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Writer Alert: Bogus Writing Conference
by: Tina Morgan

2 free books from eHarlequin.com!


Recently your experienced shark hunters at Fiction  Factor came across a story that surprised even us. [It sounded like a plot for a movie of the week.]

Melanie Mills, aka Elisabeth von Hullessem, aka Lisa Hackney (3 of 16 known akiases) was arrested for fraud in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Accused of creating a bogus writer's conference in the US then skipping out with the fees, Mills faked her own death to avoid charges. But the story doesn't end there. Posing as a literary agent, Mills has betrayed the trust of many writers who sent not only their manuscripts but also thousands of dollars to her M.W. Mills Literary Agency. She accepted registration fees for a second writer's conference in Canada that never took place, promoted a fake charity concert for autism, and skipped out a bounced rent check. She's also been accused of defrauding a buyer on Ebay for $1,100 for jewelry she failed to deliver. But perhaps the strangest part of all is that she's wanted in Arkansas for attempted murder of her own mother.

If Miss Mills has been arrested, then why are we bringing you this story? Because Canadian authorities released her before she could be extradited to any of the three US states that currently have arrest warrants on file.

With a history like this, it is possible that von Hullessem could show up in the literary world again. Originally from Germany, and with rumors of a $500,000 trust fund in Canada, she may resurface in another country. She's familiar with the Internet and the site for the now exposed false Banff Writer's Conference is still online. The site is very well done and Mills has a flare for marketing. The Banff conference had been listed on the Shaw guides website, a trusted listing of legitimate literary events.

ed. note: Mills' phony conference should not be confused with well-established Banff-Calgary International Writers' Festival: Wordfest.

Her past history reveals a degree of intelligence, marketing skills and knowledge of the Internet and publishing industry that makes her a continued threat to writers everywhere.

So how do you avoid being taken in by Ms. Mills or any of the other disreputable agents out there?

Learn the business.

Join an online writers group and then take the time to learn who the members are. Are the ones giving advice knowledgeable about the business?

Take time to visit websites that keep abreast of the latest industry information and that post warnings for their readers. Some of the best on the web are:

Preditors and Editors

Writer Beware


Association of Authors' Representatives
Being a member of this group is not required of literary agents but in order to remain a member of the group, the agent must have a proven track record of book sales to reputable publishers.

Sometimes a questionable agent or conference will slip past those that monitor these sites so it is up to each individual writer to be cautious and to double check any literary event or agent before sending money.

In a perfect world we wouldn't have to be cynical and watch our backs to this extreme but unfortunately the ease with which the internet allows inaccurate information to spread to potential victims only increases our risk of losing money to the sharks.

Always remember: Money flows TO the author, never the other way around.

Copyright 2003 Tina Morgan


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