Friday, May 29, 2009

The Backspace Writer's Conference: Day 1

Since The Backspace Writer's Conference is this weekend, I thought I'd take a short break from discussing autism as a topic and Robbie's progress and focus on the book and writing in general for a few days.

The last week has been a blur. It started at 4:00 AM on Tuesday as I awoke to catch a 6:00 AM flight to Chicago. Then Toronto. Then New York. And this was a short week?

Today, however, wasn't a work day in New York. It was the first day of the Backspace Writer's Conference. Backspace is a great organization for writers that I joined in February 2008 when I was still working on my novel (and a few weeks before the idea to write Kicking and Screaming hit me).

The mission statement for Backspace is "Writers Helping Writers". It's primarily an online forum where writers interact, critique each others' work and get advice from those who have made it to the Promised Land - published authors. Many literary agents participate and also provide feedback and advice about how to get to that level beyond the 'mere' writing of a book. It's a community that not only takes writing seriously but the business of writing seriously. How serious is it? In the past year approximately 110 books have been published by Backspace members. In terms of its goal, it's safe to say, "Mission Accomplished".

I'm here because I want to learn what I need to do to get my memoir Kicking and Screaming published. I participated in a workshop that was called "Two Minutes; Two Pages". In it, we each read the first two pages of our book aloud in front of two literary agents and approximately twenty other authors. The agents then provided immediate feedback as if they were reading it as a submission.

No pressure.

In some cases, the agents listened to the full two pages. In other cases, the agents stopped the authors before hearing it all to point out issues or concerns (but they were all quite good). Fortunately, I made it to the end of my second page without being stopped. Overall, I think I came out of it fairly unscathed. There were a few minor comments about the content, and a minor comment about the use of the word "reluctant" in the title. Later in the day, I received a few compliments from other authors who heard/read it. The one concern expressed by the agents was about the number of books already out on autism and the need to have a "platform" - a new buzzword in publishing - to help market the book.

A "platform" is a built-in following or market that an author has established to give publishers confidence that the book can sell. Examples of "platform" include celebrity (probably the most common, since they already have fans that might likely buy their book), credentials (especially for non-fiction), contacts or strong endorsements. Basically, they want to lower their risk. Who doesn't these days?

I created this blog with "platform" in mind. I hope it grows and gains a wide following. There are several other platform-related activities I'm considering. But as Day 1 comes to a close, my own story begins to take an interesting turn - which I'll save for tomorrow.

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