Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 9, 2017

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2017 – Day One

Once again the pilgrims arrived at the Wyndham Hotel in Philadelphia, PA. We came bearing backpacks and bags full of conference survival tools—notebooks, pens, laptops, phones, food, and the occasional sweater or sweatshirt.

Our day began with opening speaker Yolanda Wisher. Ms. Wisher is the poet laureate of Philadelphia. Her speech soared with eloquence, each phrase capturing an essence far larger than the words. She spoke of her “kinfluences”–the people and stories in her life that made her into a poet.

She addressed the question: what does poetry matter in real life? Ms. Wisher answered that we need poetry to fill in the gaps, to make sense of life, to name places being erased by time.

After Ms. Wisher’s gorgeous, inspirational speech, I moved on to my first 3-day workshop (full Friday schedule below). I attended How to Get Published with Denise Camacho. Ms. Camacho’s lively presentation covered the gamut from self-publishing to the Big Five. Her deep knowledge of all the facets of publishing was evident, as she touched on everything from book covers to editing to marketing.

Ms. Camacho’s ultimate takeaway? Decide what you want for your book, then find the best fit. There really is something for everyone. Just make sure you follow the submission guidelines, lest you end up in the circular file.

At the lunch break, I chatted with some fellow authors for a bit, then found a (relatively) quiet place on the shade of a tree to eat lunch. For an introvert like me, having that alone time let me recharge, enabling me to return for the afternoon session ready to roll.

After lunch the Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions took place throughout the afternoon (see the list of all the Agents and Editors). First I went to Tempest in a Teacup: How to Write the Short Story with Diane Arrelle. I left it halfway through to pitch two of my books. I had wrangled back-to-back pitch sessions, which was either brilliant or stupid.

Turned out to be a brilliant idea. I had no time in between to worry or work myself up. First I met with the very cool Melissa Edwards from Stonesong Agency. Her denim jacket mirrored mine, so I felt right at home. My book didn’t quite fit her list, but we had a nice chat.

Then I talked with Denise Camacho of Intrigue Press. We had met at this conference several years ago, and she had shown interest on a book I had just begun. That book is now almost complete, and she is still excited about it, so I will send it to her after my editor gives it back to me.

After my meetings, I went back to Short Story with Diane Arrelle. She covered the elements of short story and how we can mix and match depending on the length of the short story. Tomorrow she will cover more of the various types of short fiction and their pros and cons.

After going short I went young, diving into The Fundamentals of KidLit with Erin Entrada Kelly. Ms. Kelly’s high energy workshop explored the different tiers of KidLit from board books to YA, and the elements of KidLit that binds them all. She also touched on misconceptions about KidLit, and then discussed how we as adults can recapture the voice and mindset of the age we write about. Although I write middle grade and YA, I sometimes have trouble getting the voice right, and I hope that some of the techniques we will discuss will help me pinpoint where my problem lies.

Day One wrapped with the first day of a 2-day workshop by Sally Grotta, Grants and Other Opportunities. The good news is that there is money out there! The bad news is not a lot of it is for writers, and none of it will actually pay you to write your book. However, there are ways to get paid for things that support community involvement, such as speeches, workshops with your potential audience, and events of that nature. Tomorrow we’re going to work on the actual mechanics of filling out an application because many people find Grant application quite intimidating. I’m looking forward to seeing how artists and writers can get money to do what we are passionate about.

My theme for the day can be summed up with one wonderful word borrowed from Ms. Wisher: “kinfluences.” Today was a day when old relationships circled back and found new meaning. At the conference, I re-met Ms. Camacho, who is still interested in a book I started last time we met. I ran into someone who had attended a book talk I gave last year. For the first time in real life, I met three women I had only ever met online. I saw Uriah Young, who when I first met him was attending his first PWC and is now on the board. To top it all off, this evening I went to the Doylestown Bookshop and attended a book event with Jonathan Maberry, an old friend who has done much for my career and for many others. At the event, I chatted with friends I have known for up to eleven years, friends who have been with me since I started this professional writing journey. “Kinfluences,” indeed.

That is one reason I keep returning to the PWC: the people who have made me who I am as a writer, and the people I have yet to meet that will shape me in the future. I wonder who I will meet tomorrow?


9:30 AM – Opening Speaker – Yolanda Wisher

 Three Day Workshops
11 AM
Creating Characters Readers will Love – Austin Camacho

Breaking through the Abstract – Peter Murphy

How to get Published – Denise Camacho

Storytelling Craft for Journalists, Memoirists & Other Non-fiction Writers – Sally Grotta

1:30 PM

Thrilled to Death – Jon McGoran

The Good, the Bad, and the Truth of Writing and Selling Memoir – Doreen McGettigan

Tempest in a Teacup: Writing the Short Short Story – Diane Arrelle

Screenwriting: Challenging the Odds – James Breckenridge

3:00 PM

Using Fiction to Capture Truth – Harriet Millan

The Fundamentals of Writing KidLit – Erin Entrada Kelly

Non-Fiction: The Newspaper Column as Magical Mystery Tour – Thom Nickels

Turn Toward Me: Writing Social Commentary in Poetry – Chrys Tobey

Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM

Grants & Other Opportunities- day 1 – Sally Grotta

Self Publishing: Perks & Pitfalls – Catherine DePino

MASTER CLASS – Mood Indigo: Writing Blue(s) Poems – Yolanda Wisher

6:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps




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