Perseverance Pays Off In The Writing World

andrew Munz

Andrew Munz, lately of Iceland

Walking into the 2013 Jackson Hole Writers Conference, I more or less was convinced that my novel-in-progress was utterly groundbreaking. It was everything I wanted to write, and represented the type of author I wanted to be. And to know that I would get the opportunity to meet with editors and agents further fueled my dreams of fictional world domination. I was ready to dominate the conference. But when the reality hit me, I realized how out on a limb I was.

Being one of the youngest attendees at the conference was nerve-wracking. There were people here who had already published their third, fourth, fifth novels. How on Earth could I measure up to these experienced writers? But those nerves subsided when I finally gathered up enough gumption to befriend to my fellow attendees.

The other writers I met were so fascinating and supportive, because we shared the same dream: a publishing career. It’s every writer’s dream to be able to make a living off his or her creativity, and the conference was a first step for many of us. Sharing novel ideas with other writers instilled me with tons of confidence, because everyone was hugely passionate about their projects.

And then the time came when my confidence was put to the test.

Manuscript critiques.

I had polished and re-polished those first fifteen pages like they were my Willy Wonka golden ticket to fame. All I needed to do was to convince one literary agent that my writing was worth a damn, and I’d be rich, right? (Oh sweet, innocent, delusional Andrew Munz…) I also couldn’t shake the thought that a poor critique would likely cripple me, and make me never want to write again. I put so much thought into the possible outcomes that walking into my agent critique was petrifying.

I sat down across from Sarah LaPolla of Bradford Literary Agency and introduced myself. She asked me to tell her about myself, about my writing journey and how I came up with the ideas for my book. She took a breath, and placed her hand on the pages.

My stomach lurched as she cleared her throat.


Oh god, oh god, oh god.

“…am obsessed with this,” she said.

And in a moment all of my fears dissolved like soggy Cheerios in the sink. Our allotted time flew by as we chatted about my story. She asked me if the book was done yet, and I was so bummed to admit that, no, it wasn’t. But she gave me her e-mail and encouraged me to query her with the book when I was finished with it.

Cue three long years of obsessive revisions that included three full rewrites from beginning to end, and plenty of self-doubt and mini-projects along the way. But I never gave up.

Tallying up all my rejections, I’ve had sixty-six literary agents and independent publishers tell me “no.” And I refused to toss my book away until I got that “yes.”

Sarah LaPolla responded to my query letter with excitement. I was so happy to know she was still enthusiastic about the story. She said she was very much interested in reading the finished book, and I sent her the full manuscript as quickly as I could.

Once she had completed it, Sarah was still interested. She and I had a conversation to discuss some major edits she thought would tighten up the book. She said that she would love to work with me on my novel, but only if I was willing to do some more revising.

I think in order for this novel to work for me, I need some deep character work being done, and a lot of sacrificing of darlings,” she wrote to me.

The decision was a heavy one. I think every author worries that a literary agent will make them do massive overhauls and completely compromise the original idea just to make the book salable to publishing houses. And I won’t lie and say that I didn’t have that fear as well. But when Sarah and I spoke at length about her suggested changes, I realized that the edits weren’t hindering at all. Instead, she was opening new doors and making me think about characters and plot points in ways I never had before.

Eventually, Sarah offered representation and I wholeheartedly accepted. We still have a long journey of revisions ahead of us before that special submission day takes place, but if attending a writers conference taught me anything, it’s that patience and persistence are paramount achieving a publishing career.

There’s no fast track to JK Rowling-esque fame and fortune, folks.

My biggest piece of advice to any aspiring writer who fears walking into a manuscript critique is that any ounce of criticism can be a learning experience. If I received one bad critique after another (and don’t think I haven’t sat through those), I would want to work that much harder to prove everyone wrong.

Had I given up after then first, the fifteenth, the fiftieth rejection, I wouldn’t have someone like Sarah in my corner. And I have the JH Writers Conference to thank for that.

When Andrew Munz mentioned that the Jackson Hole Writers Conference

helped him get an agent, we thought let’s hear about

from the source. Thanks, Andrew. We look forward

to seeing your book in print.

