Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 4, 2011

Confessions of a Conference Virgin: Day 1 of the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

I have to admit to being nervous about the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. It’s the first conference I’ve ever been to, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Plus, I planned to pitch to an agent there, so I carried the knots in my stomach until my appointment time!

Day 1 of the conference was great. In a highly inspirational opening speech, author Solomon Jones stressed the idea that words matter by sharing how writing literally saved him from a life of addiction and homelessness.

The 3-day workshops have been equally informative. There is a little something for everyone: Memoirs, Poetry, Flash Fiction, Nonfiction, Romance Novels, Contemporary Short Stories, Screen/Play Writing, Novel, and YA.

I have heard good things about most of the 3-day workshops, but I have only experienced 3 of them myself. In Novel: Plot, author Kelly Simmons explored a non-outlining way of approaching plot – her list of 7 Cs: Combustion, Coordination, Conflict, Character, Conclusion, Completion, and Commitment.

In Novel: Character, author Gregory Frost explored what it takes to create compelling characters. Today we talked about the importance of “telling details” to show what the character is like instead of reverting to intrusive author explanation.

I had to leave in the middle of Greg’s class to go to my agent pitch. My nerves almost got the better of me while I was waiting, but once I met the engaging and enthusiastic Sarah Yake of Frances Collin Agency, my fear vanished. I count that as a successful pitch, especially for my first time pitching!

Then it was on to the YA workshop, where author Catherine Stine spoke about the different levels of children’s literature from picture books through upper YA, and how writing for those markets differs from writing for adults.

Finally, I took one of the single-day workshops: Jennifer Holbrook-Talty’s Perfect Pitch/Query. She pounded this cardinal rule into our heads: Who is your protagonist, what do they want, and why can’t they have it? This is the beginning of every successful pitch of any length.

The one-day workshops also cover a wide variety of topics: Pitch/Query; Libel, Privacy & Censorship; Writing for New Media/Webisodes; How to Get Your Own Column; Beating Writer’s Block; Op-Ed; Marketing Your Work; 13 Tips and Tricks; and a Closing Panel – Publisher’s Insider View.

My head is spinning with so much information, but I can’t wait for Day 2 and 3!

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Responses

  1. Have fun, Kerry, you are the best!

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  2. What a great conference, I can’t wait to hear about days 2 and 3!

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  3. Kerry I hope you are getting a lot out of your first conference! Thanks for mentioning me to your readers. Let’s stay in touch post-conference too!

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  4. I enjoyed reading your posts about all three days, Kerry. I attended some of the same workshops, but had to miss Greg Frost as he was teaching the same time as me! Oh well. Good luck with getting your first agent, an exciting step!

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  5. […] Kerry Gene’s thoughts on the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (Link is to the first of a series of posts on the conference.) […]

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