2012 Philadelphia Writers Conference

I’m in the midst of an incredibly busy June and tucked between bachelor parties (including a kickass Zombie Survival Camp), my oldest daughter’s graduation and my bro-in-law’s wedding, I had the privilege to attend my second (hopefully of many) Philly Writers conferences starting on June 10th .

Funny the difference a year makes.  During the 2011 conference, I received a much-needed ego boost, mostly on the strength of some semi-serious comments from Kelly Simmons (I gave her effing chills!) and unsolicited praise from a number of folks who (at the time) were strangers.  I left 2011 feeling jazzed and with the feeling that I really did have the talent to make a go at this writing thing.

This year, however, had a bit of a different vibe.  The ego took a little (perhaps needed?) bruising as only one of my three contest entries placed; and the one that did (“The Triumvirate”) did so because there were only two entries submitted for Young Adult.  I submitted three works for critique and, while I received some good feedback, none of the established authors doing the “critiqueing” were transported to paroxysms of joy upon reading my work. The logical part of my brain knew it wasn’t likely, but that emotional part that is always expecting kittens at the top of the stairwell was convinced that I would end up with a book contract.   I will confess that, after my near shutout at the awards ceremony, I took the midnight train to Sulkytown , with the writer’s favorite tune (you just ain’t good enough) running a constant refrain on the old skull speaker.

Luckily, my delusions of grandeur are tough SOBs.  They rounded up my fears of inadequacy and beat the snot out of them, and by Sunday morning, I was back on the positive side of things.  I gave the critiques a second look, discovered that the common theme was that I was a good writer that needed some polish.  I was able to talk to the authors who graciously expanded upon their review and pointed out several ways to improve the work.  Later in the morning I was honored to learn I was elected to the PWC board of directors. Most importantly, I had gleaned a number of tips, tricks, and feedback that I hope will provide the new kick-start I need, most notably:

  • Kill my darlings…this was a common theme from Caridad Pineiro, Marie Lamba, and Kathryn Craft.  This means both the sliding transitions I loved so much in “Jonesing” and the conversational, break-the-fourth-wall tone in “The Triumvirate” may be going.  It will hurt (killing loved ones always does), but I think they’ll ultimately make both works stronger.
  • Speaking of “Jonesing,” the short novella that represents my rebirth as a writer (and my initial futile, foray into the publishing world), Ms. Pineiro echoed something many of my beta readers have mentioned and I’m turning this little story into a novel.  I’m a little concerned that doing so will somehow damage the story (the aforementioned sliding transitions), but there’s a lot of material there…I think it can be done.
  •  For us unfortunate souls who can never think of what to blog about, Don Lafferty suggested creating a weekly editorial calendar to keep the ideas flowing.  I’ve done so and if I stick to it, you my dear reader will be treated to items ranging from new flash fiction to my unsolicited advice for brand new writers.  I’m sure you’re waiting with ‘bated breath!
  • For those folks interested in going the self/e-publishing route, I learned about Bookbaby.  For a nominal fee, Bookbaby will provide formatting and marketing assistance for your self-published e-book.  Neat concept that’s worth checking out.
  • I received a ton of motivation (and a little bit of shame) from both Caridad Pineiro, who wrote her first while working 12 hour days AND caring for an 18 month old and Jonathon Maberry, who somehow found the time to continue writing during the conference, while still being completely accessible to everyone who approached him. When I spoke to him on Saturday evening, he mentioned he had written until 6AM that morning, slept for an hour, and got up early to be ready for his first workshop.  (full disclosure – I developed a bit of a man-crush on Mr. Maberry during this conference.  I don’t think I was alone!) Lesson learned from both was that if I really want to do this, sleep may be optional.

I didn’t get much advice on how to get my ass in the chair and in front of the keyboard (aside from “get your ass in the chair and in front of the keyboard.”) and couldn’t find anyone willing to come over every night and drag me up to my office, but I guess there’s some things you’ve just go to do for your self.  I did get an interesting idea (by way of conversation with Ms. Lamba) from Mr. Maberry, who sets up a jar and pays himself for every hour he sits down and writes.  I think I might try that, though I might need to make it a lockbox to keep the teenagers from raiding it!

So ultimately, I’m back in the saddle again..um…again, ready to charge forward.  I’m going to have fun with this (and this time I mean it!)

Upcoming posts:

Note to my HS Graduate


5 Replies to “2012 Philadelphia Writers Conference”

  1. Jim I love the name of your blog! This was very entertaining to read. Never doubt that you have the natural talent to make it. Unfortunately, talent isn’t the determining factor, as you’re figuring out. A good writer is the one who identifies the problems that accompany each new project, then sticks with them until the problems are solved—whether motivational or craft-oriented. I’m rooting for you. And welcome to the board!


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