You can check out his blog.

Reaching Out To Wyoming Writers



Calling on writers across Wyoming, from Gillette to Evanston: If you attend Writing Wyoming Inc. early June conference, you can get a $150 discount on your registration fee to attend JHWC the end of June. A great deal! An amazing way to nurture your writing life.

Joseph Marshall III, John Cadarrozo, poet Lori Howe who has attended JHWC several times and connected with her publisher last year, and Pamela Fagan Hutchins are the featured speakers and workshop facilitators at the Riverton conference, June 3-5, at the Wind River Hotel and Casino.

Check out the schedule.

Contact us to receive the discount, and pay $215. Deadline for early bird registration of $365 is May 10, $395 after that. If you want three short manuscript critiques, $125 additional fees apply, and closing for receipt of mss is May 18.

For The Love Writing


Writing It Right anthology ready to order


Shaggy Dog Press is pleased to announce publication of our 25th anniversary anthology, Writing It Right: Reflections From the Jackson Hole Writers Conference.  Tim Sandlin’s introduction is followed by prose and poetry from past conference attendees: participants, faculty, staff and volunteers.

The well-published and critically acclaimed are joined in the 100-plus pages by long-time attendees and first-timers. Writing It Right features poetry faculty, like Naomi Shihab Nye, Laurie Kutchins, and Eric Paul Shaffer, next to novelists, like Malcolm Brooks and David Abrams, who found their first publication by showing up for the conference.

This is a democratic collection of words inspired by the conference, by the writers and by the beauty of this place. Again and again throughout the anthology, the writers aver the importance that the conference has had and continues to have to their writing life. Again and again, they say they will be back. We love the fact that people come back year after year.

There are also photos and illustrations that the editors and designers of the book hope have captured the atmosphere of the conference and of Jackson Hole.

Too many poignant moments are recreated in Writing It Right that to pick out just one to encapsulate the collection is difficult. So I choose two, and only because both of them mention Tim Sandlin, and there would be no conference without Tim Sandlin.

This is from Kim Strellis who attended in 2010 and after a hiatus in 2015. In her own words:

I attended another of Tim’s unions of wit and talent. I realized I had missed out on other growth conferences by waiting. I didn’t need to write anything–just attend, soak up knowledge and advice, and enjoy.

And this from Naomi Shihab Nye, who has only come as faculty in 2012, but who says she will come back anytime:

Tim Sandlin gives the simplest, most no-nonsense introductions for writers getting ready to speak. What a relief. Those of us who have sat through one million literary introductions, often more puffed than a pillow, felt grateful for this. Tim always starts on time. These were just two things to admire about the organizer of one of the nicest writing conferences I will ever attend on the Planet Earth.

The anthology is available for purchase ($14.95) online now at Shaggy Dog Press (shaggydogpress.org) And will be for sale during the conference. Since $10 of each sale goes directly to the Jackson Hole Writers (which organizes the conference), the book will not be available on Amazon. You can even press the orange Buy Now button on the conference’s home page and get there as well.

Thanks especially to Susan Marsh, Lisa Newcomb and Libby Treadwell for making this book possible by their caring edits and their lovely design work.  And to Greg Brazelton for his cover photo of Mount Moran.

But a special thanks goes out to all who contributed to this anthology. We hope this will only be the first collection celebrating writings from the conference. Next time, more of you who have attended the conference, in whatever role, will want to submit.


                                                                                                          –Connie Wieneke, JHW


Lori Howe Offers Poetry Workshop


Join the Jackson Hole Writers for a free poetry workshop

Lori Howe, editor in chief of the ezine Clerestory Poetry Journal, will be doing a writing workshop on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, in the conference room at the Center for the Arts from 9 a.m. to noon. Email connie@blackhen.com to sign up. Preregistration is suggested as the space is limited.

All levels of writers are welcome and the workshop will have a holiday/holy day theme.

Lori’s latest book is Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains, due out on November 18, 2015 (Sastrugi Press). Forthcoming is: Voices at Twilight: A Poet’s Guide to Wyoming Ghost Towns, due out in May, 2016 (Elm Books).

