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Writers' conference at BookExpo America

10 March 2003

For the first time BookExpo AmericaBookExpo America, commonly referred to within the book publishing industry as BEA. The largest annual book trade fair in the United States, the US book trade fair running from 31 May to 1 June, will this year add a daylong writer's conference on the Wednesday before the opening of the show. This follows the London Book Fair's PENSupported by eminent writers, this is the English branch of International Pen, which has centres in nearly 100 countries. It fights for freedom of expression and against political censorship. It campaigns for writers harassed, imprisoned and sometimes murdered for their views. Masterclasses next weekend. It's all part of an increasing realisation that writers are part of the publishing world and should have a part to play in its book fairs.

As well as the conference itself, there will be the first presentation of the John T Lupton New Voices in Literature awards, sponsored by the Books for Life Foundation. Two $10,000 prizes, for fiction and non-fiction, will be awarded, not for finished manuscripts, but for the best combination of query letter and book proposal. The intention is to encourage writers to complete professionally written submissions. The award is open to any writer who has not been traditionally published, so self-published authors are eligible. You don't need to attend the conference in order to enter the contest, although you will have to pay the contest entrance fee of $25.

There is also the provision that 'the ten finalists in each category will be forwarded on request to publishing industry literary agents and publishers for consideration.' It is good news for writers that the book trade is beginning to take more notice of the originators of the raw material on which their business is based. Book fairs, which are notoriously trade-oriented affairs, are at last trying to help with the huge demand amongst writers for help with improving their work and getting published.