Takeaways from the 2017 Creative Nonfiction Conference

Over Memorial Weekend, I attended the Creative Nonfiction Writing Conference in Pittsburgh. Lee Gutkind, the Godfather of creative nonfiction was there and gave some talks as well as many writers, editors, and agents.

Here are my takeaways:

Writers are always hustling.

Damn ya’ll. When I wasn’t attending a lecture, I was being pitched to by other writers at the conference. I’m not an editor or agent, and I don’t own a magazine. It seemed like every time I thought I was having a real conversation, it would turn into a pitch.

Me: So, where are you from?
Writer: Virginia.
Me: Cool, so do you just live there now, or did you grow up there?
Writer: I lived there for the past 15 years with my wife, until she was abducted by a cult leader.
Me: What? What happened?
Writer: You’ll have to read my memoir to find out.
Me: Ugh.

It’s okay to have human conversations at conferences, ya’ll.

Editors actually want to read your work.

Am I the only one who thought that editors sat in a fancy chair, drinking coffee, and swiping left on pitches all day? Well, I was glad to find out that they don’t.

They’re just people, with a job, who desperately want good writers. And if they like you enough, they’ll work with you again and again.

I also had this image of editors all being in their 70s, longing for the next Faulkner.

It was refreshing to hear a young editor from Tin House talk about how he’s tired of seeing stuffy writing that hides the writer’s personality.

Really? I thought. Would Tin House actually publish something that I wrote? Who knows. I’ll have to start pitching to find out.


Agents are your ride or die.

Wow. You really need to make sure that you like an agent before you get one.

It’s a lifetime commitment.

After sitting down with two different agents, I learned that they’re basically with you your entire career, pitching your first book, helping you negotiate with publishers, and then helping you figure out what you want to write next.

If you don’t like your agent, you’re going to have a bad time.

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