Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pennwriters Conference Report

by Annette Dashofy

I've decided that past conference coordinators make the best...or at least happiest...conference attendees. We know how much work goes into putting one of these things on, so we appreciate every moment.

We're also thrilled beyond belief that we don't have to do it this time!

All the credit for the huge success of the 2011 Pennwriters Conference goes to Julie Long and Meredith Cohen. They did a fantastic job planning and running this event. BRAVO

And I thoroughly enjoyed every last minute of it. From the wonderful workshops (although a clone would have been nice, since I could only attend one at a time and there were sooo many choices!) to the delicious food (back to the treadmill for me) to the funny and inspirational keynotes, it was a weekend to remember. Plus, how fun to get to see all my Pennwriters friends!

Friday morning I attended the Perfect Pitch workshop with agent Rachel Vater Coyne. The room was packed. Fellow Working Stiff Joyce Tremel and I huddled in the back of the room and took notes. After sharing her suggestions on what makes a good pitch, Rachel opened the floor to anyone wanting to "practice." Her comments on what worked and what didn't were invaluable.

Next, Joyce and I assisted former Working Stiff Tamara Girardi in a hands-on "Twitter for Twits" workshop. (By the way, feel free to follow me on Twitter. I'm @Annette_Dashofy.)

Next came lunch. This was the first year I qualified for the Published Penns Retreat. What an honor to be included in the company of so many talented and successful writers and to listen in on a fascinating discussion of the publishing industry and the changes going on in it. Basically, the business is in such a state of transition, it probably changed three times during the course of the luncheon!

In the afternoon, I attended my friend Becky Levine's workshop on Growing a Critique Group. I picked up quite a few tidbits and ideas to share with my own critique groups.

Friday night is always a big one at the Pennwriters Conference and this one was no exception. The lovely and talented Jacquelyn Mitchard was our keynote speaker and shared a bit of her life story with us. What an inspiration.

Saturday, for me, was agents agents agents. First I attended "The Author-Agent Relationship with former Working Stiff and dear friend Nancy Martin.

That's fellow Pennwriter Stephanie Claypool introducing Nancy, by the way.

Next came "The Do's and Don'ts of Finding an Agent with agent Victoria Skurnick. After lunch, I attended the Agent Panel with all our visiting agents.

Lastly, there was the stand-up comic duo of C.J. Lyons and agent Barbara Poelle in "Welcome to the Jungle."

In the midst of all that, came one of the true highlights of the weekend. The Saturday lunch. First, Ayleen Stellhorn (2008 and 2010 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator) won the meritorious service award.

Then Jonathan Maberry presented an entertaining and uplifting luncheon keynote speech that drove the entire audience to their feet in applause.

After the workshops, there was a book signing event. Ramona Long and I didn't "officially" take part, but we held court at one of the tables and gleefully signed copies of Fish Tales for anyone who asked.

We might have mugged a few people walking by, too, if we happened to spot someone with the anthology tucked under their arm.

Later, I attended the cocktail party. By then everyone (including me) was on the verge of slipping into conference coma. But it was nice to schmooze a bit.

That's me with Jonathan.

Afterwards, our Sisters in Crime gang sneaked off to dinner and took Ramona Long and C.J. Lyons with us. It was a chance for a little bit of quieter conversation.

Sunday, I have to confess, I was done. And I wasn't alone. There were a lot of glassy eyes and slack jaws evident. I didn't even attempt to attend any more  workshops. I was brain dead. Fried. Jonathan Maberry's zombies had nothing on me. So I just hung out in the Hospitality Suite and networked AKA schmoozed until closing cermonies and the basket raffle.

Some people, like my friend Peggy Hauser, buy a LOT of tickets.

I didn't win the writer's retreat that I REALLY wanted. But I did win a more practical prize: a folding cart on wheels that was stuffed with books and office supplies.

If you missed this conference, make plans now to attend the 25th anniversary Pennwriters Conference next year in Lancaster. I know I'll be there!


Laurie said...

Thanks for sharing, Annette. It sounds like the conference was a wonderful time! Hopefully next year...

Annette said...

It was wonderful, Laurie. Sorry you couldn't be there.

Joyce Tremel said...

Perfect recap of a perfect conference!

Once a year is not enough.

Ramona said...

Laurie, it's too bad you weren't there. I agree with Joyce--perfect recap, and we should do the whole thing all over again, and soon. Also I suspect Meredith and Julie would faint upon reading that.

Jotter Girl said...

Fun to see all the photos - it was a great conference!

Judy Schneider said...

Wow, Annette! It sounds like the conference was both fulfilling and exhausting. Thanks for sharing the photos -- everyone looks so content and happy! Wish I could have been there!

Hallie Ephron said...

Great post, Annette - it's almost like I was there!

Kathryn Craft said...

Thanks for the wrap-up, Annette! So sorry this year's conference wasn't in the budget...

Jenna said...

Sounds like fun. I wanna go! WAAAH!

Annette said...

So all of you who missed it better make sure to come next year. Our 2012 keynote speaker is the wonderful and beautiful Hank Phillippi Ryan!

Kathy Otten said...

Thanks for sharing all the photos. I had a wonderful time. Loved, loved Ramona's all day work shop on self-editing.

Ondreya said...

Nice photo recap. I enjoyed the time spent at the conference. And thanks again Annette for your autograph on very own guppy tales book.

Annette said...

Andrea, it was my pleasure. Thank YOU for asking (and for buying it!)

Kathy, Ramona's the best!

Cheryle said...

Hard to believe it was just a week ago. Great conference all around.

Bill Peschel said...

A fine story and the pictures look great, too.

I picked up the last Guppy book with your signature on your short story on Sunday after someone took me aside and explained that it was a collection of mystery stories and not, in the main, about fish. I really need to enhance my reading comprehension skills.

On to Lancaster!

Julie Long said...

Great recap. Felt so much like I was there that I'm exhausted all over again! :-) Actually, it makes me a little sad for all the workshops I didn't get to attend —but I'm glad they were a hit! - Julie

Annette said...

Bill! You made my day. Now I can go the rest of the Guppies in Fish Tales and tell them we sold out! Thank you!

Julie, I know what you mean. You put together a fabulous conference and then don't get to participate in nearly enough workshops. Trust me, you will REALLY enjoy next year's conference!

Paula Matter said...

Excellent recap and photos, Annette! I'm going to make sure I'm there the whole time next year.

Carol Silvis said...

Great recap, Annette! Makes me want to do it again!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Oh, it looks fabulous! Kudos to the people who put it on, and I wish I could have been there. I would have especially loved to see your face, Annette, when you were asked if you were the to run the marathon!

Treadmill indeed. Do ya'll tape your workshops. I would have loved to have listened to Jonathan's words that could drive a group to their feet.

Thanks for sharing!

Colette Garmer said...

Yes, Annette, you called it right. This was a super conference, one I would not want to have missed. So glad I made it, even though I was ill to the gills while there.
Julie and Meredith made it all look easy and deserve all the kudos they have received.