The 2014 Minnesota Writing Workshop: Sept. 6, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.06.55 AMThe 2014 Minnesota Writing Workshop is now over. Thank you to all that attended. Feel free to check back to this page occasionally for news about any future MN-based workshops.


The people behind the organization and instruction of the Texas Writing Retreat are excited to announce The Minnesota Writing Workshop — a full-day “How to Get Published” writing event in St. Paul, MN in September 2014.

This writing event is a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch an agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more. Note that there are limited seats at the event (UPDATED: 75 total, since the change to a larger venue). All questions about the event regarding schedule, details and registration are answered below. Thank you for your interest in the 2014 Minnesota Writing Workshop!


This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Sept. 6, 2014, at Subtext Books in St. Paul, MN. In other words, it’s one day full of classes and advice designed to give you the best instruction concerning how to get your writing & books published. We’ll discuss your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries & pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the day’s classes will help point you in the right direction. Writers for all genres are welcome.

This event is designed to squeeze as much into one day of learning as possible. We will have literary agents from Red Sofa Literary onsite to give feedback and meet with writers, as well. We’re also excited to have Scarletta Press children’s book editor Josh Plattner in attendance meeting with writers, as well as Graywolf Press editor Steve Woodward. You can ask any questions you like during the day’s sessions, and get your specific concerns addressed.

By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey.


Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 1.09.19 PMChuck Sambuchino (, @chucksambuchino) of Writer’s Digest Books is the editor of Guide to Literary Agents as well as the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market. His authored books include Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript; Create Your Writer Platform, which was praised by; and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, which was optioned for film by Sony. He oversees one of the biggest blogs in publishing (the Guide to Literary Agents Blog) as well as one of the biggest Twitter accounts in publishing (@WritersDigest). He is a freelance editor who has seen dozens of his clients get agents and/or book deals, and he has presented at more than 120 writing conferences and events over the past ten years.


9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014, at the downtown St. Paul Holiday Inn, 175 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102. (651)225-1515. Note: We changed our venue to accommodate the fantastic response. We can now take up to 75 attendees. The hotel has an adjoining parking garage with a daily rate of $15.

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Click on this image to see the downtown St. Paul Holiday Inn (our venue) on a map.


9:00 – 9:30: Check-in and registration.

9:30 – 10:30: “Your Publishing Options Today.” This workshop examines the two largest routes any writer can take with their book: traditional publishing and self-publishing (e-publishing). We will examine the upsides of both routes, the downsides, and the next steps no matter what you decide. In today’s publishing world, a writer has to understand what they’re in for before they send their book out. This session is designed to prepare them for what’s to come and what options exist.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.12.02 AM10:30 – 11:45: “Everything You Need to Know About Agents, Queries & Pitching.” This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with literary agents. After quickly going over what an agent is and what they do for writers, we will discuss resources for finding agents, how to ID the best agents for you, query letter writing, as well as the most important things to do and not to do when dealing with representatives.

11:45 – 1:15: Lunch on your own. There are several restaurants within quick walking distance.

1:15 – 2:30: “Writers’ Got Talent: A Chapter One Critique-Fest.” In the vein of American Idol or America’s Got Talent, this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with agents commenting on what they liked or did not like about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. The agents from Red Sofa Literary will be participating in this event. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 10.07.06 AM2:30 – 3:45: “How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Author Platform & Social Media Explained.” A writer’s platform is as important as ever now. Visibility and ability to self-market are mandatory these days for writers of nonfiction and self-published works. Furthermore, fiction writers want a platform to sell more books, meet readers, and increase their value. This speech teaches writers the basics of what a platform is and why it is necessary. Then we delve into the building blocks of what can constitute a platform, from media appearances and speaking engagements to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and more.

3:45 – 5:00: “How to Get Published: 10 Professional Writing Practices That You Need to Know NOW to Find Success as a Writer.” This final speech is a general presentation examining good writing practices that all editors appreciate—whether writing for books, magazines, newspapers or online. It discusses how to not put all your eggs in one writing basket, how to steal ideas from yourself to generate more stories and books, how to avoid the two most common reasons agents reject you, and much more.

