The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2016 — the oldest writers’ conference in the nation with open registration — met in the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District from June 10th through June 12th. Fellow Chronicler Kerry Gans and I attended with Lois Steinberg, a friend from our critique group. One of the joys of attending a writers’ conference is greeting old friends and making new ones while learning more about the writing craft and the writing business. We certainly did that!
Kerry and I both attended the three-day workshop Planning a Novel and the one-day workshops Surviving Query Quicksand, Building a Digital Brand, and Pitch Perfect. Our other choices differed, with me attending the three- day workshops Blogging with Humor and How a Poem Should Be and the one-day workshop Writing That Matters. Since Kerry gave a 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 workshops I attended.
From Planning a Novel with Rachel Pastan
The three elements a main character must have:
- a lack, need, flaw, or weakness
- a specific desire which drives the action
- opponents or obstacles to attaining that desire
Each novel should have:
- an initial situation
- a spark that initiates the action
- a change in the main character resulting from the action, perhaps involving a moral choice
- a conclusion
From Blogging With Humor with Donna Cavanagh
- humor is subjective — not everyone finds a particular bit of humor amusing
- spoken humor is hard to transfer to the written word because facial expressions and vocal inflections are lacking
- inside humor is a story
- it’s okay to flop — just put the flop behind you and keep going
- it’s hard to find agents or publishers for humor unless you’re a big name comic or celebrity
From How a Poem Should Be with Alison Hicks
- most poetry is published in literary magazines, which are not paying markets
- there are times we are receptive to poetry and times when we can’t find a poem anywhere we look
- poets need some downtime, time to recharge
- how to get the drive back [these tips can be used by writers of any genre]:
- set yourself some tasks but don’t make them too big or too hard
- take a class and do assignments
- have fun with the tasks or assignments; put aside judgement and make them into little games so there’s no pressure
From Building a Digital Brand with Cecily Kellogg
- you need to define your personal brand as a writer — find the place your passions, personality, and goals intersect
- you need to identify your core values — why are you writing, what are your goals, and what do you want to be?
- take a digital inventory — review your current profiles and clean them up, if necessary, and identify your followers
- join in conversations and build tribes
From Perfect Pitch with Frances Grote
- pitching is a form of sales; you are selling a product — your art — to an agent or editor
- the way we write is not the way we speak: while you probably want to write it out, your pitch should be in “spoken,” not “written,” language
- when you give your pitch, make eye contact and reclaim the agent/editor’s attention if they get distracted
- the pitch should engage the emotions and give a strong impression of (but not summarize) what the book is about
- like a well-written manuscript, your pitch should “show” rather than “tell”
From Writing That Matters with Kathryn Craft (who substituted for the original workshop leader)
- identify why you write and make sure your writing reflects those reasons
- decide what type of writing will work best for you
- who will your main character be, and why her or him?
- consider the “real characters” you’ve known — admired or reviled — and what details set them apart
The workshops elaborated on all these tips and provided far more information than I can include here, but I hope these few tips provide some inspiration and help with your writing.
Writers’ conferences have a lot to offer. If you’re not in the Philadelphia area, don’t despair. Writing groups across the country hold conferences and offer workshops. Look for one in your region.
Or … you could plan a vacation to historical Old City Philadelphia in June next year and visit the convention too. Maybe we’ll see you there. Come up and introduce yourself.