Posted by: Kerry Gans | June 8, 2018

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2018: Day One

Today opened the annual Philadelphia Writers Conference held at the Wyndham Hotel in Historic Philadelphia. This year marks the PWC’s 70th anniversary! Fellow Chronicler J. Thomas Ross and myself made our way to the hotel this morning to enjoy another year of learning and camaraderie.

I barely made it in time for the opening speaker—but I lucked out because the opening speaker got stuck in traffic and was running late. The only thing I missed was PWC President James Knipp reading the citation issued by Mayor James Kenney on the occasion of the PWC’s 70th anniversary.

Lisa Thomas-Laury

The opening speaker was Lisa Thomas-Laury, who was a long-time news anchor on Philadelphia’s 6ABC until a devastating and life-threatening disease derailed her life. After a long battle, Lisa regained much of her life, and today she spoke of her long road to the top of her profession as well as her fight to regain her health. While many facets of her story were inspirational, three things resonated with me: 1) show compassion and understanding to others, 2) be open to opportunities that come your way, and 3) believe in yourself.

Kelly Simmons

After Lisa’s standing-ovation garnering speech, J. Thomas and I split up for the first 3-day workshop of the conference (full Friday schedule of all available workshops below). I attended Kelly Simmons’ workshop Spunky, Funky, or Hunky: The Importance of Creating Indelible Characters. Kelly’s premise for the workshop is that virtually all rejections by agents and editors is because of failures in character, and that these failings can be rectified by a relatively simple technique that she described as “controversial, simple, and a little woo-woo.”

We went in search of lunch after this session. Our usual watering hole, the Bourse food court, is under construction, so not food there—just scaffolding! So J. Thomas and I dined next door at the Subway.

After lunch the Agents and Editors Pitch Sessions took place throughout the afternoon. I did not pitch this year, as both my books are out in queries, and two of the agents at the conference had already passed on it. J. Thomas did pitch, with encouraging results, so let’s all cross our fingers for her! Check out the list of all the Agents and Editors.

Laurie Morrison

On to the afternoon sessions! First I went to Harnessing Your Inner Child for middle grade writers. This was led by Laurie Morrison, who stepped up when original presenter got called away. She discussed the idea of a controlling belief that drives your character and impacts pretty much every aspect of your story. She called this controlling belief the “why” behind the “what” your character wants.

Adrian Erik McCray

I hopped over to the final 3-day workshop I signed up for: Adrian Erik McCray’s Plotting the Road Map for your Novel. He discussed various plot models to use to structure your story, but he also had some advice: Don’t let workshops and rules bury your story intuition. You instinctively feel when a story is good.

PJ Thomas

J. Thomas and I met up again for the last workshop of the day: PJ ThomasNo One Cares About Your Family Vacation and Other Reasons Why You Can’t Get Published. This single-day feature focused on travel writing, which is not something I have ever done, but which I found interesting. PJ showed us how almost any story or any experience can be turned into a travel story, and gave us pointers on what travel publishers are looking for in a pitch and how to pitch properly.

A theme flowed throughout the day: Belief. Lisa Thomas-Laury told us to believe in ourselves, Kelly Simmons discussed the importance of a misbelief in building characters,  Laurie Morrison challenged us to find our own controlling beliefs as well as our characters’, Adrian Erik McCray urged us to believe in our own story intuition, and PJ Thomas pointed out the importance of getting editors to believe in us as freelancers in order to get assignments.

Belief.  All of us are here at the conference because we believe we have a story to tell—a story others need or want to hear. We believe we have the ability to do that story justice—or that we have the ability to learn how to make our skills match our vision. And we believe that we will find an audience for our story and connect with readers who may need to hear our story the most.

We believe our words on the page will make a difference in someone’s life.

I can’t wait for Day Two! I believe it will be as inspiring as Day One. Join us tomorrow night for the recap.

Friday’s Full Schedule

9:30 AM – Opening Remarks: Lisa Thomas-Laury

Three Day Workshops

11 AM

Spunky, Funky or Hunky: The Importance of Creating Indelible Characters–Kelly Simmons
Where is the Center of the Earth and How Does It Become Your Poetry?– Amy Small-McKinney
Memoir – Lorene Cary
Marketing and Social Media; An Authors Worst Nightmare!– Denise Camacho

1:30 PM

Short and Sweet: How to write a great short story– Austin Camacho
Harness your Inner Child – Laurie Morrison
NonFiction Book – Lynn Rosen
On The Edge of Your Seat: Writing Suspense– Merry Jones

3:00 PM

Fiction/Novel II (Plot) – Adrian Erik McCray
Going into the Cave: Writing the Confessional Poem– Brian Fanelli
Play Writing: Pursuing Commissions – Ed Shockley
Workshop in a Box – Blair Thornburgh
THREE DAY MASTER CLASS – Get Published – Sheree Bykofsky

 Single Day Workshops

4:15 PM

Travel Writing – PJ Thomas
The Art of Magazine Article Writing – Richard Rys
MASTER CLASS Poetry: Thrivin’ Ain’t Easy–TS Hawkins

6:00 PM – Agents and Editors Buffet

8:00 PM – Fiction and Poetry Raps


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