Countdown to Muse 2022: Finding Your People by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Muse and the Marketplace 2022 is almost here! This year's conference is our first ever hybrid conference, taking place Wednesday, April 27th - Sunday, May 1st, with the Manuscript Mart taking place Wednesday, May 4th - Sunday, May 8th.

This year’s conference theme is “Finding Your People.” As writers, we may draft our work alone, but it takes many people to bring a creative project into the world — from family and friends, to fellow writers, instructors, publishing professionals, literary champions, and ultimately eager readers. Muse 2022 is celebrating all of the connections that enable and enrich our writing and literary lives. 

As we count down to the conference, we are asking presenters, agents, and editors to tell us about who has enabled or enriched their own writing or literary life, and how that relationship began. Our next presenter in the series is Hank Phillippi Ryan, the USA Today bestselling author of 13 psychological thrillers, most recently Her Perfect Life.



She probably doesn’t remember this at all, and, if she does, I’d love to know her version. But here’s how I remember it.

When I got the idea for my first novel (in 2003?) I banged out—a phrase I wince now even to say—six chapters, and sent it to two agents, confident of my success. One agent replied something like: “Wow, this is a great plot! But you are a terrible writer.” The other agent said something like: “Wow, you are a terrific writer! But this plot is terrible.” Something like that.

Seizing on the “terribles,” of course, I was flummoxed and realized I had no idea what I was doing. So I wrote an entirely different book and then, two years later, thought… What do I do now? My husband had a colleague who was a big book-world hot shot in nonfiction, and he had a colleague who was a novice agent. Favors were asked. Connections were made. 

The novice agent agreed to look at my first novel, all 723 pages of it. (Seriously.) She took the first hundred pages and marked it up like crazy. Crossed out massive chunks of text. Commented. Suggested. She told me: “This has so much potential. I edited the first hundred pages for you. Analyze what I did, and then you do the same thing to the rest of it.”

I did. And that became Prime Time, my first novel, which won the Agatha Award for Best Debut and is still earning royalties. With endless and undying gratitude and affection, I owe it all to Elisabeth Weed, now a brilliant and gloriously successful agent who generously spent time on newbie nobody me. It was absolutely life-changing. I think about her every day.


Hank Phillippi Ryan is the USA Today bestselling author of 13 psychological thrillers, winning the most prestigious awards in the genre: five Agathas, four Anthonys, and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also on-air investigative reporter for Boston's WHDH-TV, with 37 EMMYs and dozens more journalism honors. Book critics call her “a master of suspense,” “a superb and gifted storyteller”; she’s the only author to have won the Agatha in four categories: Best First, Best Novel, Best Short Story, and Best Non-Fiction. Hank’s 2020 novel is The First to Lie, nominated for both the prestigious Anthony Award for Best Novel and Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her newest book is Her Perfect Life, a chilling psychological standalone about fame, family, and revenge which received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, which called it "a superlative thriller,” and Mystery Scene Magazine called it “a powerhouse of a thriller.”



You can catch Hank’s virtual craft discussion, "Great Beginnings: Perfecting Page One,” via Hopin at Muse 2022 from 10:00am - 11:15pm on April 29th. Don't wait! Register for the Muse and the Marketplace 2022 today.

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