Fellow Chronicler Kerry Gans did such a thorough job on her posts about Day One, Day Two, and Day Three, that I’d have little to add — except that we often attended different workshops. Check out her posts for a lot more information about the conference.
In spite of the beautiful weekend weather, I didn’t mind staying indoors to attend the 66th annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference at the Wyndham Hotel located at 4th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. I came home with a head full of information and ideas and pages of notes.
On Friday morning William Lashner gave a rousing opening speech with delightful touches of humor. I especially appreciated his comment that every piece of writing ends differently from how it began and the writing process involves going back and making the beginning match the ending. He urged us all to go for the greatness, to make our work the best it can be.
Like Kerry, I got a lot out of Alma Katsu‘s three-day workshop, “Upping the Ante: Creating and Sustaining Conflict.” Her three suggestions for analyzing whether your book has sufficient conflict are:
- Track the disappointments and setbacks your main character faces in achieving his/her goal. Is the achievement of the goal too easy?
- Identify the conflict in each scene.
- If you think you need more conflict and aren’t sure how to add it, analyze the conflicts in a book you’ve read that you really enjoyed. See how that author created obstacles for the main character.
For the early afternoon three-day workshop, I chose Gregory Frost‘s “Writing a Compelling Short Story,” a workshop chock-full of terrific tips for writers of fiction of any length. Here’s a sampling:
- A compelling story needs a both character who desires something and the danger — obstacles, opposition, trouble, the threat of death — that threatens that desire. Your character needs to go through hell in her/his attempt to achieve that desire. From this arises the drama that makes a story compelling.
- The character’s particular desire determines the type of danger the character faces.
- Two things keep editors from buying a well-written short story — lack of tension and flat characters.
The final three-day workshop I attended was Paul Martin‘s “Authenticating Rhythm in Free Verse (Open Form) Poems,” one of the best poetry workshops I’ve attended. Although I took notes, Paul also gave us a handout with an outline of his main points and samples from poems as examples. We read and listened to poems, discussed how the poet achieved rhythm, and how rhythm is an integral part of the message of the poem.
- Paul prefers the term “open form” to “free verse” poetry because all poetry has form and rhythm.
- Acquiring an ear for the cadence of poetry requires practice, and it isn’t easy.
- Behind all the words, the images, and figures of speech in a poem is the rhythm, and the rhythm — if it’s right — authenticates the experience of the poem.
The hour-long one-day sessions at the conference contained almost as much information as the three-day workshops.
Dave Giorgio‘s “Book Trailers and Audio Books: Going Beyond the Box” tackled two non-print topics of interest to writers. He squeezed so much into the hour that I much appreciated the outline he gave us.
- Book trailers and audio books are quite different. Book trailers are marketing tools, one minute in length. Audio books are another form of an author’s entire manuscript that can be sold.
- Book trailers are more difficult to make than movie trailers because movies have visual clips already available, where — other than the cover — books do not.
- An audio book depends not just on the quality of the book but on the quality of the recording and the quality of the narrator’s voice.
Although I attended Suzy Q‘s (Suzanne Kuhn) presentation another year at PWC, there’s always something more to be learned about “Reaching Your Audience through Social Media.” Suzy gave out an outline of her main points, but I took a lot of notes as well.
- Use social media to build relationships, and these should not be mainly with other authors but with avid readers, book clubs, teachers, librarians, and people who sell books.
- An author is a public figure. If you want to sell books, you need to embrace that.
- An author should never be without a sharpie; they are the best things for signing books. [And to ensure of this, Suzy gave one to each of us.]
The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference introduced a new feature this year — a lunchtime workshop on Saturday, for an extra fee, which included a bag lunch. Even though it was another workshop on social media, I signed up and was not disappointed. Cecily Kellogg‘s information-packed workshop on “Search, Marketing, and Social Media for Writers” concentrated more on the marketing side of social media.
- All writers should have websites, and all their other social media presence should link back to their websites.
- If you have a blog, you need to blog at least once a month to have good SEO.
- When you have a book published, you should have an author page in as many places as you can — especially on Amazon, Google Authorship, and Goodreads.
John Timpane‘s energy-charged workshop “Thinking and Style: Why You’re Always Thinking When You’re Writing, and Often Writing When You Think You’re Only Thinking” was a good way to round out Saturday’s offerings.
- Writing means composition. Thinking means all the things that make you human.
- Style is like a fingerprint — no two people’s are alike.
- Style affects how you organize, what you select to say, and what you emphasize.
Although I’m unlikely to ever write comics or graphic novels, I learned a great deal from Terry LaBan‘s “Reading and Creating Comics and Graphic Novels” workshop. [Terry creates a comic strip I enjoy — Edge City — which appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other newspapers.]
- In a cartoon or comic, the art isn’t so much a drawing as a signifier — a representation of something.
- A comics narrative is propelled by closure, our subconscious desire to make connections between separate but apparently connected elements.
- Mainstream comics and graphic novels are usually written by teams of authors and artists.
Kerry and I both commuted to the conference, so we didn’t get to participate in the Friday evening activities, which included a fiction rap, poetry rap, and Apples to Writers game, all of which sound like fun.
Here’s hoping some of these tips might be helpful to you too. Now, with new ideas and pointers swirling through our heads, on to the writing!