Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 12, 2015

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2015: Day One

AC at the PWC“It’s hot as hell in Philadelphia!”

So said John Adams in the musical 1776, and today proved him right. It was a scorcher of a day outside and, judging by the smell of melted brains by the end of the day, the presenters at the PWC brought plenty of heat of their own.

The Friday session of the conference often has the lightest attendance because people cannot get off from work, but this year it seemed pretty packed, even at the opening speech by Sara Shepard. Sara gave us an entertaining run-down of her unusual road to success with Pretty Little Liars, and at one point put it down to “luck.” What she didn’t say about this fickle mistress Luck is that not everyone takes advantage of opportunities that luck puts in their way. Some don’t have the talent or determination to capitalize on them; some are so tunnel-visioned as to how they want to achieve their success that they fail to see the road less traveled. Sara grabbed her opportunity with both hands and it led to far more success than she had ever imagined. So keep your eyes open for opportunities—they may come when you least expect it.

Attendees listening to Opening Speaker Sara Shepard

Attendees listening to Opening Speaker Sara Shepard

Then began the morning session of 3-day workshops:

I took the Short Story workshop. Fran Wilde does not kid around—she is intending to send us home in three days with a completed (albeit rough) short story of about 2,000 words! She also had a bit of advice that made everything make so much sense: “Writing is fractal.”

She meant that not only does a story have a beginning, middle, and end, but a chapter has a beginning, middle, and end; and a scene has a beginning, middle, and end; and a paragraph has a beginning, middle, and end; and even a sentence has a beginning, middle, and end. When viewed that way, story micro-structure becomes much easier to understand.

small - DSCN9794During the lunch break, fellow Chronicler J. Thomas Ross ate in the cool hotel restaurant with a friend, while I forayed to the Bourse building for lunch with another conferee. The heat was bearable in the shade, with a breeze, and if we walked reeeeeallly sllooowwlyyy.

After lunch, we moved to the second session of 3-day workshops:

Memoir with Tom McAllister

“Memoir: Why Should I Care Make the Personal Universal” with Tom McAllister

Since I write middle grade and YA, I took Catherine Stine’s Young Adult fiction course. Catherine has published with traditional publishers large and small, as well as self-publishing some of her work, so she is well-placed to address all of our publishing questions.

I missed the end of Catherine’s session because today was also agent-editor pitch day. Although I have a book deal, I still lack an agent, so I pitched. I spoke with the passionate Eric Smith of PS Literary, who asked me to send my manuscript when it is finished. His infectious enthusiasm gave me the jolt I needed to re-energize my tired brain.

I hurried to my final 3-day workshop. The last group of 3-day sessions are:

My last workshop was Writing the Novel, with the always-entertaining and word-wise Solomon Jones. Today we discussed the importance of setting on your novel—it sets time, place, and mood, but it also creates the rules and parameters of what is possible in your story. I had never thought about setting in quite that way before, so it has given me something to chew on.

Today also had two single-day workshops:

  • Adapting Your Novel to Film or TV (Sara Shepard)
  • Improv for Storytelling (Dan Stabb)
Sara Shepard

“Adapting Your Novel to Film or TV” with Sara Shepard

I missed part of Sara’s adaptation talk because I had a second pitch session, this one with Adrianna Dominguez of Full Circle Literary. Although she does rep middle grade and YA, my sci-fi-fantasy bent is not her wheelhouse, but she was kind enough to direct me to another agent in her agency to query when my manuscript is ready. As with the last 4 years, I left my pitch sessions with more confidence, and enjoyed talking with them professional to professional.

“Improv for Storytelling” with Dan Stabb

Romance: Novel in a Nutshell with Judi Fennell

Romance: Novel in a Nutshell with Judi Fennell

The evening saw the Agents and Editors Buffet and the Poetry and Fiction Rap sessions. I am fried by 5 o’clock, so I headed home to get some rest. If anyone wants to tell us about those sessions, feel free to do so in the comments here!

It may be hot as hell in Philadelphia, but the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference is full of some very cool people.

The awesomeness continues tomorrow!

small - DSCN9802


  1. Fun to read this Kerry–first time I haven’t been there in a good long while! Your agent pitch sounded great. Good luck! In a pic Uriah posted on FB it looked like maybe Sarah Yake was on the agent panel as well? Missed seeing her and Arianna. Great ladies. And Fran’s workshop–I’ll bet you knew this–really spoke to me! Hope the heat lets up a bit today.


    • Yes, Sarah Yake was there again. And I know you would love Fran’s workshop!


  2. Hope to get there next year. I haven’t been in years. Sounds amazing. Love the Liars.


    • They run a great conference–tight but casual at the same time. I hope you can some next year!


  3. At the Agents and Editors sessions, they gave a lot of practical advice. The one that hit home concerns people who write cross genre. If you write a cross genre SF and Romance, go to the bookstore and look for the shelf where your book would go (among other books like it). The agent in question was looking for romance. So if the book would belong in the romance section (but has a few elements of SF) go ahead and submit. If your book is primarily SF with elements of romance, go to agent who’s looking for SF.
    Also got to hear Social Media from Don Lafferty and had an aha moment – got to thinking that I seriously need to redo my website – had the same theme for three years. Looking forward to the classes today.
    Barbara of the Balloons


    • Thanks, Popple! Glad to hear the advice you got. And good luck with the website!


  4. […] to our Top Picks Thursday linkfest! J. Thomas Ross and I returned this week from the 2015 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, and our brains are still bursting with all the information we learned and people we […]


  5. […] is right here.   Our conferees had a lot to say, with reports from SJWG, the irrepressible Kerry Gans over at the Author Chronicles, the always entertaining and uplifting Heartprints author Mary Mooney, and Doreen McGettigan, who […]


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