Charles Kiernan:  Mark Twain impersonator, traditional storyteller, and writer

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GLVWG’s resident fairy tale sage and storyteller, Charles Kiernan, is our latest author profile.  He is famous for his portrayal of “Samuel Clemens”,  not because he looks just like him during a performance, but the words of wisdom from our most beloved American author, “Mark Twain”.  Chaz has a monthly blog titledFair Tale of the Month – Reflections and Delusions, where he tells an old tale, then offers a quirky analysis through characters he invents. We offer his latest post, “How Idle Lars Won Himself a Princess“, for this month’s post. 

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Part One — Hadleigh Castle

Thalia, Melissa, and I are on a ramble. It started when I confessed to not having seen the sea this year, instead having stayed home to feed Johannes when Thalia and her mother went to Brighton.

“Oh my dear,” Melissa had exclaimed. “One should always take at least a moment to spy the ocean annually. The sea is the heartbeat and rhythm of life.”

At her insistence, we three are now in Hadleigh Country Park, overlooking the Thames Estuary, rather close to the ocean.

Boldly, we spread our picnic blanket at the foot of one of the ruined towers of Hadleigh Castle and take in its spectacular view of the Thames flowing to the sea.

Our outing is all contained in a bulky rattan basket Melissa has lugged to the tower’s base. Pulling back the cane pins, she opens the lid and pulls out a book. I recognize it. Folk and Fairy Tales from Denmark, Stories Collected by Jens Kamp. It’s a translation by my friend Stephen Badman.

“Here is our first feast,” Melissa declares, opening the book to its bookmark. “How Idle Lars Won Himself a Princess.”

Thalia and I settle back to listen to Melissa’s contralto voice.

Idle Lars had an exceptional talent for laziness. When Lars was an infant, wherever one put him that is where he would be whenever you next saw him. He would noe could Ht entertain the notion of crawling away to explore.

One day, through much effort and many threats, Lars’ mother got him to fetch water from the communal well. He took with him an old pot with its legs broken off and every little while he turned it upside down to rest upon it.

The princess, sitting at her castle window, noted his slow progress and called out to him, cautioning him that his legless pot might outrun him, and would he need a boy to push him from behind on his return trip. That annoyed Lars, but he made no answer.

At the well, his pot scooped up a tiny frog that pleaded with Lars to pour him back into the well.

“No,” said Lars, “I cannot be bothered to tip you out. I’d have to fill the pot again.”

The frog promised to grant him a wish. Lars, if lazy, was no fool. He cast his broad-brimmed hat upon the ground and wished for as many wishes as his hat covered blades of grass.

His next wish, with which he thought to spite the princess, was that his pot should sprout legs. It did, and started walking home. The princess was delighted at the spectacle, but called down to Lars that he still needed a boy to push him along to keep up with the pot.

Lars grumbled, “I wish you had a boy yourself.”

It was a thoughtless thing for Lars to say, but nine months later she did have a boy. She proclaimed her innocence, but to no avail.

When the boy could walk, the king called all the men in the kingdom together—including Lars, who, in the meantime, had not bothered to make another wish. The king gave the boy a golden apple saying, “Whoever you give this apple to, will be recognized as your father.”

Although Lars stood in the back of the crowd, the child sought him out and gave him the apple. Infuriated, the king had Lars and his daughter cast out to sea on a boat to meet their doom.

Here Melissa dramatically gestures toward the Thames flowing placidly below us.

Lars lay on the deck, seasick, while the princess wept and complained until Lars exclaimed, “What do you want me to say, other than I wish we were back on dry land?”

Instantly they were. The princess put two and two together, and realized things were not as bad as she had thought. She took charge of the wishing and had Lars wish himself to be a normal human being and not a self-centered, stupid, lazy oaf. That was transformative. She then went on to have him wish for royal creature comforts such as a castle, some servants, an army, and a decent wardrobe for both of them.

