What the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference taught me about acquiring an agent

LITERARY MAGAZINESI’ve had a number of short stories and essays published in literary magazines. In addition to the satisfaction of getting my work placed in well-respected publications, it’s been a way for me to build my list of publishing credits. However, until I attended the 2015 Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference in Pittsburgh, I had no idea that getting published in a literary publication could draw the attention of an agent.

“Editors and agents read them. They study them,” said Lee Gutkind, speaking at the conference. Gutkind has been recognized by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” and is the founder and editor of Creative Nonfiction, literary magazine and editor of more than 25 books.

“We will publish a piece in Creative Nonfiction and then an agent contacts us and says, ‘Can you give me the contact information on this writer? I wonder if they’re thinking about writing a book.’ ” Gutknd said.

In doing some further research on this, I found an interesting article in The Review Review, in which literary agent Nat Sobel said he found his client, Wiley Cash, upon reading Cash’s story in Crab Orchard Review. Sobol went on to say in the article that his agency reads 175 literary magazines on a regular basis.

I never would have imagined literary agents reading literary publications looking for clients, but it’s good to know that literary magazines are an avenue for us in pursuit of representation.

Promote your writing before a familiar audience

Coffee Time SignMy place of employment hosts a program called “Coffee Time.” Employees get to address their co-workers in a public forum over coffee about a hobby or work-related topic.

On a recent afternoon, I chose to be a “Coffee Time” presenter and spoke about my adventures in writing.

I displayed copies of literary journals that have published my short stories and essays. Coffee Time PresentationI shared with them what inspired me to write my stories and handed out copies of my work so people could see the finished product.

Also, in a drawing  I gave away a copy of Chicken Soup for The Soul: The Dating Game, in which one of my stories–“Short Distance Romance”– was published.

“Coffee Time” offered a great opportunity to let more people know about my writing and get more practice for future book events.