Pennwriters Conference Review: Part One

I’m back from the Pennwriters Conference and jazzed to get back to work on my writing. The inspiration one receives at such an event is worth the price of admission not even taking into account the actual workshops and lectures.

For the next few days, I’m going to relate some of my experiences and epiphanies during the course of the weekend. I WAS going to begin with a list of what’s in and what’s out in the publishing industry, but Jane Friedman of Writer’s Digest already covered that and more in her blog. Click here to read about her experiences at the conference. Scroll down. She has several days worth of insight.

Day One (Thursday) involved travel, a Pennwriters board of directors meeting, and setting up the freebies table. Since I was this year’s freebies coordinator (AGAIN), I had a carload of boxes containing magazines, brochures, submissions guidelines, other promotional materials. Thankfully, there was room for my luggage. With Aerosmith and Oasis rocking on the CD player, I made good time and arrived around 5PM. I almost literally ran into my roommate for the weekend (Brenda from Working Stiffs) in the entranceway. After checking in, we grabbed some dinner in one of the hotel restaurants.

As an aside, finding a good, healthy vegetarian meal, even allowing for a bit of seafood, in Amish country is nearly impossible. I fear I may have put back on a few of the pounds I recently lost. Too much cheese sauce.

I slipped out of the board meeting early to set up the freebies table. Then, exhausted from the four and a half hour drive on the monotonous Pennsylvania turnpike, I retreated to my room where Brenda and I gabbed until we fell asleep midsentence.

Friday, I encountered a bit of a problem. The Lancaster Host is very spread-out. The guest rooms and the conference meeting area are in different time zones. Okay, not that bad, but my toes were rubbed raw before 10AM by the shoes I bought last week in Williamsburg and walking was torture. So it seemed like different time zones.

I attended Marta Perry’s workshop on Elements of Suspense and jotted down a couple pages of notes. Most of this stuff is stuff I already learned, but either forgot or needed reminding of. Such as: Even the quiet scenes must move the plot forward, even if it’s not obvious to the reader. Also, give the character a clearly defined goal in each scene. EACH scene. And if your protagonist is doing something that might make her appear stupid, such as NOT calling for the police when in danger, you must provide PROPER motivation. And finally, ask yourself what your character is afraid of and give every character a secret.

Friday night, I hadn’t planned on attending the keynote dinner with Joyce Carol Oates. What can I say…I had a cheapskate attack. But in appreciation for shuttling her back and forth between the Lancaster Host and the hotel down the street where she was staying, my friend and critique buddy, Mary Jane Roth, insisted on buying me a ticket to the event. While grateful, I was also panicked. I had nothing to wear appropriate to such a dinner. But I have wonderful friends and roommate Brenda came to my rescue by being my stylist for event. If you ever share a room at a conference, you should definitely find a roommate whose clothes fit you and who has exquisite taste.

Joyce Carol Oates was charming and down-to-earth. I was fortunate enough to sit at the board members’ table with her and had front row seats for her speech on “Woundedness, Rejection, and Inspiration.” It was a fascinating talk that Jane Friedman covers nicely in her blog.

By the end of the event, I was ready to return to my room and rest up for the second half.

To be continued…


Anonymous said…
Glad to hear that both you and your overloaded vehicle survived the trip. Looking forward to hearing more from you and Mary Jane at our Cici's gettogether, Last Thursday of the Month luncheon (in Bridgeville PA). best, cheryl
Annette said…
Thanks, Cheryl. And don't forget critique group!
Joyce Tremel said…
Thanks for the summary, Annette!
Joyce Tremel said…
Oh, and make sure you take the proper clothes to Bouchercon. If you borrow anything of mine, you'll need a seamstress to take them in a couple of sizes!
Annette said…
LOL, Joyce. Hey, isn't that what they make binder clips for? Just kidding. I'm make sure and pack appropriately.

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