SDSU Writers’ Conference: Five Questions with Keynote Speaker and Literary Agent Chip MacGregor

Chip MacGregor

Chip MacGregor, Literary Agent, MacGregor Literary Inc.

If you’re a writer with a dream, get one step closer to becoming a writer with an agent by attending the 31st annual SDSU Writers’ Conference, which has a long history of launching careers. In just three days – January 23-25, 2015 – you’ll learn how to hone your craft, develop a proposal, write a query letter, find an agent, and navigate the industry

You’ll hear from many top-tier industry professionals, including keynote speaker Chip MacGregor, literary agent and president of MacGregor Literary Inc., a full-service, West Coast literary agency. Chip will share his perspective on how authors, editors and agents fit into the changing world of publishing.

1. Could you give us a nugget of a preview of your keynote topic?
Like most people who work in this industry, I’ve had my life changed by books I’ve read. I’ve been moved by movies, enjoyed music, love visiting art galleries, and can appreciate dance, but I don’t know that I ever had my life shaped by a song or a painting or a ballet. However, I can point to several books that have changed me. Words are the most significant tool we have for changing the world.

2. What’s the best piece of advice you can give to writers who are right now polishing their pitches, query letters and first 10 pages of their manuscripts in preparation for the upcoming SDSU Writers’ Conference?
I would say to remember the motto of the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. That means don’t have your pages 60 percent ready — get some other eyes on them, sharpen them up, and get your words as polished as you can make them. And don’t just wander into an appointment and mumble your name — be prepared to pitch your story and talk about yourself. Practice, out loud, so that you know what it is you’re going to say.

3. Can you share one of the worst opening lines from a query letter that you’ve received?
I onece had a proposal that began with the words: “Ring, ring,” said the telephone.
My response: “Barf barf,” said the agent.

4. How about one of the best opening lines?
“The vista of the earth far beneath his feet spread out wide, treetops like so much broccoli out in the distance. (Since Claudius was a farmer, everything ended up looking like a vegetable. His mother had favored paisley, and he always thought of them as summer squash.)” — from Lisa Samson in Resurrection in May.

5. If you had to pick only one, what’s your favorite book?
Gravity’s Rainbow,
by Tom Pynchon.

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