Tuesday, May 18, 2010

PennWriters Conference 2010

By Martha Reed

I returned from the PennWriters convention on Sunday and let me mention up front that if you are a writer and do not belong to the PennWriters organization you are doing yourself a grave disservice. I can’t say it any plainer than that. I have been a member for 3 years and I wish I had joined a decade ago when I first started. It would have saved me years of struggling, individual effort!

The annual convention was hosted at the Eden Resort in Lancaster, PA which oddly enough seemed like a long way off on the way there and significantly closer on the turnpike ride home. The resort is a very nice complex and even though we shared the facility with a wedding and a PROM and evidently a gospel meeting judging from the singing going on there was plenty of room for everyone. Ramona Long and I hung out in the lobby as the prom court went by and I know I was never, ever that young.

I'm really very proud of the way our Sisters in Crime/PennWriters group has developed and grown and I know we must be doing something right because every time we sit down we have to add tables and chairs for interested newcomers. That was another great thing about the conference: the chance to talk for hours about nothing but the craft of writing and the easiest way to start a conversation was to ask a stranger: what are you working on?

It's going to take me a week to catch up on my sleep because this weekend was like going to Vegas - I stayed up way too late and couldn't close my eyes because there was always something fun to watch and/or going on. I can't wait for 2011 - and the conference is back in Pittsburgh! Mark your calendars now.


10 comments:

Pat Remick said...

Sounds like a great conference! When you get your second wind, do tell us the most interesting thing you learned....

Joyce said...

One thing that needs to be mentioned is that Pennwriters is NOT just for those who live in Pennsylvania. The organization has members from as far away as Alaska.

I can't stress enough that this annual conference attracts top agents and editors every year. And top speakers. Next year's keynotes are Jennifer Weiner and Jonathan Maberry.

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Pat. The most insightful thing I learned was that agents are human, too. Jennifer Jackson made a terrific presentation that outlined the process from her side (she's an agent with Donald Haass) and it was simply eye-opening.

She walked us through query letter mistakes and the hazard of submitting a manuscript too early but the best bit was when she said you need to find an agent who is going to be a 'good fit' for your writing career. Oddly enough I hadn't thought of that, I was just so intent on 'finding an agent'!

She was so down to earth and human, and joined us for dinner on Saturday night, so of course I'm going to query her!

The funniest moment was at the "Heros and Villains" Masquerade Ball when Paula Matter walked in dressed as Jaws the Shark. Annette has promised to post pictures. Paula then got dared to walk through the Prom, which she did, and it was the hit of the party! Such fun...

Martha Reed said...

Thank you, Joyce, for emphasizing that point. I was delighted to see that 50 attendees were from Area 7. That means that 20% of the conference attendees were from out of state - a terrific percentage and with the ease of the internet, why not take advantage of this resource, no matter where you are located?

Jennie Bentley said...

I wanna come! And yes, pictures, please!

Annette said...

I've posted some pictures over on my Writing, etc. blog since I'm not posting here this week. And I plan to post more photos later today. http://annettedashofy.blogspot.com

Martha Reed said...

Thanks, Annette. I'll be sure to check them out. I hope you got one of me and Paula - I may use it for my Xmas card. Actually, in case you can't tell, I'm still buzzing from the whole thing.

Pat, as I'm going through my notes, Jonathan Maberry offered another writerly tool during his speech that might be useful.

He mentioned that before he released his mss he went through each character pairing to make sure the characters were evolving in addition to having the plot move along.

To do this, he picked out two characters and went through his mss looking for each chapter where the two characters intersected and then making sure that something happened between them each time. (Not that they appeared in each chapter, just whenever they intersected). Then he picked out two other characters, paired them up and did the same thing.

I realized that I do this as I write but I never formalized it as part of my editing process. Either way it's an interesting idea. Hope it helps!

Laurissa said...

Thanks, Martha for sharing Jonathan Maberry's "writerly tool." I didn't get the chance to go to his workshop.

The conference was great!

Tamara said...

Martha - that's great advice about the characters intersecting and working to develop their relationships. I am working on that thing exactly in my ms. I just finished the relationship built between the protagonist and her sidekick - which starts off rocky. Last week, I did the same with the protagonist and her love interest. It has been very helpful. Jonathan is very wise, indeed.
The conferece was great - I definitely recommend it!

M Pax said...

Glad you enjoyed the conference. I'm going to Willamette Writers for the first time this summer.

Pennwriters sounds great, but is a bit too far to drive to. :)