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


The famous agent leaned forward, looking excited. “Do you have any of it with you?”

I glanced around the conference room. Handing an agent pages of your novel at a writer’s conference is taboo. But here I was, with one of the top agents in the world asking for them. The only reason I had any of my writing with me was the blue pencil session scheduled with an editor that day.

I handed him the pages and he scanned them eagerly. “Can you send me the first 100 pages?” he asked. “How soon can you send them?”

This was the third time this agent had requested a sample of my work–three years, three novels, and three requests. But this time was different. I’d never seen this kind of enthusiasm before. My heart soared. Thanking him, I proceeded to walk on air for the rest of the conference.

As S.E. Hinton would say, that was then. This is now.

It’s been eight years since I’ve been to that conference. I’ve had an agent (not The Mega Agent; he wasn’t much for anti-hero protagonists), fired an agent, and now I’m looking to start over. And I’m nervous.

Back in the day, I owned that conference. I was so confident. (At the very least, I faked it well.) I used to soothe the nerves of other writers as they waited to pitch their work to an agent or editor. I’d help them decide what they needed to say. That was then.

This is now. I have less than a month to sum up my book in a single sentence. A sentence that does it justice. I need to get comfortable with that sentence to the point that I’m not reciting it from a piece of paper.

I’m lukewarm about writing retreats. I’m not sure they work for me. But writer’s conferences? Invaluable. There is so much you can learn at the panels and workshops. You get in front of agents and editors and out of the slush pile. You are surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of people in the same boat, along with people who have achieved their dreams. Diana Gabaldon. John Saul. Terry Brooks. Anne Perry. Jack Whyte. It’s impossible to come away from a good conference uninspired.

My day jobs have kept me away for almost a decade. Now that I’m working for myself, I have no excuses.

I’m going back.

Now, if I could just write that pitch….

Have you ever been to a writer’s conference? What did you think of it? If you don’t go, why not?

Please check this blog on Friday, October 18th, when I will take a daring online leap of faith and offer up one of the most precious things I have to give. (I hope) you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Chris

    I went to one… in grade 8, I think. I was published in a school division anthology, and they had a one-day conference with speakers and seminars. I still write like a very gifted 12 year old. 🙂

    Congrats on your conference! You’ll kick ass.

  2. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks for your comment, Chris. There’s no shame in that. I have no idea what age I write like! And YA is big right now.

    I hope you’re right about the conference. I’ll do my best!

  3. Michelle D. Argyle

    I hate writer’s conferences, but that’s because of my anxiety and the fact that I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). It’s a very problematic thing for me to survive a conference and feel like I enjoyed it, let alone got anything out of it, hah. Sometimes I just don’t think I’m cut out for big publishing at all.

    But I wish you luck in this! Still excited about the 18th!

  4. Holli Moncrieff

    Thanks, Michelle. I was soooo nervous the first time I went, but it was awesome to be surrounded by that many wonderful writers. It was such a warm and friendly environment, and I learned so much.

    Imagine the IWSG, but meeting them in person. Lots of love in the room. I understand not liking conferences, though. This is where the social butterfly side of my personality probably helps.

    Thanks for commenting. I’ve missed you!


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