Posted by: J. Thomas Ross | March 27, 2012

The Write Stuff 2012

James Scott Bell


I love attending writers’ conferences. I always learn something new, connect and reconnect with fellow writers, and come away with head stuffed to overflowing with information and a renewed eagerness to tackle whatever project I’m currently working on. One of my favorites takes place in mid-March each year, when the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group [GLVWG] hosts The Write Stuff conference at the Four Points Sheraton in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This year the conference took place on Friday evening and Saturday, March 16th and 17th. In addition to the conference itself, writers could participate in the in-depth pre-conference workshops on March 15th and 16th.


The conference attracts writers from nearby states, of course, but some came from as far as Texas. One of the reasons for its popularity is the reasonable price for the conference and the pre-conference workshops. This year’s pre-conference workshops were the day-and-a-half  Novel and Screenwriting Intensive presented by James Scott Bell and the three-hour Ten Crucial Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Novel presented by Gayle Roper. I attended both and took pages of notes.


James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell has written five books about the craft of writing and shared what he has learned over the years in his Novel and Screenwriting Intensive seminar. Among the many things discussed were how to craft an effective three-sentence elevator pitch; the seven critical factors required for a novel’s success; the LOCK system of plotting: the lead character has an objective that results in confrontation which leads to the knock-out final battle; the three types of lead characters (protagonists); how to establish a reader’s bond to your lead character; how to get inside a character’s head; the basic structure of a novel, including the thirteen signpost scenes; how to discern your novel’s theme; how to craft complex lead characters and minor characters who jump off the page; the character arc; orchestration of your characters and scenes; the structure of action scenes and reaction-beat scenes; the eight essentials for each scene; twelve tools for talk, or how to write good dialogue; how dialogue can control the pace of the novel; developing your voice; an writing double-duty description that does more than present a visual image.



If you missed this pre-conference workshop, James Scott Bell will present three more times this year: in Austin, Texas on June 16-17, in Nashville, Tennessee on August 11-12, and in Cincinnati, Ohio on September 15-16. He will also be a presenter at the Writing Boot Camp in Manitou Springs, Colorado on June 1-2.



Gayle Roper


Award-winning author Gayle Roper has written more than forty books. In the pre-conference workshop Ten Crucial Questions to Ask about Your Novel, Gayle talked about creating your characters’ personality types; how to reveal character through action, description, dialogue, and thoughts; finding the motivation by asking “why?”; creating mood and atmosphere; avoiding sentimentality while creating sentiment; layering to add texture and depth that sets your book apart; and much more. Especially interesting were the samples she provided of how sentences or paragraphs of “telling,’ which pull the reader out of the dream, can become so much more vivid as “showing.”


Marie Lamba

The conference itself began Friday evening. Participants who had pre-registered could  attend Page Cuts, where a panel of four agents, editors, and writers offer off-the-cuff on each participant’s first page and 100-word overview of the complete work. For those not attending page cuts, Associate Literary Agent and author Marie Lamba presented Claim Your Victory in Today’s Publishing Revolution, an upbeat look at how writers can leverage the changes in the publishing industry to make their careers soar. After these workshops, participants and presenters attended the Welcome Reception with tasty hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

The Agents Panel, moderated by Kathryn Craft, with Rachel Stout, Carrie Pestritto, Marie Lamba, Lauren Ruth & Katie Shea

After a continental buffet breakfast on Saturday, the sessions began. Among the choices were Creating and Maintaining Tension in Your Fiction with Gayle Roper; The Business of Writing — Ways to Make Money as a Freelancer with Hana Haatainen Caye; The Agents Panel with Katie Shea, Lauren Ruth, Marie Lamba, Rachel Stout, and Carrie Pestritto; Cool Tools: Tools of the Trade with Mindy Starns Clark; Making Sense of Social Media with Kristin Bair O’Keeffe; Flash Fiction with Curtis Smith; Power Revision — How to Get Your Novel in Top Shape with James Scott Bell; Writing for Young Adults: Reconnecting to the Teenager in You with Joyce McDonald; Forensics Chat with Katherine Ramsland; and much more. Attendees also had the opportunity to pre-register for appointments to pitch their novels to one of the agents in attendance.

Lunch was also provided as part of the package, and after lunch, James Scott Bell presented his entertaining and inspiring Storytellers Save the World: How Fiction Keeps Us from Going Nuts!

The conference concluded with a social that encompassed refreshments, a book fair and book signing, announcing of contest winners, and awarding of door prizes.

James Scott Bell

Joyce McDonald

What writing conferences have you attended? What valuable things do you take away from writing conferences?


More information about The Write Stuff and more photos can be found on my blog.


  1. Nice overview, Kerry! If anyone’s interested in a more in-depth look at what the agents on the panel had to say about publishing trends, I have a two-parter on it at The Blood Red Pencil blog that begins tomorrow, 3/28/12!


    • Glad you liked the overview, Kathryn! Thanks a lot for including the link for anyone who wants more information. I’ll also mention that you and other GLVWG members interviewed the agents before the conference, and those interviews can be found through the GLVWG website.


  2. […] more about The Write Stuff and more photos, check the Author Chronicles and my Facebook album. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]


  3. To answer Kerry’s question, I have always liked the IWWG (International Women’s Writing Guild) Big Apple conferences. There is one coming up in NY on April 14th and 15th. More info here:


  4. Kerry, this looks like a good conference!


    • Catherine (and all!) – I’m sure it was a great conference, but unfortunately I wasn’t the one who attended! 🙂 J. Thomas Ross went (she is the author of the post) and she obviously had a blast. With 5 of us writing on this blog, it can get confusing as to who wrote what post, especially if you get the link from one of us who didn’t write it. Thanks for reading and for commenting. I for one do intend to catch this conference when my toddler is a little older and I am more comfortable being away from her for several nights.



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