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Writers' Conference
Saturday, October 21
Madison, New Jersey

(+ Available Online until November 20, 2023)

Poetry programs will be in person and on Zoom not recorded; poetry programs are workshops


Online Registration (until Oct. 20th)

Conf. Schedule & Critique Guidelines >

REGISTRATION and Light Breakfast:  9:00 - 9:45 am

WELCOME: 9:45 am

Ginger Pate, President of Women Who Write, Inc.

MORNING KEYNOTE: 10:00 - 10:50 am

Lessons From a Writing Life by Author Mally Becker

How letting go of rigid plans led one mid-life writer to a three-book contract. We all crave certainty, especially after the past several years. But we limit our creativity and our own potential when we rigidly define ourselves by our past decisions or by restrictive goal-setting. Our writing needs room to grow in ways we may not have anticipated. As writers, we need to grant ourselves the same grace ... to say “yes” to unexpected opportunities, to view a decision to change direction in our stories or lives as growth (and not failure), and to allow ourselves to enjoy the process of writing.

2023 Conference QR Code_edited.jpg

SESSION A: 11:00 - 11:50 am

How to Pitch Your Book to a Literary Agent by Agent Eric Smith

The process of finding a literary agent can be competitive but determination, professionalism, and a well-crafted pitch can increase your chances

of success. Join Eric Smith as he prepares you on how to create the perfect pitch, as well as query tips, to guide you on your journey to becoming a published author.

Querying from Start to Finish by Agent Bridget Smith

How to write a query letter that grabs an agent's attention and makes it all the way to the back of the book, with examples written by authors, agents, and editors.

Circle of Associates: A Poetry and Memoir Workshop by Poet BJ Ward

Much emphasis in contemporary writing workshops is placed on “writing until you discover something you didn’t know you knew.” It’s terrific advice, but how does one do that? One path to consider is starting with an object and writing outward (as opposed to the inward-gazing of many poems with first-person narrators).

Examples of this compositional strategy can be found in poems by Yehuda Amichai, Tracy K. Smith, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Thomas Lux, among others. We will look at these poems, then launch into our writing activity. This is a prompt-based, generative workshop.

SESSION B:  12:00 - 12:50 pm

First Pages - Children’s

Women Who Write VP of Membership Megha Malhotra reads submissions by attendees who write for children (up to YA) to our expert faculty, Publisher Sharona Wilhelm and Agent Eric Smith.

So Your Agent is 'On Submission'—What Does That Mean? by Agent Roma Panganiban

How do agents develop a sub list and decide which publishers, imprints, and editors are the right fit for your book? What does a 'submission letter' to an editor actually look like? When does an editor get permission to say the magic words: "I'm prepared to offer an advance of $$$"? And where do you, the author, fit into all of this? Pitches, P&Ls, pre-empts, and more—there's a lot to learn, but it'll be great to know! Come ready with your questions for a robust Q&A during this rare peek into an agent's world.

The Time-Traveler’s Strife: A Poetry Workshop by Poet BJ Ward

Not everyone wishes s/he could travel through time to change or address a particularly galling moment, but some of us do. In this workshop, we’ll give ourselves permission to do just that—and, hopefully, in the process, discover things we didn’t know we knew. Examples of this compositional strategy can be found in poems by Li-Young Lee, Sharon Olds, Philip Levine, and Stanley Kunitz, among others. We will look at these poems, then launch into our writing activity. This is a prompt-based, generative workshop.


LUNCH:  12:50 pm - 2:10 pm (on your own -- explore lovely downtown Madison)

SESSION C:  2:10 - 3:00 pm

Pitch it to Me by Agent Eric Smith: - Join Eric Smith for an immersive live pitching program that promises an invaluable experience!  Eri will personally review and critique members' pitches in real-time, offering insightful feedback, valuable lessons from the beginning to the final closing. You'll learn the art of crafting a compelling pitch that captivates your audience.


First Pages - Prose

Women Who Write Board member, Joan Freling reads submissions by attendees who write prose to our expert faculty, Agent Bridget Smith and Agent Roma Panganiban.

AFTERNOON KEYNOTE:  3:10 - 4:00 pm

Where Does My Fiction Fit In? by Publisher Sharona Wilhelm: 

Where does my fiction fit in? has become the sixty-four thousand dollar question in modern publishing. Before the age of self-publishing and small presses, the Big Six ruled, and “small” presses like Tor, Harlequin, and Kensington offered few alternatives, as they operate like the Big Six and require an agent to get in front of an editor. Now, with small and micro presses popping up almost every day, and the Big Six now the Big Five, and “small presses” like Harlequin being gobbled up by large presses like Harper Collins, even the most discerning of writers can get lost in the sea of good and sometimes not so good information. Sharona will touch upon the differences in small and large presses, and self-publishing, writing Middle Grade fiction, graphic novels, and diversity and Queer fiction. Time permitting, she will discuss the differences in freelance editors and editors in publishing houses.

CLOSING REMARKS, Prizes, and Refreshments:  4:00 - 4:20 pm


If you signed up for either selection of First Pages you need to do the following:

Bring three copies of a first page of a single manuscript with you to the conference and place it in the designated bin upon arrival. It will be located near the entrance.  As many First Pages as possible will be read aloud by a volunteer reader and two publisher/agents will give their critiques. First Pages will be read in the order in which they are received.

It must be the very first page of your work, not the first page of a later chapter. Do not put your name on the paper, but do include a title and indicate the genre (picture book, chapter book, middle grade, young adult, adult). Your manuscript must fit on a single sheet of paper (begin at the top of the page). If you submit a second page, only the first page will be read.

Formatting - Use standard manuscript formatting—double spaced, 12 point Times New Roman or Courier font, one-inch margins all around, half-inch indents for each new paragraph, single column of text. You may include up to the first 23 printed lines (not sentences!) of text from your manuscript. 

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