Category Archives: Writers and Writing

Creative Nonfiction Magazine Writer’s Conference 2015: Take aways on pitching, publishing and platforms

I just returned from the Creative Nonfiction Magazine 2015 writer’s conference in Pittsburgh which, while fabulous, made me painfully aware that I haven’t contributed anything to my blog in months. Ironically, today is it’s 4 year anniversary (sad blog. so sad).

I have a couple feels about this blog and blogs as platforms: it’s cool, I like blogging but, man, do I not have time for it. I have a full-time job (when I started writing, I did not), and on the side of that full-time job, I hustle to do liv lit performances and writing to submit to lit journals etc. It’s a busy life. Plus whenever I wrote a blog post that was a story, I found myself in the quandary of wanting to expand it further to submit. So, I wouldn’t post it because there are rules about originality when you submit. Hence a lack of posts.

I suppose this problem might call for a change in tone with this blog, a change of focus…I’m not quite sure. And granted, I didn’t leave the conference thinking that having a blog was a must for being a successful writer, but it obviously has its merits, especially since mine is already out there.

While I figure that out, I’ll share some take aways from the conference, which was seriously informative, fun and you should go to it if you’re all up into creative nonfiction. This is a mix of advice for both book and editorial publishing.

On pitches

  • Have your argument upfront, a fresh outlook
  • Have room for curation; editors like to be involved in deciding the angle
  • Writing that illuminates the margins; looking for people who have been told “no” (more diverse voices please!)
  • Have your cred and platforms included as assets for marketing the piece
  • If you have questions in your pitch, give the answers. Don’t leave editors hanging. They want the full arc of your article

On bad pitches

  • Don’t pitch me a “surveillance is bad” piece
  • Starting with “As a millennial…”
  • Pitches that are still happening: “I was beaten this week”
  • Essays that are therapy, and that don’t let you as an editor be honest with the writer because the issue is still too close
  • A pitch with judgment that isn’t contemporary or with an agenda
  • Cancer or divorce memoirs that don’t have a fresh perspective

On getting published

  • A good book proposal can take 6-8 months to write, and can be up to 50-60 pages long (depending on research)
  • BE SHAMELESS AND AGGRESSIVE (but not a dick)
  • Use your invisibility as a weapon for self-promotion and experimentation
  • Push for book contracts to be at least 18 months; finishing a book in a year is hard
  • You need an agent for a book; you don’t need an agent for your magazine article
  • Video is breaking, especially for online publication
  • Editors love finding writers who haven’t written for big outlets before (yay!)
  • Big outlets ask for exclusive pitches while other outlets frequently re-publish from, say, literary journals
  • Be careful about non-paying exposure becoming overexposure, as in, you give up all your best material just for the cred

On platforms

  • A platform is what an author brings to the table in terms of credibility and expertise; also what they will bring to the marketing table
  • Social media presence is important, and there are a plethora of tools that can support that (no, you don’t have to be on Twitter)
  • Don’t forget that your writing is the bedrock of the platform; if your writing isn’t strong, your street cred don’t matter
  • What’s your accessibility? How many readers, curators, editors, professors have the opportunity to read and hear you (hence a blog being important)
  • If you are scared of Twitter (and who isn’t), and yet feel pressured to have it, become a resource. Use it to promote other people you read and admire, have conversations about the craft. Just remember that Twitter rewards consistent engagement (this doesn’t mean being a trolling self-promoter either)
  • Think about your audience when your joining/on social media: is your writing style more attractive to those on FB or Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr, Youtube or Vimeo (and on and on and shoot me)
  • Remember that the more sophisticated social media platforms become, the less we are able to use them for free

What I will do (promise) is follow up with a post on who some fabulous people I met, including one who interviewed me for a writing podcast. Overall, it was a very inspiring experience, evidenced by me actually writing a post. CNF magic.