Lori has a varied history, both on the ground and in the academic world. We are impressed. She is doctoral candidate in Literacy Studies at the University of Wyoming, from which she also holds an MFA in creative writing. Her scholarly work on creative approaches to improved writing and critical thinking skills for struggling, early-college writers has been accepted by journals such as Qualitative Inquiry and the Journal of Lifelong Learning. She teaches creative writing workshops with the Latina Project and is a member of the leadership team of the Wyoming Writing Project.  Poems from Cloudshade have been nominated for a Pushcart award, and the collection itself nominated for several first-book awards. It is available for pre-order via the Sastrugi Press web page, and readers who desire a personally inscribed copy can place a special order through the website.

The Writers will host a formal or informal reading for Lori and Clerestory poets on Friday, Dec. 4. The place has yet to be determined. We around the region and writers who attended the conference appreciated her publication of work by 2015 conference attendees, as well as the Open Window Review print edition of participants’ work in 2013. Kudos to Lori for her promotion of writing about the West.

Lori will be on tour around Wyoming through the winter months, doing readings and signings in bookstores and libraries.  This begins with a reading, fireside chat, and signing at Legends Bookstore in Cody, from 1:30-3pm on November 15. Additional dates and locations tba on the Sastrugi Press website Sastrugipress.com and at lorihoweauthor.com. Her current writing projects include a third collection of poetry, Benedictine Road, as well as a guide to teaching meaningful writing practice, Stories from Earth: Millennials, Literature, and Teaching Writing that Matters, with co-author Dr. Leslie Rush, and the novel Heaven of Olives, set in NYC, Andalusia, and Ethiopia. She lives in Laramie, Wyoming.


Submissions Requested For Book To Celebrate 25 Years



Commemorative Book

Possible Topics Expanded, So Read On






We are only a week past the fall equinox, but the Jackson Hole Writers Conference is looking ahead to the 25th conference, June 23-25, 2016. We are excited to have lined up most of our faculty, which will include Gretel Ehrlich,  Lynne Sharon Schwartz, poets Paisley Rekdal and Maria Melendez Kelson, and a roster of established editors and agents.

In the meantime, we are seeking submissions for a trade-size paperback about the conference: why people come, why people come back. Poet Naomi Shihab Nye and past success novelist David Abrams have sent in their offerings. It’s a good start, but we want anyone who attended our conference to get a shot at sharing their experience.

We hope to raise money with this book by sharing our commitment to and enthusiasm for what has become an important part of the writing community.  Tim Sandlin started the conference 25 years ago and it has blossomed under his continued leadership. We want to celebrate that.

Writing It Right, the working title for this collection, will focus on the experiences of those who have attended the conference: registrant, faculty member, volunteer or staff. We are looking for short pieces, no longer than 1200 words. While it is not intended as a literary anthology, we are open to literary musings, notes and observations. Perhaps a piece you brought to the conference and had critiqued: fiction, nonfiction or a poem. Even a haibun or journal entries can find their way into this collection.

Here are some topics or approaches:

  • A “how to” or “how not to”
  • A vignette
  • Here’s what happens at the conference, full of surprises and quirks
  • Poem that came out of a workshop prompt, with discussion of the process
  • Found poem from the conference
  • Why you come back year after year
  • Expectations you came with, how those may have changed
  • The critique process: who reads what and why
  • Submissions: the joys and the terrors
  • Volunteers and what can happen
  • Ten books recommended by folks at the conference
  • I was there when such and such happened
  • Faculty writer, editor or agent who changed your life
  • A black and white photograph that says it all
  • Black and white illustrations
  • A graphic poem
  • A collection title that says it all
  • Something we haven’t thought of

The guidelines for content are fairly loose, but the editors will be looking for entertaining, enlightening and educational pieces. Just because you send something to us doesn’t mean we will accept it. We are looking for quality. This is for writers and we see it as a resource. We also see it as something to hand out to friends and family, so that they have an inkling about why we come to Jackson Hole in June and sit inside and write and talk about writing and getting published. We feel that the conference is about more than “just” getting published: it’s about meeting other writers, learning the craft, and spreading our wings with words.

