognized me from Jack Whyte’s masterclass.
“I loved your story! It was my favorite,” she said. “I told my husband all about it. Yours was the best.”
And that will always mean more to me than anything else, because it came from a reader. Ultimately, after myself, that’s who I am writing for.
Just like you.
Thanks for reading!
1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Chris

    It’s so easy to get immersed in the world of a conference, especially when you’re staying in the same hotel. Soak it up now, as you’ll probably miss it when you’re back home.

  2. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comment, my most faithful reader! I wish I could keep some elements of the conference and spread them throughout my life. Having it all packed into four days is overwhelming. But it’s awesome–I definitely don’t regret coming. I’m totally going to take Monday off, though!

  3. Jocé

    Wow! The conference sounds wonderful. You’re on a roll Holli, or is that a roller-coaster ride. I’m so glad to hear that Dragonfly Summer is receiving the notice it so deserves. Good luck and have fun.
    Your vivid account of SIWC brings back happy memories, wish I was there too, but not sure this old bod could keep up the pace. 🙂 Enjoy.

  4. Lisa S.

    Sounds like you’re making some great contacts out there. Have a productive weekend!

  5. Holli Moncrieff

    Well, you don’t *have* to go to and do everything. I may skip tonight’s gala…I usually do. But it’s so expensive when you factor in everything that I figure I might as well do everything I possibly can.

    Thanks for the kind words, Joce. I wish I’d had a blog for the other years. Would be nice to look back on and remember.

  6. Holli Moncrieff

    @ Lisa – if it got any more productive, I’d be dead! 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting. So tired….

  7. Shannon Peel

    It was great to meet you and Elle Rush. I was rooting for ya in your pitch sessions. Good luck! Let us know when you hear back from all your submissions.

  8. Holli Moncrieff

    It was great to meet you, too! You were so incredibly friendly and helpful…I couldn’t believe how much you went out of your way for people you just met. Let me know how yours go, too. And thanks for commenting and following. You ROCK!


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