Serendipity and Writing Conferences

Tomorrow begins the 69th Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. Last year I had blogged about my experience as a first-time attendee. This year’s fantastic line-up includes J. H. Sullivan as Keynote Speaker and Yolanda Wisher as Opening Speaker. I’m excited to attend again this year since it was such an amazing experience in 2016.

wip

I have only attended a handful of writing conferences, but I can’t say I’ve been to one and have not learned something, or met someone interesting. I think even getting out there and being surrounded by life-minded people is helpful. I’ve practiced pitching my novel and talked to publishers and agents and have always come away with some new idea. Truly, the atmosphere fosters a sense of community and stimulates creativity.

As we approached the start of the PWC I was mulling over this post and why writing conferences are so awesome.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Donna Galanti, author of Joshua and the Lightning Road and the brain behind Your Awesome Author Life, posted a new YouTube video 12 Reasons Why to Attend a Writers’ Conference. Serendipity much? Take a look at Donna’s 12 reasons and subscribe to her channel. She’s full of great ideas and good advice.

Finally, I’m packing a light, but large bag. I love the swag!

Poconos Writers’ Conference 2017

I had the pleasure of attending the 4th Annual Poconos Writers Conference over the weekend. I love conferences because no matter what your level of writing, you can never (and should never) stop learning. Sponsored by writer and attorney Michael Ventrella and the Poconos Liars Club, this one-day writing event featured three writers and one agent who gave excellent talks on craft and publication.

Michael Ventrella kicked off the conference with his talk “The Biggest Mistakes Made by New Authors.” Some great advice included treating your writing like a job in terms of dedicating your time and learning the business, finishing your work, and his secret to success (exclusive to attendees only, I’m afraid). I jest, but he did emphasize the importance of talent, hard work, and networking.

poconos-mike

Michael Ventrella

Next up was agent Alia Hanna Habib from McCormick Literary who presented on query letters and knowing your genre (with examples of what works and what doesn’t). Every time I go to a talk on query letters I learn something new and this was no exception. Alia’s experience was invaluable (and funny). Highlights included ensuring your query reads something like jacket copy, know to whom you are submitting and, of course, read the submissions guidelines.

After lunch, romance writer Megan Hart spoke on Point of View. She provided clear instruction on each type of point of view. I think my greatest takeaway here was the emphasis on how point of view not only controls what we the readers know, it gives the reader information as the character sees it. Each character is the hero of her or his own story, which affects how they tell the story.

poconos-hart

Romance Author Megan Hart

Dark fantasy author Rob E. Boley wrapped up the speaker line up with his presentation on Worldbuilding, which, as he points out, is integral for all genres, not just speculative fiction. Rob asked members of the audience what they thought worldbuilding included and the responses were phenomenal. Many volunteered answers but then made connections with how that aspect (say, currency) would affect the world and the way characters interact. Rob emphasized that your world must serve the story. Coincidences that screw the characters are acceptable. Those that help are not. There are no silos – different aspects of the world affect other aspects (just like the real world!). Do not cast brushstrokes and don’t see everything in black and white.

poconos-boley

Dark Fantasy Author Rob E. Boley

The audience participation really energized the crowd for the final session – a Q&A panel with the authors where we discussed marketing, networking, and being yourself on social media (please, no non-stop promo tweets!) and at writing events. In the end, sell yourself as much as your work, but be real.

Highly recommended conference, especially if you’ve never attended one and might be feeling overwhelmed at the thought of a large, multi-day event.

PS Huge shout out to the Eastern Monroe Public Library for hosting the event. Support your local library!

PPS I might have bought some books…

poconos-books

Why I Dislike Reviewing Books and Why I Should Do So (and 2 reviews)

I will admit it – I am terrible at book reviews. I love reading, I love talking about books, I love smelling books. I don’t like reviewing them. Mainly because I don’t think I’m very good at it. Can I really say anything truly meaningful beyond ‘this is good’ or ‘this had some problems’? Do my reviews sound scholarly enough? Did I miss some important point? Will the author be insulted if I mentioned some points which bothered me? This ever-questioning batty dialogue circulates in mind every time I sit down to write a review.

BUT book reviews are important – they provide authors with feedback and they help other readers decide whether or not to read something. Even a so-so review can trigger someone to check out a book. Reviews let authors and publishers know people are reading. That the words aren’t wasted, set free into an infinite vacuum never to be read, enjoyed, or savored.

With that in mind, I have been trying to review more books as I read them or even several months after the fact. Here are a few recent reviews I did. As you can see, they are short because I never know what to say!  I have more to write which I shall do in the upcoming weeks and post them here, as well as on Goodreads and Amazon. If you haven’t read them, hopefully this will pique your interest!

 

Blood in the Paint by Jordanna East

Blood in the Paint
Read this in one night! Suspenseful, chilling, and dark Blood in the Paint will keep you turning the pages. Right from the start we know the murderer but what happened so many years ago which makes Lyla Kyle lure men to their murders? And what does Dr. Atford, her psychologist, know about Lyla’s past that even Lyla does not know? Will Officer Brighthouse solve the murders and be made detective?

The characters were rich, fully drawn and evoked both empathy and sometimes horror as we navigated the twisting mazes of their minds and their pasts. The last several chapters left me speechless as we find out just how much the past can affect the present and change the future.

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft 

art of falling
I will be upfront here when I say that the books I read usually contain aliens, elves, monsters or other fantasy/scifi elements. I don’t real a lot of “mainstream” literary fiction. However, I found this book enchanting and read it within one night. We start off seeing dancer Penelope Sparrow unable to move in a hospital bed after a disastrous 14-story fall. In the hospital she meets Angela, a woman dying from cystic fibrosis and Marty, the man on whose bakery truck she ell. What follows is a touching and evocative journey from depression and despair to friendship and hope and finally to new heights.

What amazed me was how my reactions to Penny changed over the course of the book. At first I saw her as a tragic figure, then mad at her despair and unreliable view of the world, especially when it came to appearances. As Penny grew, i began to understand how her sometimes twisted views were shaped by her profession as a dancer and our expectations of women’s bodies in society.

The secondary characters were well-rounded also and I loved them all. The story is set in Philadelphia and being a native Philadelphian, I also loved seeing the landmarks I grew up with incorporated into the story. I’m glad I read this because it is not only a great story of redemption but also a damning criticism of what is acceptable for a woman’s body to look like in the modern world, not just the dance world.

Next Up – Second Verse by Jennifer Walkup and Starglass by Phoebe North