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Happy New Year!

As I look forward to 2017 and map out my goals for the year, I’m reflecting back on 2016 with gratitude and joy. I met incredible people, signed on amazing projects, and worked with talented authors.

It all started in May, when I attended the Chicago Writing Workshop and took pitches after our big industry fair, BookExpo America. It was there that I met the fabulous Lindsey Smith, or the Food Mood Girl. Little did I know that I would be signing her on at St. Martin’s at the end of the summer.

Also in May, I acquired an essay collection by the students at the Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper. 50 SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION ESSAYS is a collection of successful Harvard application essays from students currently attending the university.

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This fifth edition is updated with more comprehensive information and statistics relating to each student, and a dedicated section for international students.

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After a successful trip to Nashville in July for the Tennessee Writing Workshop, I hopped on the Amtrak and took the train to Lancaster, PA to spend a weekend at Hippocamp 2016. I wrote a bit about my experience in Lancaster in this post, but it was a wonderful weekend filled with good people, talented writers, and stellar keynotes.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I signed up Lindsey Smith and her forthcoming Winter 2018 book, EAT YOUR FEELINGS! Shortly after I got home from Hippocamp, we made it official:

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Read more about the deal on literary agent Eric Smith’s blog, or directly from Lindsey herself!

I wrapped up the conference year with a relaxing and rejuvenating weekend in Sanibel Island, FL for the Sanibel Island Writers’ Conference. I met the most incredible people during this conference. It’s such a pleasure to just talk books for three days straight—because that’s all anyone wants to do. My people.

And now, here we are, at the beginning all over again. I’ve lined up a few conferences for this year—Atlanta in May, Seattle in July, and Lancaster, PA in September—so if you’d like to meet up and talk books, come find me! And if you have a book idea, come find me, too. You never know what could happen.

 

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Before I even begin this post, I have to gush about the wonderful time I had in Lancaster, PA at this year’s Hippocamp. It was organized by Donna Talarico and the brilliant team at Hippocampus Magazine. If you’re not familiar with their mission and their work, go check them out! Submit! And register for next year’s conference, which is sure to be spectacular, when registration opens up.

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Thanks, Marshall Warfield, for a great shot of our agent/editor panel on Sunday!

For many people who attended, it was their first writer’s conference, and with the extraordinary amount of talks and panels and networking opportunities, it can be a bit daunting. Here are some basic tips to get you organized for your next conference.

Plan ahead. Read through each panel/session description, mark the ones you’re interested in, and slash through the ones you don’t think would apply to you. Think about your goals for the year (for Hippocampers, think of Dave Cameron’s fab closing keynote!) and which sessions will give you more information to achieve them. The more organized, the better.

Talk to as many people as possible. Snack breaks, lunch, and happy hour are all great times to approach an editor, agent, author, or fellow memoirist and have a quick chat. Have a conversation about the conference, the woes of a writer, your favorite session of the weekend, or even just about how great the food is. You’ll never know what might come of it: a new writers’ group, a new agent, a piece of advice that could take your book to the new level. Any connection is a good connection.

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A panel from agent Eric Smith’s perspective

Ask questions. That’s really, at the end of the day, what conferences are for! Raise your hand during a session if you’re confused or if you want to know more information. Walk up to the mic after a panel. Come up to a speaker afterwards if you hate raising your hand. Want to be even more proactive? Write down any major questions you have before the conference even starts and make sure you get them answered.

Get involved. Tweet your heart out. Volunteer to introduce one of the speakers. Take pictures and post them on social media. Sign up for a writers’ group. Put your name in for open mic night. Ask your new friends if they want to go for drinks at the end of the day. The more you do, the more you learn, grow, and meet new, awesome people.

What do you do to make your conference experience impeccable? Tweet @LCatAp!

This weekend was a tough one for myself and my family. Our Boston Terrier, Dolly Madison, passed away after 13 wonderful years as, essentially, the Queen of the house. She was my birthday present when I turned 11, gifted to me in an effort to cheer everyone up after a recent tragedy only a year beforehand. And Dolly did more than just cheer us up during that summer of 2003—she became an integral part of the family.

My mother always complained about her accidents around the house in those early years, and she always loved to wiggle under the back gate to go see her friends down the street, which subsequently got her into major trouble. But she was playful and bright; she cuddled on the couch in the crook of your knee during movie night; she would happily sleep in until noon and almost never woke up in the middle of the night. She knew when you were sad and would lick your face as tears tumbled down your cheeks. She would hear the word “walk” and start hopping around the kitchen in an effort to make you get out the door more quickly. She never met a stranger…and she chased our cat down the length of the kitchen almost daily (an activity that the cat actually started to enjoy, I must add).

August 2003 / March 2016

August 2003 / March 2016

I went away to college in 2010, but by then our relationship was cemented as best friends, and when I came home her tail would wag and we would play catch I would sneak her chicken under the dining room table at dinnertime when no one was looking. I would buy her a new toy that she would promptly destroy and we would lay on the couch all day reading and watching TV, only getting up to go on that W-A-L-K and maybe grab a bite to eat.

When she got tired, she’d stand by the stairs and stare, wondering when the hell we would scoop her up and plop her onto our beds. When she was sad, she would paw at us and sleep more (but she was rarely ever sad). When she was happy, she would bring us a toy and make us play tug of war. When anyone played a musical instrument (especially saxophone), she would sing along. When you crouched down for a kiss, she would plant one right on your lips (and maybe lick your entire face while you were at it).

She got me through all the ups and downs and the many emotions of middle school, high school, and college, and was a bright light in the tough times in the early months away from Georgia and in the crazy city of New York. The past year and a half, she would put away her camera shyness (getting that dog to look at a camera was like pulling teeth) and tolerate my mother’s phone to have a little convo. My mom reported that whenever she put me on speaker Dolly would come and lick the phone as a “hello.” I am convinced that she knew that though I moved away, I would always be back. I would joke that I was never coming home to see my family—only to see my dog.

The love of a pet is a precious, precious thing. Dolly was the one comfort that held true throughout all those years; when I was fighting with my family or desperate to be alone, Dolly was always there. When I was happy and celebrating, she was there. And as she grew old, she watched us grow up, change our habits, move out. She’s been there for all four of us, no matter the situation. She was the best dog a gal could ask for. We couldn’t have been more lucky to have had a pet like her in our family these past 13 years. We will miss her dearly, and love her forever.