The Maui Writer’s Conference Review

Want to be a novelist? How about a playwright? Does the urge to create with words burn hot in your soul? Or do you want that seven-figure advance for doing nothing except putting words on paper? I would have to say yes to all of those questions. For that reason I took my yearly vacation, and my yearly vacation budget for the next few years, and went to the Maui Writer’s Conference.

This is the largest Writer’s Conference of its kind. Over a thousand would be writers gather to mingle with publishers, agents, and Hawaiian sunshine. “How did it go?” you may ask. Well, there was some good and some bad.

The Good:

1) Hawaii. Perfect weather. History. Native culture as source for magic stories. Beauty! As vacations go, Hawaii is fantastic, if a bit expensive. As Hawaiian Islands go, Maui is fantastic.

2) Learned some valuable lessons:

A) Do not bother agents with half written works. They much prefer finished books to unfinished. That way if they get excited about it, and know publishers excited about it, they won't loose their excitement waiting for the Author to finish.

B) If an agent/publisher suggests going to a Book Doctor to fix your work, and they give you only two or three to choose from--RUN. Most likely kickbacks are involved and there is no promise of publication.

C) Good writing should overcome any market slowdowns.

D) Your books pitch should be a one, or two sentences, 20 second, interest-grabbing line that will determine whether any agent or editor will even consider it.

E) It is better to get a small advance on your first book. Then when you are ready to sell your second book the editors will see that you surpassed your advance by 3 fold or whatever. If you get a giant advance, and don't hit it, they will note not how many books your first one sold, but by how much you did not make your advance.

3) I was inspired. The people who spoke and who I spoke too were full of the passion and energy that recharges one will to write, edit, and publish.

4) Met some award-winning writers. I spoke with Billie Letts ("Where the Heart Is" soon to be made into a motion picture.), Paul Levine ("Jake Lassiter" series, also co-creator of "First Monday" and a writer for "Jag"), Terry Ryan ("The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio") and many more. In the audience on the first day, we did one of those, turn to your neighbor and introduce yourself. I did so to one gentleman and his wife. The next day I went to the Ceremonial Dinner, picked a good table to watch the Sunset, and the gentleman asked to sit next to me. Only later did I learn that he was Mr. Kent M. Keith, ("Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments" this non-religious motivational book was fantastic. His speech was even better). I was sitting and chatting and shooting the breeze with this award winning semi-celebrity.

5) Agents’ Day/Meetings: They offered a ten-minute meeting with the agent of your choice some time during the day. I realized that this little extra ($40) would not help me since I had no book finished (They'd just smile and say, send me a few chapters when the book is finished). However, it is a great way to break through the agent's slush pile.

Now for the bad news:

1. There was only 1 agency there that was looking for Science Fiction/Fantasy. This may be unusual. I found it highly inconvenient. (But I did get her card and send her a Thank You letter.) The Agency represents the Alduous Huxley estate among others. A second Agent they thought handled SF/F was the agency that handles Tom Clancy. He wasn't looking for anyone.

2. I went there hunting for Terry Brooks. Although he was mentioned, indeed his name was on one of the scholarships, he was not present--possibly. On the last day there I brought out the Terry Brooks book that I wished him to sign. If I couldn’t find him, I could enjoy the reading his book. The Conference Director--John Tullius--began the meeting. I turned my book over and looked at the picture of Terry Brooks. Then I looked at John Tullius. Then I went "Dohh!" Does anyone know of Terry Brooks is a pen name? John Tullius spoke of Terry in the third person, but with a small smile. They looked alike. They both started writing in the mid 70's.

3. Cost. Airflight--expensive. Hotel--we were given a great rate, but a week in Maui is expensive. Car Rental, not too bad. Conference fee, expensive. I may have spent as much as $3,500 over the week including extra's like tips, food (each meal was almost $20), and site seeing.

Overall, if you want to go to Hawaii on vacation, then spend the extra money and hit the conference. If you want to go to a writer’s conference, something a bit more local might be a better use of resources. If you are ready to sell, and have double-checked and triple checked your book, then it is a great way to get some interest amongst agents. Consider it a big investment.

Will I do it again next year? No.

Will I do it again in two years, when my book is polished? Quite possibly!

Will I see any of you there? That is a question you must answer.



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