5 Things I Learned from the Writers at LitPubCrawl 2016

As an emerging writer, I feel as if I need to be constantly on the prowl for opportunities where I can listen and connect to other writers, especially those who have been successful in the field. So when Chapman University put on their annual literary publishing crawl (LitPubCrawl), I knew I had to attend. The writerly line up was impressive: Chapman alumnus Ryan Gattis, Janna Levin, Gordon McAlpine, and the charming Pico Iyer. What an opportunity!

The speeches were great and the event was fun and deeply interesting. Here are the top 5 tips I learned from LitPubCrawl 2016:

1. Find an agent. In our competitive day and age, good agents can be hard to come by, and the best aren’t always accepting new clients. Still, Gordon McAlpine talked in length about the need for a good agent, especially someone who can help with the editing process. His tip? Show up to literary events and introduce yourself to agents or representatives from presses. Let them know that you’re interested. Then, when you write your query letter, you can remind them that you saw them at that event, giving your letter a personal flare.

2. Writing what you know vs. writing to discover. Every creative writer is familiar with the adage, “Write what you know.” This advice can be simultaneously affirming and limiting. On one hand, writers are encouraged that the subject of their lives is worth writing about, but on the other hand, writing only what you know severely limits what you could discover. The advice? Both Gordon McAlpine and Pico Iyer believed that a balance of both is good, and that writing to discover is, of course, one of the most exciting parts of the process.

3. Research, research, research. Ryan Gattis talked a lot about his new novel All Involved, a work about the 1992 LA riots. Gattis’s book involved a very significant amount of research, including interviewing many former gang members. Gattis encouraged the audience to do a lot of research, and to not be afraid to branch out into the unknown.

4. Let yourself marinate in a project. As a young writer, I know it can be very hard for me to balance my writing time with all of my other obligations. Janna Levin spoke about her writing process, detailing how when she is working on a writing project, she devotes herself entirely to that project. The book is ALL that she is thinking about at the time. It can be very helpful to really allow ourselves to connect with our work at an intimate level. If Levin can balance the demand of being an astrophysicist and a writer, I think there may be hope for all of us.

5. Writing is a pleasure. For writer Pico Iyer, the greatest pleasure comes at the desk, in the task of writing, and everything after (including publication) is “a tax and a disappointment.” How curious! Iyer spoke in much depth about the joys of writing, and how this solitary activity has been his greatest companion. His biggest advice to young writers was to discover and know this joy, and to continue to pursue the craft of writing. Give into the unreasonable imagination within yourself.

LitPubCrawl 2016 was amazing. Much thanks to Chapman University, the English Department, Wilkinson College, Leatherby Libraries, and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity for making this a possibility. Small events like this really go a long way in supporting students with their dreams and ambitions.

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