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Westport Writers' Pitch & Publish Conference

We held our second annual Pitch & Publish Conference on May 20, 2023 at The Westport Library to rave reviews . We featured Courtney Maum as the keynote speaker, author of Year of The Horses, Before and After the Book Deal, and Touch, among others. 


The conference included three panels, “Ask The Agent, “The Road To Publication,” and “Level Up Your Writing Game,” moderated by Liz Matthews, Kate Schneider and Leigh Stein, respectively.  


Attendees who purchased Conference with Pitches tickets enjoyed the rare opportunity to pitch their books to two agents and/or small presses during one-on-one pitch sessions. Other highlights of the daylong event included an interactive writing experience, books for sale, goodie bags, refreshments, Friday night welcome party, light breakfast Saturday morning and Saturday evening wrap party. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for details about similar future events!


Liz Matthews & Julie Sarkissian 

Conference Organizers 

About the Conference

Liz Matthews & Julie Sarkissian

Conference Co-chairs


Liz Matthews is a writer and editor who received her MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts (2008) and MA in English Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Liz began her professional career in publishing, both at a literary agency and as an Editorial Assistant at Random House before teaching middle and high school English. Her work has appeared in Brain Child,  The Rumpus, The Tishman Review, and Big Fiction Little Truths among other places. Liz teaches Introductory & Intermediate Fiction, Flash Fiction, and Creative Writing at the workshop.

Julie Sarkissian is the author of Dear Lucy, published by Simon and Schuster and nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her essays, short fiction and book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, The Huffington Post, The New York Observer, and Flavorwire, among others. Born and raised in Southern California, she has a BA in English from Princeton and an MFA from The New School. 


She worked for Sackett Street Writers in Brooklyn, NY as a fiction instructor and manuscript consultant before moving to Westport, CT with her husband and two young children.

Courtney Maum

Keynote Speaker

Courtney Maum is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking publishing guide that Vanity Fair recently named one of the ten best books for writers, BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL and the memoir THE YEAR OF THE HORSES, chosen by The Today Show as the best read for mental health awareness.


A writing coach, executive director of the nonprofit learning collaborative “The Cabins,” and educator, Courtney's mission is to help people hold on to the joy of art-making in a culture obsessed with turning artists into brands. You can sign up for her publishing tips newsletter and online masterclasses at

Making Your Pitch!

Writers who registered for the conference had the option to discuss their work in person at the library or via Zoom with two agents for 10 minutes each (included in the cost of registration).

Pitch Takers

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Eloy Bleifuss, Agent

Janklow & Nesbit Associates

Genres: literary fiction, thriller/mystery, speculative and nonfiction

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Samantha Wekstein, Agent

Thompson Literary Agency

Genres: fantasy, romance, women's fiction, historical fiction and sci-fi

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Colin Hosten, Editor

WoodHall Press

Independent publishers of independent authors looking for diverse voices


Nora Gonzalez, Agent

The Gernert Company

Genres: literary and upmarket fiction, creative nonfiction, cookbooks, poetry, and select illustrated works

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Sarah Landis, Agent

Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

Genres: YA/MG, adult fiction in the thriller, SFF, and contemporary women’s fiction space.


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Jaclyn Gilbert, Agent

Drift(less) Literary

Genres: experimental novels, memoirs, essay and short story collections, and poetry


Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, Agent

Goldin Lit Agency

Genres: adult fiction, upmarket and literary, and nonfiction, memoir, history, narrative nonfiction


Elizabeth Bewley, Agent

Sterling Lord Literistic

Genres: middle grade, young adult, picture book, upmarket adult, and literary fiction


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Michaela Whatnall, Agent

Dystel, Goderich & Bourret

Genres: middle grade and young adult fiction:  contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, historical, adventure, horror, and rom-com. Adult fiction:  contemporary, speculative, and historical upmarket fiction, as well as character-driven sci-fi/fantasy and other genre fiction that features historically underrepresented characters

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Marin Takikawa, Agent 

Friedrich Agency

Genres: YA speculative fiction, literary fiction, upmarket/book club fiction, and narrative non-fiction in the cultural criticism, science, and history space

Agents Panel

Westport Writers’ Workshop Programming Director Liz Matthews discussed with literary agents everything you need to know about finding and working with a literary agent. 


Liz Matthews 

Program Director

Westport Writers' Workshop

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Jaclyn Gilbert

Drift(less) Literary


Nora Gonzalez

The Gernert Company


Ayla Zuraw-Friedland

Frances Goldin Literary Agency

Road to Publication

Writer and reading series creator Kate Schnieder led a discussion with published writers who represent various and inspiring avenues to publication. 

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Katherine Schneider 




Amanda Parrish Morgan

Author, Instructor

Westport Writers' Workshop


Chris Belden

Author, Instructor

Westport Writers' Workshop


Gillian Libby

Author: Four Ways to Wear a Dress


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Libby Waterford

Author, Instructor

Westport Writers' Workshop

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Frank Doughtery


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Daisy Alpert Florin


More on Daisy

Level Up Panel

Writer and writing coach Leigh Stein talked with writers, editors, and agents about opportunities to take your writing to the next level, as it pertains both to craft and professional pursuits. 


Leigh Stein

Writing Coach

Author: The Fall Back Plan, Self-care, The Land of Enchantment, The Fallback Plan

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Colin Hosten


WoodHall Press


Rebecca Martin

Writing Instructor

Essayist: NY Times, Brainchild the Mighty

More on Rebecca

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Nicole James

Senior Acquisitions Editor & Former Agent

The Quarto Group

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Christine Pakkala

Author, Instructor

Westport Writers' Workshop


Betsey Lerner

Literary Agent

Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency

Conference Agenda
May 19 - 20, 2023

Friday, May 19th

7:00 - 9:00 pm - Welcome Party for all conference participants at the Workshop

Saturday, May 20th at the Westport Library

8:30 - 9:00  Registration   

9:15 - 9:30  Welcome comments and overview  

9:30 - 10:30  Agent Panel 

10:45 - 1:15 Agent Pitches

10:45 - 11:45  Road to Publication Panel

12:00 - 1:30   Lunch 

1:30 - 4:00  Agent Pitches

1:30 - 2:30   Level Up Panel

2:45 - 3:15  Live the Process, Love the Process

3:30 - 4:30  Keynote with Courtney Maum

4:45 - 5:00 Q&A with Courtney 

5:00 - 5:30   Closing Remarks & Courtney book signing 

5:45 - 7:30  After Party, Basso Restaurant & Wine Bar 

Pitch & Publish Testimonials

"I have attended various workshops in the past...both large (Writers Digest in Manhattan) and small (Chesapeake Bay, VA....Unicorns Writers, Westchester) and yours (in its inaugural year) was wonderful.  It was so nice to see the first conference held here in Fairfield County."
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