After a good old-fashioned Google search for “California Writers’ Conference,” Shannon Messenger who lives in southern California found the SDSU Writers’ Conference. Not sure if SDSU was one of the “good ones,” she asked a fellow writer if he knew anything about the conference.
Funny enough, this fellow writer had not only attended the SDSU Conference, but a few years prior to their conversation, he met his agent there. He called the SDSU Writers’ Conference “The Magic Conference.” With a recommendation like that, Messenger was sold – and her journey to becoming a published author began.
Messenger wanted to attend the conference because she felt her manuscript was almost ready to query, and wanted feedback from those in the industry.
“I wasn’t expecting to have any agents request pages or to garner any attention. What I wanted was to see how they responded and see if they spotted any weaknesses or mistakes. That way I could maybe fix some of those problems before I sent it out and accumulated a gigantic stack of rejections,” Messenger laughs.
Messenger decided to attend SDSU’s conference and during three events – a breakout session, lunch, and a panel – she met literary agent Laura Rennert. After talking with each other, Rennert requested to read a few pages of Messenger’s work. “I sent her my manuscript. She in turn offered to represent me. Meeting her was inspiring,” Messenger says. “I realized after taking a few years to find the right story to tell and then another year of learning how to actually tell it well, I was ready for representation and there she was.”
The reason Messenger chose Rennert’s offer was because of their discussions at the conference and, under Rennert’s expert tutelage, Messenger was able to revise her draft into something worthy of publication. In turn, they both were able to sell it to an editor. Messenger says, “Authors might see agents as scary. I built agents up to be these terrifying gatekeepers out to crush my dreams if they caught the slightest typo or mistake in my query. But they’re not.” Messenger says every agent she met was friendly and kind, made a genuine effort to talk to writers, offered tons of valuable advice and encouragement, and was incredibly gracious to everyone.
“Don’t be intimidated by agents. They’re a group of people with an intense love for books and publishing, and they want to like your book. That doesn’t mean it’ll end up being the right project for them – this is a subjective business, after all. But they aren’t on a mission to reject you, either. They’re hoping – just as much as you are – that they’ll find something they love,” Messenger adds.
The book was sold as part of a three-book deal, so currently Messenger has two more books to write in order to fulfill her contract with Simon and Schuster. After that, she says, “I have a few other ideas I’m dying to explore on the page.”
As for advice to other writers, Messenger says this, “Keep writing and never give up. I know that probably sounds obvious, but I firmly believe that the only difference between a published author and an aspiring writer is time and effort. Everyone has a different journey toward publication. Some of us take longer, shelve more projects, face more rejections – whatever the challenges may be. But if you keep writing, keep going, and never give up on yourself or this dream you will get there eventually, I promise.”