BSU + MWW: or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

BSU + MWW: or “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again:

Did you know there’s a writers’ conference in Muncie, Indiana?

Did you know that Veronica Roth, author of the best-selling dystopian YA novel Divergent found her agent at this conference in 2009?

Well, now you do.

This conference is called the Midwest Writers Workshop, a yearly gathering of agents, editors, and publishing professionals whose mission is to help people become published authors.

Basically, MWW brings New York publishing to Muncie, Indiana, and this year, the conference celebrated its 40th year with 238 people in attendance from 20 states.

Watch this video and see for yourself how awesome it is.

As soon as I found out about the conference, I started thinking: How can I bring MWW and BSU together?

Answer: apply for a grant through the Discovery Group. Thanks to this amazing organization, many Ball State students (all of the English majors or minors) were able to attend this year’s conference as paid interns and scholarship winners.  

The Scholarship Winners

These students applied for scholarships to attend the conference, a $250 value. They were selected by the creative writing faculty based on a writing sample and essay. They attended two days of panels, presentations, and talks by industry professionals.

  • Jessie Fudge
  • Adam Gulla
  • Rianne Hall
  • Alisha Layman
  • Logan Mason
  • Brittany Means
  • Tara Olivero
  • Chase Stanley

Some of the scholarship recipients have taken my novel-writing course, where they learned the basics of the publishing process. I was happy some of them signed up for a pitch sessions and that my former students Alisha Layman and Jessie Fudge were successful in piquing the interest of agents about novels they began in my course.

Junior Brittany Means received the award for best poetry manuscript submitted, as well as for best overall manuscript (the R. Karl Largent Writing Award) and a $200 cash award. This is even more significant when you consider that Brittany wasn’t selected as the best student writer at the conference, but rather the best writer. Period.

Pic 2 Brittany Means winning Karl Largent Award
The moment Brittany Means found out whe won the Karl Largent Award

The Interns, aka “Social Media Ninjas”

These students worked as tech assistants, social media tutors, and agent assistants. They got a rare glimpse of the publishing industry, gained real-world experience, and built credentials that will give them an advantage in their careers.

Here’s what they did (and please click on the hyperlinks to read the Storify for each day of the conference!):

Day 1: Tech Intensives

Students worked alongside faculty in two all-day “tech intensives. One helped attendees learn how to create and format an e-book (taught by editor Jane Friedman), and the other helped them build an author website (taught by writer and editor Roxane Gay). I wrote about the tech intensives in more detail here.

The interns also served as buzzers in a fun game of Literary Jeopardy.

Day 2 & Day 3: Helping the Attendees and the Literary Agents

During “Part II” of the conference, the interns were split into two teams.
Six students worked as Social Media Tutors.

  • Mo Smith
  • John Carter
  • Madison Jones
  • Rebekah Hobbs
  • Kameron McBride
  • Jackson Eflin

Everyone who attended Midwest Writers had the opportunity to schedule a free, 50-minute social media consulting session. This is what it looked like. In advance of the conference, the tutors studied their clients’ current online presence and made recommendations about how they could be better online literary citizens. In two days, students met with over 50 clients.

Five students worked as Agent Assistants.

  • Rachael Heffner
  • Sarah Hollowell
  • Becca Jackson
  • Kiley Neal
  • Sara Rae Rust

Each agent heard approximately 30 three-minute pitches. In advance of the conference, the assistants coordinated schedules, communicating with the literary agents and the attendees. At the conference, they handled last-minute changes to the agents’ schedules.

All students had a chance to spend an hour and a half talking to literary agent Brooks Sherman. The conversation ranged from careers to publishing trends.

All the interns got a chance to pick the brain of a NY literary agent.
All the interns got a chance to pick the brain of a NY literary agent.

The Final Verdict: “Awesome”

Intern Sarah Hollowell said it best. “Here’s what I took away from #mww13: I am meant to be in this community.”