Algonkian Writer Conferences began in 2002 on the banks of the Potomac River in northern Virginia. After Michael Neff and company came upon Algonkian Park for the first time, with its beautiful setting and cottages, it seemed a natural place for a workshop, and thus, Algonkian Writer Conferences was born. By 2004 it had expanded to include more professionals in the literary business, i.e., agents, editors, and authors. The format also evolved to feature novel analysis and preparation, as well as perfection of the Algonkian Writer Conferences pitch model used to both examine and sell the novel. Over the years, additional novel writing and workshop events formed on both coasts, including the New York Pitch Conference, the SF Write to Market Conference, and the Santa Barbara Author-Mentor Novel Workshop.
And now, the big question:
Is there a single best way to work towards becoming a published author? There is, and without trying to give offense to anyone, we truthfully reject the concept of the stereotypical big conference carnival as a satisfactory solution for all but those in the earliest stages of their career. On our end of the pole, we create intimate, carefully managed environments far more conducive to learning the skills and knowledge needed to realistically approach the making of a competitive novel. See our Frequently Asked Questions page and workshop syllabus for more details on our advantages, methods and goals. If you are beginning a novel or working on a novel-in-progress, or if you have a completed ms and you require a strong reality check, you must receive professional and highly focused reaction not only to your prose and narrative, but to your entire work, including but not limited to premise, complications, plot, theme, and character arc.
We don't deny that several writers conferences out there stir up lots of energy and make for a good time and even include some useful short workshops for beginners. Of course. Regardless, given they are generally mob-heavy and juggling speakers, panels, brunch for two thousand, and whatnot, they cannot possibly schedule the time and effort it takes to prepare each individual writer for the ruthlessly competitive atmosphere of the literary book market.
There are 250,000+ first-novel manuscripts being written each year in America. What percent of those will eventually fail to be published by a major house? 99.99% ... The statistics can't be denied. The job of Algonkian isn't to make this process risk free and easy. Our ultimate goal is to realistically increase your odds of becoming a published author by showing you how to inhabit that upper percentile of writers who will have their work taken seriously by professionals in the business.
Take a minute and read our commentary page and the writer interviews there to get a better feel for what we're talking about.
Algonkian helped me develop a discipline around the creative process, enabling me to write with a clear intention to publish. It has been a year since the program and I continue to refer to the workshop material. From the story analyses I learned to examine my own work with rigor.
Sheela Sukumaran, PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow
From Susan Breen (five figures for women's fiction -
THE FICTION CLASS - Plume)
I am the person who sold my novel at the New York Pitch Conference conference. I met with an editor from Plume, pitched the idea and she liked it and after several weeks, and rounds of discussion and so forth, she made an offer. Meantime, Michael Neff helped to set me up with my agent, who is a lovely person at Trident Media. So I can honestly say that going to that conference changed my life.
Let me just share my experience here. Before I went to the New York Pitch Conference conference, I had been to a number of more traditional conferences--Bread Loaf, Antioch, Writers @ Work and so on. When I saw the ad for New York Pitch Conference, I had just finished my novel, The Fiction Class, and I was about to embark on a search for an agent (which is a long story in itself) and I was thinking I would apply to a conference. Then I saw the ad and I liked the fact that it was different than anything I had done. Quite honestly, I was at a point in my career where I thought I needed to do something different.
I knew it was a long shot, but I was going to spend the money on one conference or another and I figured it was worth giving it a try. I had met agents before at other conferences, but I liked the directness of this one. The whole purpose was to try and sell my novel; there was no pussy footing around. Also, I just liked the idea of meeting an editor face to face. If you are not in publishing, you just do not run into editors and since these people were the decision makers, I wanted to see what they were like.
Everything turned out so much better than I had dreamed. I did sell my novel--not right at that moment, because there is a process. But I did sell it because I went to New York Pitch Conference.
I'm a children's writer hoping to break into the historical novel market. The Algonkian Workshop surpassed every other conference I've been to. It wasn't "rah-rah" pep talks that do little more than leave an unpublished writer frustrated. It was four days of intensive, down-to-business training and face-to-face contact with agents and authors who told us what we really need to know--and do--to get published. And the agents invited us to send our book proposals to them, first. That's more than worth the price of admission.
Kathryn Dahlstrom, Author of The Good News Club series
From Will Lavender (six figure deal for his thriller - OBEDIENCE
- Shaye Areheart)
This conference helped me TREMENDOUSLY. Tremendously. I did a few things in New York that were of help: I changed the title of my manuscript after it was clear that our group didn't really care for it, and the title change helped me realize some of the book's themes; I was asked to submit my manuscript to an editor at Penguin (something I put on my query letters); and I tightened my query to the point where I was 90% successful in terms of agents asking for partials or fulls. I also met some good people and some good writers there.
According to their website, three of the writers in the group I was in have made deals. I'm with Shaye Areheart; another writer is with Plume; another is with Knopf. There were 16 in the group. That tells you that, while these writers may not have landed deals with editors during this conference (I didn't; the manuscript was eventually rejected by Penguin), there is some legit talent in the groups you pitch with.
I can only speak for myself: it was well worth the money I paid.
The motto and approach, 'write from the heart, but smart,' is pure genius. If you're serious about writing and getting published, an Algonkian conference is the way to go.
Peter Eichstaedt, Newspaper Journalist and Author of If You Poison Us
I have returned to writing after a 20 year hiatus. The Algonkian workshop was instrumental in helping me focus and clarify my characters and story. The small size of the workshop encouraged interaction between attendees and with the facilitator. We all got a lot of specific feedback on our work; the feedback was constructive and specific. I highly recommend the Algonkian Novel workshop for anyone looking for new insights on his/her work.
Amy Roeder, California
From H. Scott Dalton (attendee at New York Pitch Conference)
Since the conference, three of our group, including Will, have been offered contracts for the books they pitched (I, unfortunately, have not had an offer yet). All three say the coaching they received at the conference helped them shop their books more effectively by tightening and targeting their queries.
For myself, I decided to attend for a few reasons:
- It gave me a chance to meet other writers, folks serious about this craft, including some from the Big Bad Industry.
- It gave me an opportunity to get a reality check on my writing and my book, and help me figure out how to market it to maximize my chances.
- It might get me struck by lightning, get picked up and avoid the frustrating query-and-rejection cycle I'm in now (please note, though, I did not go thinking I was guaranteed a contract).
- Hell, it was a chance to go to New York.
As it happens, all but the struck-by-lightning thing worked out. I'm still in contact with several of the folks I met there, one of them Will, and we all continue to learn from each other. Personally, I find it useful to be able to put names and faces to my fellow rookies, and have at least one common experience to look back on. And meeting one-on-one with four real live editors helped me gain a little perspective on this business; the four of them, and all the rest of you, are much more human to me now than before. For me, the conference was worth the price tag.