Agent Tales: An Ode to the Midwest Writer’s Workshop

Hello my loves!

You may have heard me mention the Midwest Writer’s Workshop on here a few times. And Twitter. And Facebook. And any time my lips are moving.

I’m a fan.

Last year, in my quest to pull myself from the depths of depressed writer hell, I was on the hunt for a conference to go to. Indiana isn’t exactly the writing mecca of the universe, so my options were limited. I was feeling defeated and frustrated.

And then…

I saw a Tweet about the Midwest Writer’s Workshop.

The strange thing about this is that I have no idea who sent that Tweet. I thought it was a friend of mine who I have always credited, but in fact, it was not her. The only person I have been able to trace it back it is Sarah LaPolla, which if that was indeed who sent the Tweet which inspired me to register, would be all kismet and shit.

What happened that weekend was…SURREAL. Seriously. I look back on it and I still don’t understand what happened.

I’ve told the story where I had originally gone to pitch to Sarah, and having to swap agents at the last minute after being pegged as a Street Rat, 😉

But here is the rest of it.

I swear the following story is true, and I thank the heavens that I have witnesses to all these things to remind me that they did actually happen.

Thursday, and Friday of the Workshop were delightful and normal. I spent time making AMAZING new friends, I took the sessions, I learned sooooooooo much. We helped each other practice our pitches, supported each other, and had a general time of merriment.

On Saturday, things got…odd.

I was set to live pitch to a lovely agent, JL Stermer, on Saturday, so I was a nervous wreck. I was convinced I would be the only person to walk away without getting a request. I’d stayed up late the night before tweaking my pitch as best I could, and practicing delivery.

That morning, I went to all the sessions, things were swell.

And then I went to a session taught by the amazeballs Kathleen Ortiz and my day got a lot cooler.

The session was that she would read the first two pages of volunteered manuscripts and then give you an honest critique on them. I was like, WEEE!!  Feedback!!  So of course I threw my pages in there.

We went through the entire session, and DUDE. I can’t recommend this enough. You learn SOOOO much from this. Just from hearing her critique other people’s pages, I was like, mesmerized.

Plus, she mime-climbed a tree, and that will always be one of the most hilarious things I have ever witnessed. Reward given for anyone who caught that on video.

And then, she was almost out of time so she said she’d pick one more set of pages.

I watched her poke through the pile, grab a set, and she started to read.


All I hoped was that someone, SOMEWHERE in the giant room would laugh at some point. That’s all I cared about. I felt like if any of it made someone laugh, I’d feel like I’d done something right.

Also, I may or may not have had to teach KOrtizzle how to pronounce “douchecanoe” as she read…

People laughed. Kathleen laughed. The feedback was great. I damn near burst into flames. It was the BEST feeling I had ever felt. I could have flited my ass home right then and stayed on Coud Nine.

So, I run out of the class, blushing like a damn fool after people came up to tell me how much they enjoyed my pages.  I hit the lobby, with my panic starting to set in because in just a few minutes I was scheduled to make my live pitch, but feeling good with this new burst of fun.

I get stopped in the lobby by Kathleen. As I attempt to thank her for the feedback she says, “You wrote those pages? Yeah. I want it.”

I stutter through trying to ask her how much does she want. Three chapters? Fifty pages?

“All of it. I don’t care that I don’t rep this genre, I want this.”

Jaw. Floor.

This is badass, right? Best thing ever?

All of a sudden, a crumodgeonly head pops over Kathleen’s shoulder and is all, “I want it. I want the full.”

Brooks Sherman, ladies and gentlemen.

Mr. Sherman had been somewhere in the room when Kathleen had read my pages.

It was this moment I lost feeling in the left side of my body.

They may or may not have had a friendly little squabble there, and she may or may not have called him a douchecanoe. And then again on Twitter.

I gathered their business cards, and floated over to the little corner where I sat down to catch my breath and THIS happened.

There I was, two full requests and I hadn’t even done my pitch yet.

I gathered up what little oxygen I could suck in and went and did my pitch.

Two minutes in, another full request.

I go out into the lobby, completely spaced out, not understanding what the actual hell just happened, that three of the four agents just requested my story in literally ten minutes when I am caught by the imcomparable Jama Bigger (She’s a big deal, kids.) and the exchange is videotaped by the super awesome Kelsey Timmerman.

As this is going on, and very sadly it wasn’t caught on tape, Sarah freaking LaPolla comes right up and says she is hearing all this buzz about these two pages that were read, and she wants them and she wants them NAO.

Right there. Boom. Four requests from four agents.

I don’t actually remember walking outside to call my husband to squeal about what had just happened, but I do remember as I left the lobby, I heard someone behind me announce to everyone, “That girl right there? She just got ALL the cards…”

The rest of the day was insanely amazing. Brooks read my query aloud in his query workshop and blushed harder than I have ever seen anyone blush as he read. Apparently rocking nudists are a blush zone. As we’ve discussed, there may have been shoving by Sarah to sit next to me at dinner. I somehow won the Best Tweet of the Workshop award.

As I collected that prize, Jama said in front of everyone at the closing dinner, “This year’s Workshop was for Summer. It was all for her.”

