The 2013 James River Writers Conference offers exceptional extras to its regular sessions. These include pre-conference master classes, one-on-one consultations with literary agents and first-pages critiques. Agent consultations are an option with registration and offer seven-minute slots to pitch your book idea and get feedback. Its less-formal sister, Pitchapalooza — what people refer to as the “American Idol” of books — chooses contestants at random to do the same thing in a minute’s time with little or no feedback. But for the winner, a love connection is forged between manuscript and agent. The conference emphasis is on bringing ideas to market, but two days of panels are offered by successful authors, editors and agents, who provide insight on craft and the writing life along the way. Headliners include Kathryn Erskin, who won a 2010 National Book Award in the young people’s category for “Mockingbird,” Christopher McDougall, whose “Born to Run” is causing a cultural phenomenon that might change the sport of running forever, and Chip Kidd, “Cheese Monkeys” novelist and world-famous cover designer. The conference is Oct. 18-20 at the State Capitol, Greater Richmond Convention Center and the Convention Center, where it will dovetail with the literary awards luncheon of the Virginia Literary Festival. jamesriverwriters.org.