Now that Ann Goldie Larson has retired from her careers as customer service rep, bookstore clerk, and tax accountant, she’s pursuing her goal of being a published author. As such, she came to the 2016 SDSU Writers’ Conference in search of feedback on her mystery/suspense/thriller, The Triptych. She scheduled an advance reading with April Osborne, an editor with St. Martin’s Pressin New York, and ended up being Osborne’s pick for a Conference Choice Award.
Every year, each agent and editor chooses the project they feel the most promising from all the advance readings and consultations that take place over the three-day conference. Advance readings require submitting the first 10 pages of one’s manuscript, prior to the conference, and consultations are a Q&A opportunity to pitch a project and discuss its viability in the marketplace.
With a long history of launching careers by opening doors, the SDSU conference was among the first to pioneer these 1:1 appointments that give writers unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.
Larson shares her SDSU Writers’ Conference experience and where she is today on her journey to publication:
Tell us about the project that brought you to the 2016 SDSU Writers’ Conference.
It’s a mystery/suspense/thriller titled The Triptych. (A triptych is a picture, in this case a medieval altarpiece, with three panels side by side.) The synopsis: Art dealer Morgan Russell gets an unusual assignment — find a painting stolen from the mansion of a couple who were brutally murdered. The painting depicts the crucifixion of Christ and a Roman soldier holding the Holy Lance, the spear used to pierce Christ’s side and believed by world rulers from Charlemagne to Hitler to possess supernatural powers. Hired by the murdered couple’s nephew, Morgan joins forces with detective Nick Garnett, and ex-boyfriend and art forensic specialist Brody Reed as they follow the trail from a California beach town into the swamp of the art underworld.
How long have you been working on it?
Did April give you any suggestions on reworking the first 10 pages?
April had a few suggestions, like adding a bit more description and advice on how to improve a characterization, but overall, she thought it was a very nice beginning.
Could you tell she was pretty excited about your 10 pages or was it a complete surprise when you heard your name announced as a Conference Choice winner?
We had a very positive discussion about the first two chapters. She thought it was a really good start and that it created atmosphere and tension. And she liked my pitch. But I was still pretty surprised.
Are you still feeling the effect?
I’m still smiling. Since the conference I’ve been using what I learned to fix a few areas in my manuscript.
Was she interested in seeing the complete manuscript?
Yes, she was interested in the completed manuscript. It’s undergoing final revision and I’ll be sending it out shortly.
How did you hear about the SDSU Writers’ Conference?
I first learned about it from an SDSU catalog. In recent years, from the postcards.
Did you attend a workshop that was particularly helpful or outstanding in some way?
I enjoyed the Friday afternoon workshops about perfecting your pitch and writing stories that sell, from an agent’s point of view. All three sessions set a positive tone for the rest of the conference.
What do you think is one of the greatest strengths of the conference?
The quality of the faculty. Everyone was a professional with great wisdom and experiences to share. They were also very enthusiastic and friendly. The staff was great, too.
Had you been querying agents and trying to get representation prior to the conference? If so, what has the response been?
I hadn’t been querying before the conference, but I did meet four agents at the conference who asked to see my manuscript.
Did you make a connection with a fellow writer or an editor or agent at one of the mixers or the networking lunch?
Yes, I met several writers at lunch and Sunday brunch. I also had a good talk with an agent at the mixer.
What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
Nancy Drew and the Bungalow Mystery.
Who’s your favorite author or top three if it’s hard to choose one?
I enjoy Dan Brown and Louise Penny, and Mary Higgins Clark has been a favorite for years.
What’s your goal as a writer and what keeps you going in the pursuit of it?
I love to read exciting stories and learn something at the same time. So that’s my goal as a writer to entertain and teach a bit, too. I enjoy discovering information that I hope the reader will find as fascinating as I did. The challenge is to keep the story moving along and to surprise the reader. I also like the quiet and solitude of writing and becoming absorbed in a world that I’ve created.
Will we see you again at a future conference?
Yes, I definitely plan to come again.
Anything you’d like to add?
The conference was a very encouraging experience for me. The venue, staff, and the faculty were first rate and I enjoyed meeting other writers who were working in my genre. No matter where you are in your writing journey, I think you could learn a lot from attending this conference and have fun while doing it.
For more information about the SDSU Writers’ Conference, visit neverstoplearning.net/writers