Saturday, May 16, was SCBWI’s Agent’s Day in Newport Beach, CA. This was my first official writer’s event and I learned a tremendous amount of information about the roll of an agent, how agents can vary in preference and style, and what the current trends are in the children’s book market.

The staff was amazing and everyone had a smile on their face. It was like walking into a family reunion: You know you are all related, but you don’t necessarily know who everyone is yet. The location view was marvelous at the Newport Seabase. Although the sky was covered with a gray overcast, the sailboat-filled harbor was beautiful.

The first guest agent to greet us was Chris Richman with Firebrand Literary. Right off the bat we all knew Chris loved humor. I laughed out loud several times and found that agents can be really cool. Chris shared some of his favorite books and writing styles, including middle grade and young adult. He also talked about the “pitch process” and told us what he liked to see in a query. Chris even shared some queries with us that he had received and explained why they grabbed his attention.

Our second speaker was Michael Bourret, an agent with Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Michael was very down to earth and began by stating that he loves to help put writers’ careers together and develop people. After sharing some of his favorite genres, Michael told us that building a brand was an important task for new writers to focus on. He reminded us that the goal is not to write the most books, but to write the best books. He encouraged those of us who like to write in multiple genres (which includes me) to complete at least three similar projects before moving on to something else. Beginner writers, he said, should work on figuring out their strengths and take time to try on different voices in writing while developing their craft.

Next, we had the honor of hearing from one of Michael Bourret's clients, Heather Buchta, who was our guest author. It was enlightening to hear her perspective of the importance of having an agent. She claimed that not only do they help you skip over the slush pile, they help with all the minute details involved in getting your work published. She gave us her opinion on the four things your agent should be. They should seem smarter than you, communication should flow easily, they need to be approachable on what might appear to be trivial details, and your agent must have wisdom about the industry.

We broke for lunch and enjoyed a seaside meal at a nearby restaurant. The networking was great and I just may have found a new member to join my local critique group, HB Critters.

Stay tuned for my Agent’s Day Recap, Part 2, when I’ll share some details of our guest agents, Stephen Barbara (Foundry Literary and Media) and Tina Wexler (ICM). Additionally, I’ll tell you all about breaking into groups for our Round Robin Speed Chat with each of the agents.

Until then, happy reading and writing!

Jenni Bielicki