Venue: A
Agents: A
Value: B+
The coffee: A+
Fellow writers: A+

Like the Backspace Writers Conference last May, this autumn’s Backspace Agent-Author Seminar was the shortest distance between two points: writers and literary agents. Two days of 15-member workshops and panels made for two nights of dead-exhausted sleep and sore feet, if you happened to be wearing boots with four-inch heels. But the rigor is worth it, because the agents, location, and especially other attendees–and yes, Starbucks coffee–were outstanding. The only reason I gave the value a B+ is because everything in New York has a, well, New York price tag.

My pages and query letter seemed generally OK, based on the response they got from agents Michelle Brower, Rebecca Friedman, Natanya Wheeler, Alanna Ramirez, Adam Schear, Kirsten Neuhaus, and Paul Cirone. But the few flags and questions the agents raised are ones I have, too, and hearing them out loud in front of a group helped me answer them better for myself. Chiefly: yes, it’s a dystopian novel about near-future Gaza; no, present-day Gaza is not a dystopia, (1) by definition; and (2) not an appropriate setting for story I want to tell, because the way characters confront the division of men and women in this society cannot happen while strident criticism of the West is a conventional part of the argument.

Anyway, it’s complicated, but it is all helpful for me as the creator of this world. I’m clearer about the writing and revisions that come next, and more excited about my late winter deadline than I was three days ago. Add this to a long run in Prospect Park this morning, and the discovery of a Stumptown Coffee around the corner from Leena’s apartment, and the world seems like a generous place.