Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 10, 2016

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2016: Day One

AC at the PWCIt seems such a short time ago that I attended last year’s conference—this year passed with lightning speed. Yet this morning found fellow Chronicler J. Thomas Ross and me in the lobby of the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, getting ready for another three days of inspiration.

The day kicked off with a packed opening speech. Sometimes Fridays are lightly attended because it requires people to take a day off from work, but the room was bursting at 9:30 this morning.

Kelly Simmons didn’t disappoint the crowd that had rousted themselves to the hotel early today. Her opening speech focused on the fears that keep writers from writing, and she gave each one a hilarious persona: the Cowboy, the Pussy, the Architect, the Snob, the Gardner, the Artiste, the Chef, the Asshat, and the Douchenozzle. As if the personas weren’t funny enough, each came with an illustrative hat.

Kelly Simmons the Cowboy

The Cowboy

Kelly Simmons the Snob

The Snob

Kelly Simmons the Gardener

The Gardener

Kelly Simmons wearing the Asshat

The Asshat






Rachel Pastan

Rachel Pastan

After Kelly’s wildly-applauded speech, we went our separate ways for the first 3-day workshop of the conference (full Friday schedule of all available workshops below).  I attended Planning A Novel with Rachel Pastan. Instead of the usual pyramid showing plot structure, Rachel gave us a 3-box schema, and discussed causality—how each plot event needs to be connected using “therefore”. Although I feel that my overall plotting is good, I do need to work on connecting the smaller pieces in meaningful ways, so the idea of using “therefore” as a test is a boon to me.

We had lunch after that, during with my friend and marketing guru Don Lafferty gave me some much-needed advice on how to break my marketing out of my circle of friends and family and reach my readers. It will require some work, but that’s no deterrent to me. Many thanks to Don, as I had been feeling rather lost in the marketing side of things.

After lunch the Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions took place throughout the afternoon. I did not pitch this year—not out of fear, but because the only agent who took children’s books had already passed on both books I’m pitching. Check out the list of all the Agents and Editors.

Anna Kashina

Anna Kashina

On to the afternoon sessions! First up was Worldbuilding with Anna Kashina. Today we talked about speculative fiction as a genre, and the many subgenres beneath it. That helped me figure out the subgenres of 2 of my works-in-progress. The subgenre discussion is part of worldbuilding because many subgenres have specific expectations attached to them, and those expectations must be taken into consideration when worldbuilding.

Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft

Then I went to Kathryn Craft’s Maximizing the Emotional Potential of Your Novel. This is definitely something I need to improve, so I am looking forward to garnering insights from her. Today Kathryn reminded us that every novel is an emotional journey, and showed us how the classic Hero’s Journey can give us an overall emotional structure—and how to use the story elements of the Hero’s Journey to write a coherent AND emotionally compelling synopsis. Bonus!

K.M. Walton

K.M. Walton

Finally, we wrapped the day with highly-energetic K.M. Walton, who walked us through the mechanics of writing a killer query letter and avoid the query quicksand so many of us experience. Just like last year, I welcomed having an energetic speaker at the end of the day—it made me perk up when all my brain wanted was to have a siesta!

I always look for a commonality or theme throughout the day. Sometimes it is in the form of many workshop leaders hitting the same point from different angles, but today I found a repeated theme in the side stories of the workshop leaders. The theme of the day: Perseverance. Starting with Kelly and going all the way through to K.M., the leaders had to persevere to finally reach success. Whether it was finding agents or learning the craft more deeply as they worked toward their goals, all of them pushed through hard times and never gave up the dream.

My drive out of Philadelphia at rush hour on Friday was the predictable nightmare. I crept along, stopping at every intersection for the next in the interminable line of red lights. But just as I was ready to lose what little of my brain remained, I remembered the overriding theme of the day: Perseverance. My trip home was a perfect metaphor for the writing journey: Sometimes barely you feel you’re not making any forward progress, yet with enough time and patience you do eventually reach your destination. And occasionally—when you least expect it—you scoot through multiple green lights at once…and that’s something to celebrate.

I can’t wait to see what Day Two brings! Join us tomorrow night for the Day Two recap.

Friday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM – Opening Speaker – Kelly Simmons

Three Day Workshops
11 AM
Basic Playwriting – Bruce Graham
Ekphrastic Poetry: Painting, Sculpting, and Making Music with Words – Bernadette McBride
Insider Secrets to Getting Published (Non-Fiction) – Jeffrey Herman
Planning A Novel – Rachel Pastan

1:30 PM
Blogging with Humor – Donna Cavanaugh
Crafting the Short Story – Kathleen Miller
Memoir: Tell Your Story – Anne Kaier
Writing and World-Building in the Genres of Speculative Fiction – Anna Kashina

3:00 PM

Creating a Television Pilot: From Idea to Pitch – Diane Walsh
How a Poem Should “Be” – Alison Hicks
Magazine Writing Boot Camp – Debra Wallace
Maximize the Emotional Potential of Your Novel – Kathryn Craft

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM

Surviving Query Quicksand – K.M. Walton
The Successful Op-Ed Writer – Kevin Ferris
MASTER CLASS – Building Character (The Fun Kind) – Elisa Ludwig

6:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps

AC at the PWC


  1. […] thorough report on each day and each day’s schedule — check out Kerry’s posts on Day One, Day Two, and Day Three of the conference — I’m going to share some tips from the […]


  2. […] Ross and I attended the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. You can check out our daily recaps here, here, and here, and J. Thomas’ Tips and Pix post […]


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