Why We Don’t Invite Editors or Agents to Sirenland

This is a repost from our old blog, but it bears repeating.

A number of people have written to us asking if there are going to be agents and editors at Sirenland this year.  No, there won’t be.  Here’s why:

1. It’s about the writing: Those of us running Sirenland have our own agents and editors and among us we know dozens and dozens of other agents and editors. Those agents and editors often press cards into our hands and let us know that should we desire their presence in Positano they would drop everything and be there for the price of a coach plane ticket. I can’t blame them. It’s one of the most beautiful spots on earth.  But if you ask those same agents and editors how many clients of theirs are the result of writers conferences they will generally admit that we’re talking the very low one-figures.  We believe strongly that it’s about the writing, that a piece of work that is ready to be published will be published.  Our focus is on the page, on helping our participants become better writers, giving them the critical skills and other tools to be successful throughout their lives.  So, once again, thanks to everyone who’s handed me a business card. I’ve put them in a file.

2. It’s about the writing: When agents and editors are in the room there is naturally some competition among writers for their attention.  Competition among writers should happen in the marketplace, but not at a writers conference.  We do everything we can to create a supportive environment where participants will spend their free time and time at cocktails or wherever talking about their work, helping and sustaining each other.  We’re proud of the fact that many past participants in Sirenland continue to stay in touch with each other and share work.  Several writing groups have formed and meet regularly.

3. It’s about the writing. There are no shortcuts to literary success.  Writing is hard. Writers conferences are short. The point of Sirenland is total absorption in work and in the environment. Positano is a uniquely inspiring place. We want participants to talk and think and read and eat and drink and hike and swim and get massages and skim stones into the sea.  Relaxation and total involvement are big parts of creativity. Anxiety about making the most of your 30-minute meeting with an agent is antithetical to doing your best work and growing as a writer.

We’re not saying that marketing and promotion have no place in a writer’s career. We just don’t want to lure writers onto the planes, trains and automobiles that it takes to get to Positano by dangling the possibility of making a life-changing connection.  Participants have made life-changing connections at Sirenland, but it’s been with each other and, ultimately, with their own work.

  • Erika Robuck

    I think a retreat devoted solely to the craft of writing is what a lot of writers are missing today. At the end of the day it really is all about the writing. You can know the best people, go to the highest profile conferences, and have family members at the Boston Globe, but the general reading public has to fall in love with your words.

    Oh, Sirenland, you are on my bucket list. Someday…

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  • Tish Fried/Write Yourself Free

    AMEN! I have been to those kind of workshops with panels of agents, editors and publishers and all they did was increase the anxiety of all the writers. And what did they tell us? Not much. It is all about the writing. It just sounds fantastic what you are doing. We run a small writing workshop in Westport, Ct and are completely focused on the writing — “our participants become better writers, giving them the critical skills and other tools to be successful throughout their lives” –perfectly said. Thank you.

  • Donwallace212

    Some of the best writing advice I’ve ever heard, or read.

  • http://twitter.com/mistivelvet Ms. Rainwater-Lites

    Sounds like my kind of fiesta. See youse guys on the astral plane.

  • http://twitter.com/mistivelvet Ms. Rainwater-Lites

    Sounds like my kind of fiesta. See youse guys on the astral plane.

  • Vivian Dorsel

    Excellent, Michael. I couldn’t agree more.  Vivian