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The Writers & Books literary center has fielded calls from people who say, “I’ve written a book. Can you help put me in touch with a publisher?”
And, well, it just doesn’t work that way.
Writers & Books does want to help, however, and to that end will host The Ladder Literary Conference on Saturday, June 16. The one-day conference, held downtown at the Rochester Riverside Hotel, will feature 45 panelists, including agents and editors offering advice to writers of poetry, fiction and nonfiction at all levels.
The event puts Rochester on the literary conference map, a triumph for local writers who typically have to travel to major cities around the country for similar inspiration.
“There’s a lot of literary talent here, but living in Rochester, you don’t get the same type of opportunities you have in Boston or Los Angeles,” says Writers & Books Executive Director Kyle Semmel. “With this conference, you’ll have the chance to have face-to-face time with men and women in publishing, and the trip won’t be as pricey. I’m very excited about the future for this.”
The inaugural conference has four tracks to help writers elevate their craft — write, edit, publish and connect. Participants can choose to stay with one track or, as Semmel encourages, mix things up, attending sessions with titles such as “The Heart of the Matter: Character at the core,” “Cutting Lines: Techniques for editing your first draft” and “Book Publishing Contracts: How they work and what you can include in your book without getting sued.”
Semmel has wanted to do something like this since he took the position in May 2016 and has a vision for expanding The Ladder next year. Ultimately he would like to create an annual literary arts festival with more audience participation, which is why this year’s conference is preceded by nearly two dozen off-site readings.
Panelist Rachel Hall, author of the fiction book Heirlooms and a writing professor at the State University of New York at Geneseo, always travels to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference — to be held in Portland, Oregon in 2019 — and last year also attended a conference in Tennessee and book festivals in Illinois and Missouri.
“There’s not anything else quite like this in our region,” she says of The Ladder. “There’s a lot of talent here, so it’s great to celebrate it.”
Robin L. Flanigan is a Rochester-based freelance writer.
If You Go
What: The Ladder Literary Conference, a one-day event (preceded by nearly two dozen off-site readings).
When: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 16.
Where: Rochester Riverside Hotel, 120 E. Main St.
Cost: $190 members, $220 general public (includes one-year membership to Writers & Books); morning coffee/tea, lunch and afternoon snack is provided. Online registration ends June 10, but on-site registration will be available the day of the conference.
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