Rather than query us about a possible topic, send it in. Surprise us. Surprise yourself with your observations.

The deadline is Dec. 6, 2015. Submissions must be in 12 point type, double-spaced, Word-compatible format, and in electronic form. 1200 word maximum. Poems no longer than 30 lines. Please preface the submission with a title page, listing the year(s) you attended the conference. Please include your name on each page, plus page number, so we get your offering in proper order. No paper submissions will be accepted. Please no PDFs or links to websites. Email questions to us through Contact on our website. Send manuscripts to us at: manuscripts@jacksonholewritersconference.com


JHHS Teacher Mary Hoeschler Receives Scholarship

Watch for details to come on the Cultural Council of Jackson Hole’s grant that has provided a scholarship for Mary Hoeschler. She got rave reviews from teacher/poet Matt Daly and JHHS teacher Walt Berling and JHHS head librarian Lori Clark-Erickson. So we are excited to announce this one.

Nina Swamidoss McConigley Craft Class

Writing What You Know: Using Autobiography in Fiction
The old adage is to write what you know. Which is great — but as fiction writers, it’s sometimes safer to fictionalize what you know. In this craft class, we’ll talk about how to take real life experience and fictionalize it. Looking at published texts and with in-class writing (come prepared to write), we’ll discover how to write about what you know — and how to use the truth to go into imaginary places. — Nina

Sounds like it will be a beneficial workshop, with writing included! This craft class is on Friday at 1:45. Hands-on is the best. Nina is also going to be offering an amazing silent auction item. Time to sign up for the conference.

And Nina’s talk at 1 p.m. on Thursday will open the conference:
Jackalopes and Ganesha: Using a Mix in Writing
I’m looking forward to this: Wyoming mythical creatures and India’s elephant god who is the remover of all obstacles, according to yoga.

Local High School Students Receive Scholarships

Elizabeth ChambersJackson Hole High School student Elizabeth Chambers is one of four local area high school students attending the 23rd Jackson Hole Writers Conference on a scholarship. The scholarships are from a grant from the Cultural Council of Jackson Hole. We are excited that she is a repeat scholarship recipient as she added a lot to our conference last year and fully participated in the poetry track.

In addition to the registration fees, the recipients also can have three critiques with established writers.

Caroline Berner from the Community School, Maxine Hansford from Journeys School, and Riley Liljestrom, also from JHHS, also received scholarships thru CCJH.

We at the conference look forward to having these young writers attend.

I appreciate all of the recommendations from school officials and teachers on who would be good candidates for these scholarships. We hope to offer the same level next year.


Discount On Wyoming Conferences

VDcSLrbN_normalWyoming Writers Inc.’s 41st Annual Conference June 5-7 in Cheyenne. Early Bird Fee until May 15. Laura Pritchett, Kent Nelson and Aaron Abeyta headline their conference.

If you attend their conference, you can attend the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, June 25-27, at a $150 discount. It’s a great deal and you can make it a part of a Wyoming writing retreat/vacation.

Registration is easy. Then let us know that you are going to both conferences and we will assist you. Email us.

MFA Students Receive Scholarships

Carly Rita FraysierThree MFA candidates at the University of Wyoming have been awarded scholarships to the Jackson Hole Conference. We are excited to name Carly Fraysier (who is pictured above), Dominick Duhamel and  Randall Tyrone.

Carly is from Vermont originally and is working on an MFA in nonfiction with a combined concentration in environment and natural resources. Dominick (pictured below) was raised in California and is working on a novel.IMG_7585 Randall has a BA from the University of Houston and is working toward an MFA in poetry at UW. He is pictured below.

Randall Tyrone

A University of Nebraska graduate English student, Alexandra McKeone, also has been awarded a scholarship to attend this year’s conference. She is working on a collection of essays, Finding Home.McKeone_photo

The funds for these scholarships were made possible by our conference Silent Auction. The auction is on again this year, so watch for details.