Literary agent Nathan Bransford receives about 50 query letters every day.
He sifts through 350 pitches a week, 1,500 a month and 15,000 to 20,000 a year, a daunting number for any writer seeking representation. But when Lisa Brackmann contacted Bransford about her debut novel, “Rock Paper Tiger,” her pithy, plot-packed pitch immediately grabbed his attention.
“Lisa did a terrific job pulling the different plot elements together in the query,” explained Bransford, describing “Rock Paper Tiger” as a fast-paced thriller “about an Iraq war medic living in China who suddenly finds herself being chased by shadowy security details.” He became Brackmann’s agent; her book was published this summer.
Bransford hopes to help others make that transition from amateur scribbler to published author as the keynote speaker at this year’s Central Coast Writers’ Conference.
Held Sept. 17 and Sept. 18 at Cuesta College, the event brings writers face-to-face with professional authors, agents, editors and publishers. They’ll swap notes and share experiences through a series of workshops, panel discussions and page critiques.
This year, the conference is placing a special emphasis on teen writers and young adult fiction, conference director Judy Salamanca said. Two workshops will specifically target young writers, led by fantasy novelist Kathleen Duey, and Becky Levine, author of the “The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide.” Meanwhile, conference organizers are honoring Nipomo librarian Jay Asher, author of the best-selling young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why,” as this year’s “success story.”
Bransford, who works with the San Francisco office of Curtis Brown Ltd., has his own connection to young adult fiction.
His first book, “Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow,” is a science fiction novel aimed at ages 9 to 12.
“Even though he’s in the industry, he has the same angst and anxiety as many of the people who are going to be sitting in the audience,” Salamanca said of Bransford. “He is just so responsive and willing to help writers with their craft.”
According to Salamanca, Bransford’s blog contains “anything you’d need to know about writing – querying, getting an agent, getting a publisher.” It’s been named one of Writer’s Digest magazine’s “101 Best Websites for Writers” three years in a row.
In addition to Bransford’s keynote address, the conference features workshops covering everything from poetry to picture books to Hollywood blockbusters. Diane Lebow and Laurie McCandish King will lead three workshops on travel writing, while Marcia “M.K.” Preston will discuss mystery writing. Meanwhile, Melissa Pritchard will delve into the anatomy of a short story.
The two-day conference closes with a general panel discussion titled “You’re Inspired So What’s Next?”
Salamanca said the Central Coast Writers’ Conference ultimately seeks to educate local writers about the practical side of the publishing world.“We want to expose locals to people who have ‘made it’ in the industry (who) are willing to share that knowledge at a small, intimate conference,” she said.