Writers Talk Shop, Novel, and Conference
Commentary by conference attendees
A Conversation Between Barbara Marquart and Michael Neff
Barb Marquart planned on pursuing a career in writing when she earned her journalism degree but took an eighteen-year detour to collect two law degrees and work in a boutique Philadelphia firm. She now devotes most of her time to frelance editing, writing fiction and avoiding other lawyers whenever possible. She has written three complete manuscripts including one for middle grade readers and is now hard at work on her current novel based on the humorous adventures of a reluctant mafia lawyer as well as a nonfiction book for parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome.
The pre-conference assignments and workshop sessions taught me the art of the pitch, i.e. how to condense the plot of a 75,000 word manuscript into a few short paragraphs that convey the story and highlight the platform. Their intense focus on platform, premise and marketability provides a much-needed reality check.
- Barbara Marquart
MN: What made you want to write The River's Gift? What was your inspiration?
BM: I am drawn to telling stories about women who discover their inner strength through great adversities. As an adoptee, I wanted to write a story that would portray the realities of what it is like to grow up disconnected from one's clan and deprived of one's own geographical and genetic heritages - ties that bind adoptees to their birth families and cannot be broken by adoption. I also wanted to tell a story that celebrates the deep bond between mothers and daughters - the struggles we all face to transcend our circumstances, forgive each other's failures and accept each other's limitations in order to find peace.
MN: Please tell us more.
BM: Set against the backdrop of the Louisiana bayou, The River's Gift is a saga that spans nearly fifty years in the lives of the Bessons - a Cajun family shaped by devastating crimes and shameful secrets. In order to help her troubled adopted child, a mother who has kept the circumstances of her daughter's birth a secret is finally forced to confront the pain she has locked away for nearly thirty years and the shameful truth that she could have prevented the tragedy that tore her family apart.
MN: What made you choose to attend the Algonkian conference, or the NYC Pitch and Shop, or both?
BM: I learned of Algonkian through Shaw Guides and attended the NYC Pitch and Shop last September, at which time I received two requests for my manuscript. In order to get some guidance as to what revisions still needed to be made as well as practical advice on making my novel more marketable, I attended the Algonkian conference in Harpers Ferry in May.
MN: Do you feel The River's Gift is improved as a result? If so, how?
BM: The workshops gave me an opportunity to review the overall structure of my novel. Refining the pitch forced me to isolate the major plot points. By focusing on the sources of conflict and suspense, I gained a clearer picture of changes that needed to be made. It was also a good opportunity to work on craft techniques, such as the use of dialogue for indirect exposition.
MN: What did you find most effective about the pitch sessions in New York and/or at Algonkian?
BM: The focus at the NY Pitch and Shop on narrowing and refining the pitch gave me confidence in my presentation that paid off when it came time to pitch to editors. The feedback from agents at Harpers Ferry gave me an insider's view as to the marketability of my novel.
MN: What did you find most effective about the Algonkian approach as a whole?
BM:The pre-conference assignments and workshop sessions taught me the art of the pitch, i.e. how to condense the plot of a 75,000 word manuscript into a few short paragraphs that convey the story and highlight the platform. Their intense focus on platform, premise and marketability provides a much-needed reality check.
MN: How would you compare Algonkian and NYC Pitch and Shop to other writer conferences?
BM: What makes Algonkian unique is the access they provide to agents and editors - people who understand the industry from the inside and can provide solid, practical advice as to marketability. The small group size allows for individualized attention.
MN: Where does the novel go from here?
BM: I'll continue to work towards having all three of my completed manuscripts, including The River's Gift, published but I'm putting most of my energies into my new manuscript, which I plan to revise at Algonkian's Half Moon Bay Conference in July.
About the interviewer:
Michael Neff is the creator and director of WebdelSol.Com and the Algonkian Writer Conferences.
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