2015 SDSU Writers’ Conference Attendee ‘Shopping for an agent with renewed enthusiasm’

Jack Dolan

Jack Dolan

The SDSU Writers’ Conference has a long history of launching careers by opening doors. This annual conference was among the first to pioneer 1:1 appointments with agents and editors, giving writers unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.

Among the more than 300 writing enthusiasts/aspiring authors who descended upon the 2015 SDSU Writers’ Conference was Jack Dolan, who came in search of feedback on his action/adventure novel, Angels Bay Flying Service. Among his scheduled appointments was an Advance Reading with Betsy Amster, president of Betsy Amster Literary Enterprises

Advance Reading Appointments require submitting the first 10 pages of your manuscript to be read prior to the conference. Attendees also have the option of scheduling a Consultation Appointment, which is a Q&A opportunity to pitch your project as a whole and discuss its viability in the marketplace.

Every year, each editor and agent chooses their favorite project(s) for a Conference Choice Award, and Dolan’s was chosen by Amster. We trace Dolan’s SDSU Writers’ Conference experience, and where he is today on his journey to publication.

As you a writer by profession or is it an avocation?
More an avocation. I’ve been a freelance magazine journalist for over 30 years with over 70 published pieces in national magazines, but it’s never been my “day job.”

What is Angels Bay Flying Service about?
It’s an action/adventure novel about a pilot involved with drug smuggling against his will.

How long have you been working on it?
Three years.

Care to share the opening line?
Deke Jackson reached the obvious resolution to his problem: sooner or later, Carlos Menendez had to die.

Could you tell that Betsy was pretty excited about your 10 pages or was it a complete surprise when you heard your name announced as a Conference Choice winner?
Funny story, I listened to her give a speech about “Know what your agent is looking for before approaching her,” just before we had our one-on-one. She made a point of how she didn’t like action/adventure! I figured I was toast but it turned out she really liked my story and was very encouraging.

Are you still heady with euphoria?
Well, she didn’t end up taking me on as a client, but she’s been very supportive and I’m out shopping for an agent with renewed enthusiasm.

Did she give you any suggestions on reworking your manuscript?
Yes, great advice. She told me to get the manuscript professionally edited before submitting. I did and ended up with a much tighter, faster paced story.

How did you hear about the SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Online.

Was 2015 your first time at the conference or have you attended before?
First time.

What do you think is one of the greatest strengths of the conference?
Definitely the chance to sit down with a real live agent or editor and get frank feedback.

Had you been querying agents and trying to get representation prior to the conference? If so, what has the response been?
Yep. Typical answer was “thanks but no thanks,” sent by an assistant.

Did you make a connection with a fellow writer or an editor or agent at one of the mixers or the networking lunch?
I spoke to a number of writers. Fascinating to hear how we’re all coming from different angles but still have so much in common.

What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
Hot Rod
. I was into cars (still am) and it was the first book I actually read all the way through, without threats from parents or teachers. I still have the book.

Who’s your favorite author?
Cormac McCarthy.

What keeps you going in the pursuit of your writing goal?
Writing sucks, but I have to write. I have no choice.

Will we see you again at a future SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Good chance. I’m working on a new manuscript and will hopefully be able to bring pages to the 2016 conference for input from participating agents.

Anything you’d like to add?
I was hesitant about the conference; the time, the money, the fear that I might find out I’m not good enough. But I realized when I got to the conference that we’re all in the same boat. We all love writing and want to share our work. None of us are God’s gift to the written word, but we all have the muse burning a hole in our gut that keeps us going. I dig that.

For more information about the SDSU Writers’ Conference, visit neverstoplearning.net/writers