And then I died.

A few months, and all the revisions later, I signed with my lovely Sarah based off that request.

I am totally tearing up remembering that day, kids. Seriously. Best day EVER.

This year, I will be returning to the Midwest Writer’s Workshop. Like, try and keep me away, seriously. I couldn’t owe more to them and the things they taught me, the knowledge I gained, the people I met. Seriously, I owe them like a million fruit baskets, you guys.

This isn’t one of the crowded, super intimidating conferences in giant cities. This is a group of people that will be your family by the end of the weekend. Everyone is rooting for everyone else to succeed. Everyone goes out on a limb to help in any way they can.

The faculty is amazing, the visiting agents are AWESOME (*cough* SARAH IS COMING AGAIN!!! *cough*) and the other Workshop goers are about as nice a crew you will ever meet.

And, uh, plus, they kind of asked me to speak on a panel, and help with a session. So, there is that. I promise I will humiliate myself in someway, because well, it’s me.

PLUS, aside from my certain embarrassment, the sessions this year are beyond incredible. Sarah will be there doing multiple panels and classes, as will John Cusick, Victoria Marini, and Amanda Luedeke!!

For a full list of the AWESOME that is #MWW13 (Follow that hashtag on Twitter for all the fun gossip, yo.) go HERE.

So, clearly, YOU NEED TO GO TO THIS!!!!  RIGHT!?!?!?


Seriously. Why are you still reading this? Take this link and GO REGISTER!!!!

I very truly can’t wait to see you all there! It’s going to be a blast, kids!!!

PS, expect more gushing MWW posts in the coming months, 😉

Until next time,

Peace, Love, and DOUCHECANOES!!!



  1. Summer,
    Seriously, tears are falling down my cheeks. I’m working from home on the MWW brochure, Adele cranked to megavolume, and decided to check emails, and THERE was this blog post. Helping boost writers to higher levels is why I’m involved with Midwest Writers. What it did for me, what it can do for the lives and careers of others. I love your comment, “This is a group of people that will be your family by the end of the weekend.” Truth in one sentence. I will forever follow you, dear girl, one of my family. You who taught me all about the Happy Day Moment of SQUEEing.

  2. I’m a witness. All too true. Not surprised you’re on a panel. Looking forward to seeing you again.

    I tried your second link to the MWW13 and it said “not available.” Did your blog crash their site? Wouldn’t surprise me either. I’ll try it after awhile, but you might want to check the link. Congrats, Summer! How’s the edit coming? Release date yet?

    • They all worked for me, so hopefully it will work if you try again!!

      And YAY!!! I can’t wait to see you again!!! I’ll make sure to bring some chocolate for our table, 😉

  3. The first time I heard this amazing story was also the first time I got to talk to you on the phone! It was incredible to hear the excitement in your voice. 🙂

    I am so happy that you have this day you can look back on and smile about. And I think it’s really funny that when you’re famous and people watch this video, they’ll hear you talking about me for two minutes, even though I don’t actually deserve the credit. lol 😉

    • Ha!! Hey, you deserve credit for all the behind the scenes CYOA insanity we went through, lol.

      And the weird expression on my face as I spoke was I as convinced I’d pronounce your name wrong, lol.

  4. Thanks you’ve just convinced me to come. I’ve been considering it and just found your blog via the MWW FB page which I just ‘liked’ last week. I am in, looking forward to meeting some fellow writers! Enjoyed your post.

  5. ERMAHGERD! Congrats!

    I’ll be back!

  6. Yay! Now I’m more excited to go!

    Also, funny that you found out about MWW from Sarah. I actually found the link to THIS blog through Sarah’s Twitter when the Hook, Line and Sinker contest was going on. Which led to me entering, which led to e-mails from you, which led to Twitter friendship, which led to…me signing up for MWW13. So, I also signed up because of Sarah, if indirectly.

    And I’ve totally seen that video before…am I a stalker? Either way, it made me smile.

  7. LOVED this post! I sat in the Walmart parking lot reading and watching your video. I have no doubt people were looking at the freaky girl wiping tears and laughing!
    So happy for you! What a day indeed!

  8. Every word is true. Best. Conference. Ever. For anyone who is looking to engage with a community of passionate writers and get down to serious (and not so serious) business for a weekend, MWW is the best!

  9. This story is so cool. I can only imagine how stunned you felt to have so much interest! Super exciting.

    I would love to go to this! Currently looking into it; July is the one really busy month for me, but I don’t know if I can miss out on meeting my agent and other writers, especially at a conference a driveable distance away!

  10. Fizzy: the belle of the Midwest Writer’s ball.

  11. That’s amazing! Congratulations : )

  12. WOW…I don’t know how I found you, I was browsing twitter, someone posted a post, I read, I followed, I came back and read more. This post is so inspiring for a green little newbie like myself. I have had so many moments where I think, “Should I go to one of those writers conferences?” I’m wayyyyyy up in Ontario, Canada and think often about hopping on a plane and just doing it. However, no full MS, should I wait until I have my full first draft revised?

    I believe in those moments in life that happen and how your papers were picked out of all of them at the last moment and then created such a frenzie. Pretty damn sweet!

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