2017 SDSU Writers’ Conference: Six Questions with Agent Melissa Edwards

Melissa Edwards

Melissa Edwards

Whatever your writing level, whatever your genre, there’s something for you at the SDSU Writers’ Conference. The 33rd annual conference is Jan. 20-22, 2017 at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, with award-winning, best-selling, and thrilling keynote speakers R.L. Stine, J.A. Jance, and Jonathan Maberry. Learn from their insights, and the expertise offered in 40+ workshops on the craft and the business of writing.

Best of all, get direct feedback on your writing (Advance Reading) and pitch (Consultation) with up to five agents or editors of your choice. The SDSU Writers’ Conference was among the first to pioneer these 1:1 appointments, giving you unprecedented access to top-tier publishing professionals — many of whom interact with unpublished authors only through conferences.

The distinguished faculty this year includes Melissa Edwards, an agent with Stonesong literary agency in New York:

1. What’s the best advice you can give to writers who are polishing their pitches, query letters and first 10 pages of their manuscripts in preparation for the upcoming SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Research, research, research. You can never know too much or be too prepared. Look up the wish lists of the agents and editors you’re planning to meet. “The More You Know” is more than just a very useable gif; it’s a way of life.

2. Can you share one of the best/worst opening lines from query letters you’ve received?
Worst: “This book doesn’t have what you’d call a plot.” That’s not going to work!

3. How did you make the transition from litigation attorney to literary agent?
When I was practicing law, I had this dreamy impression of being a literary agent — all author acknowledgements and beautiful prose in manuscript form. I emailed Harlan Coben’s agent (because I love him so) to ask her about her job. I wanted to know more practical information about the career itself. The timing worked out quite well, as she was looking for a new agency assistant. Regardless of my legal experience, I started from the bottom and learned about the industry from the ground up.

4. What’s the first book that spoke to you as a young reader?
My typical answer for this question is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. It was the first time I could see a book play out in my head, like my own personal movie! But recently, I was bobbing around Amazon when I saw the cover for The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. It brought me back so intensely to childhood. I remember the particular experience of laughing along with the characters, and experiencing their pain, and wanting to remain close with them after the book ended. That’s what I want to find in middle grade now — those classic novels that express timeless themes in varied and interesting ways.

5. If you had to choose only one, what’s your favorite book?
Nope. (But if a gun is to my head Persuasion by Jane Austen.)

6. What do you hope to find at the 33rd Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference?
Of course, I hope to find clients who write incredibly beautiful prose, gripping plots, and life-like dialogue!

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