All day: Agent & Editor Pitching.


rs litAll three literary agents from Red Sofa Literary (Dawn Frederick, Jennie Goloboy, Laura Zats) will be in attendance at the event, and some of them will be taking part in the “Writers’ Got Talent” critique fest event at 1:15 p.m. Following their appearance on that panel, they will be available for 10-minute one-on-one meetings with some writers until the event ends at 5 p.m.

These one-on-one meetings are an amazing chance to pitch your book face-to-face with an agent, and get personal, individual feedback on your pitch/concept. If the agent likes your pitch, they’ll request to see part/all of your book — sending you straight past the slush pile. It also gives you an intimate chance to meet with an agent and pick their brain with any questions on your mind.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 1.22.50 PMJuly 2014 update: We have added Scarletta Press children’s book editor Josh Plattner to the workshop faculty. He will be taking afternoon pitches from writers of picture books for kids as well as nonfiction books for kids. If you’re writing a book for children ages 4-8, make sure to schedule a meeting with Josh.

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 7.41.52 AMJuly 2014 update #2: We have added Graywolf Press associate editor Steve Woodward to the workshop faculty. Graywolf is a leading independent, nonprofit publisher. Steve will be taking afternoon pitches for literary fiction (both novels and story collections), memoir, and essay.

(Please note that Agent/Editor Pitching is an add-on, separate aspect of the day, for only those who sign up. Spaces are limited for these premium meetings, and pricing/detail is explained below.)

If you’re thinking about pitching an agent or editor at our event, feel free to check out our “Tips on Pitching” post here.

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The three agents from Red Sofa. Pictured from left to right: Dawn Frederick, Jennie Goloboy, and Laura Zats.



(The 2014 Minnesota Writing Workshop is now closed and over. Thank you to all who participated.)

Contact: The workshop happened in September 2014, and will likely happen again in the future — either in 2015 or 2016. If you are interested in getting on an e-mail list to notify you once dates are set down the road, e-mail Writing Day Workshops organizer Jessica Bell at and ask her to be added.


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Thank you for your interest in the Minnesota Writing Workshop.


Tips For Pitching Your Book at the 2014 MWW

If you are coming to the 2014 Minnesota Writing Workshop, you may be thinking about pitching one of the literary agents in attendance from Red Sofa Literary. An in-person pitch is an excellent way to get an agent excited about both you and your work. Here are some tips (from this year’s instructor, Chuck Sambuchino) that will help you pitch your work effectively at the event during a 10-minute consultation. Chuck advises that you should:

  • Try to keep your pitch to 60-90 seconds. Keeping your pitch concise and short is beneficial because 1) it shows you are in command of the story and what your book is about; and 2) it allows plenty of time for back-and-forth discussion between you and the agent. Note: If you’re writing nonfiction, and therefore have to speak plenty about yourself and your platform, then your pitch can certainly run longer.
  • Practice before you get to the event. Say your pitch out loud, and even try it out on fellow writers. Feedback from peers will help you figure out if your pitch is confusing, or missing critical elements. Remember to focus on what makes your story unique. Mystery novels, for example, all follow a similar formula — so the elements that make yours unique and interesting will need to shine during the pitch to make your book stand out.
  • Do not give away the ending. If you pick up a DVD for Die Hard, does it say “John McClane wins at the end”? No. Because if it did, you wouldn’t buy the movie. Pitches are designed to leave the ending unanswered, much like the back of any DVD box you read.
  • Have some questions ready. 10 minutes is plenty of time to pitch and discuss your book, so there is a good chance you will be done pitching early. At that point, you are free to ask the agent questions about writing, publishing or craft. The meeting is both a pitch session and a consultation, so feel free to ask whatever you like as long as it pertains to writing.
  • Remember to hit the big beats of a pitch. Everyone’s pitch will be different, but the main elements to hit are 1) introducing the main character(s) and telling us about them, 2) saying what goes wrong that sets the story into motion, 3) explaining how the main character sets off to make things right and solve the problem, 4) explaining the stakes — i.e., what happens if the main character fails, and 5) ending with an unclear wrap-up.