Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Plotting a Conference

(A note from Annette) Some of you may recall that last year this time I was up to my eyeballs coordinating the 2009 Pennwriters Conference. Today, I’m pleased to introduce guest blogger, Ayleen Stellhorn who is this year’s conference coordinator and does it with much more grace and serenity (externally, at least!) than I could muster. 

Freelancer Ayleen Stellhorn writes for local and regional publications and edits books and magazine articles for the hobby and craft market. A member of Pennwriters, she is coordinating their 23rd Annual Conference, May 14-16, at the Eden Resort in Lancaster, PA.

I recently took down all the 3x5 cards mapping out my current WIP and replaced them with index cards for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference. Funny how my Act I, Act II, and Act III column heads were so easily replaced by Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tags. And all those chapter/scene designations down the left edge? They’re now one-hour time slots for workshops.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about a roadmap — granted mine’s a really big, extremely anal-retentive roadmap — that helps me stay on track and think clearer when it comes to making my way from A to Z.

I tried using Excel to plot out the conference. It didn’t work. Having to navigate to the correct file and then scroll down to see all the pieces was too frustrating and time consuming. There’s just no easy way to capture a 4x6-foot piece of wall on a 17x12-inch computer screen.

May as well face it… I like being able to see the whole picture in one glance. I blame my first boss. One wall of her office was filled with a matrix that let us see an entire year’s worth of magazine issues and articles at one time. Want to know who’s writing the beginning carving article for the July issue? Just look at the wall.

When I moved on to be a book editor, I applied the same principle to my spring and fall lists. Want to know who’s authoring the scroll saw pattern book next fall? Just look at the wall. No tinkering with computer screens or file folders necessary.

So now the 2010 conference schedule is up on the wall. Does the agent/editor class I need to switch to time slot 9:15 to 10:15 on Friday morning conflict with the how-to class during that same time? I just look at the wall.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to take the wall with me when I head to Lancaster for the conference the spring.

To learn more about the 2010 Pennwriters Conference, visit, check out their Facebook page at Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference, or e-mail Friday’s keynote is best-selling author James Rollins. Visiting agents and editors are Janet Reid, Jenny Bent, Jennifer Jackson, Miriam Kriss, Alex Glass, Barbara Lalicki, Leis Pederson, and David Pomerico.


Joyce Tremel said...

Welcome, Ayleen! I'm looking forward to this year's conference. It looks like a good one!

Annette said...

Hi, Ayleen!

I love how organized you are with your wall. And I can't wait until the conference to see the fruits of your labors.

Judy Schneider said...

I love the organizing wall technique. The process works for organizing a nonfiction book or a novel, too. I've tried purchasing and getting used to software for writers including PageFour and a couple of others, but I still find myself closing and opening pages (in order for them to be large enough to read). Like you, I want to see everything at once.

There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned index card. I couldn't live, or at least write, without 'em. Great photo, Ayleen! Good luck with the final preparations for the conference!


Heidi Ruby Miller said...


My husband and I both have our own cork and magnetic storyboards covering a wall in our library.

I completely agree that seeing everything at one glance is much easier; that's the way I work best.

See you at the conference!


Ayleen said...

Thanks for the comments, and for the very gracious introduction, Annette. When I coordinated the 2008 conference, I remember admitting to someone just how nervous I was talking in front of crowds. He told me to pretend I was a swan: all graceful and calm above the surface of that pond -- but paddling like crazy underneath. That scenario works in lots of situations, conference coordination included.

Hope to see you all in Lancaster this spring!