You Should’ve Been There!

  • March 31, 2014

Recapping the Independent's excellent annual conference.

You Should’ve Been There!

The 130+ writers (aspiring or otherwise) gathered in Bethesda Saturday for the Independent’s second-annual Books Alive! conference may have come looking for advice and tricks of the trade, but they left feeling inspired and rejuvenated.

“It was a fun and energizing day,” says David Stewart, the Independent’s president. “A chance to talk with great writers about the light and the dark sides of what they do. And a chance to learn about the practical issues of the writing life and meet with many literary agents.”

Speaking of those meetings with A-list agents — a pivotal, albeit nerve-wracking part of the day for many writers with homeless manuscripts — conference-goer Garinè Isassi says that “since I’m shopping my first novel, I especially learned a lot from the opportunities to speak face-to-face with them.”

Othere highlights of the day included:

  • Morning sessions on the do’s and don’ts of marketing your own book (spoiler alert: You must do some of the heavy lifting yourself, whether you’ve got a PR machine behind you or not), and on the merits of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.
  • An excellent lunchtime address by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David Maraniss, who revealed that his wife has always been his first, and best, reader and editor. (He admitted that her critiques are annoyingly spot-on, too.)
  • Multiple afternoon break-out sessions on different writing genres, from food to politics to crime to children’s. Speakers from Evan Thomas, Joan Nathan, Phyllis Richman, and Michelle Singletary to Chris Matthews, Laura Lippman, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Susan Richards Shreve, and Manil Suri shared what they’ve learned from the writing life, hopefully confirming what participants already suspected: that it’s a life worth pursuing.

Adds Isassi of the bustling, though not over-crowded event, “The intimate setting allowed for a lot of discussion between attendees and panelists.”

Did you attend this year’s conference? Tell us what you thought in the comments section below! And be sure to mark your calendars now: Next year’s Books Alive! takes place Saturday, April 25, 2015. See you there!


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