The next morning the king awoke and looked out his window to see an island and a castle that had not been there before. He goes to the island to be greeted by an honor guard, at the end of which is his daughter and a transformed Lars. Befuddled, but pleased, he says, “What will be will be.”

That declaration is followed by a happy, three-day-long marriage feast.

Thalia and I are content with the story, but I wonder what else is in Melissa’s wicker basket.

Part Two — Melissa’s Basket

 

Next from Melissa’s basket appears a bottle of claret, two wine glasses, a small jug of sarsaparilla, and a sturdy cup. Thalia’s eyes glimmer at the soda as Melissa pours it into the cup, sending its strong, sweet smell lofting in the air, along with Thalia’s giggle of delight.

“The protagonist in your tale is Lars,” I say, “but it’s a woman’s story isn’t it?” I take the glass of claret she offers me.

“That element of the princess taking charge does attract me to the story, I will confess. This one in particular has its charm. The Danes have a generally positive view on women. It seems,” she observes, “different countries hold their women to different standards, as least as they are reflected in the fairy tales.”

“The local tales,” I say, “are probably a rather good barometer of a country. What are your perceptions?”

“The Germans, I’ll say, are the hardest on their women, if we accept the Grimms as representative.” She swirls the dark, red wine in her glass. “In the Grimms’ canon there is the story King Thrushbeard and among the Irish tales The Queen of Tinkers. It’s the same story, but in the Grimms’ version the princess must be humbled. In the Irish tale she must be strong.

“Did you know the Germans never had a regent queen? The English had Queen Elizabeth, who absolutely defined her era. The Russians can boast of Catherine the Great. Germany, when it comes to speaking of it famous queens, we hear crickets chirping.”

Melissa pauses to bring out a cheese board, a block of Stilton, water biscuits and a small jar of blueberry jam from her epicurean basket. The jam, in particular, attracted Thalia’s attention.

Dipping a slice of cheese into the jam, I question, “Why do so many of the female protagonists in these tales end up getting married in the course of the story?”

Melissa sips her wine, contemplating. “At the time these fairy tales took the shape in which we now find them, there was not a lot of social mobility, and virtually none for women. Their marriage would determine their status. So, I’ll suppose young women’s future marriage was very much on their minds.

“On the other hand,” she continues, “in the fairy tales, the heroines never start out to find husbands. Husbands happen to them, such as in How Idle Lars Won Himself a Princess.”

Melissa opens her basket again and produces a covered bowl of mixed nuts. The lid removed, I spot a fat macadamia nut and pick it out as I say, “You have prompted a thought in me. You said, at the time, there was little social mobility. I infer from that there was little status change as well. But frequently the tales, as in our tale’s case, are about change in status; the oafish Lars becomes a king. It seems to me that goes beyond wishful thinking into the impossible.”

“But that’s the fun of it!” Thalia joins in, “Dreaming the impossible.”

I suppose she is right.

 

Part Three — Concerning Status

 

From the magic basket comes Melissa’s Curried Chicken and Pasta Salad, one of her no-fail crowd pleasers. I am delighted but I watch Thalia eye the offering suspiciously. She tastes it. Her brows knit, then she takes a second bite. I am proud of her. A child willing to venture beyond macaroni cheese as a culinary delight shows promise.

While staring up at the ruined tower of Hadleigh Castle, its ancient stonework sheltering us from the sun, Melissa comments, “I do notice a gender pattern in the tales concerning status. In the course of the tales young women fall from their status to a lower status, then struggle to return to that position or, in some cases, a higher one.

“In our story the princess is cast out to sea with Idle Lars to meet their fate. She turns it around to restore her position and bring Lars around to decency.”

I nod in agreement, my mouth full of pasta salad, so Melissa continues. “Men may start out as farm hands and rise to become kings. Lars is a selfish, idle oaf and wins himself a princess. There is no fall from grace with the men.”

“I like this!” Thalia declares, holding her fork.

Fall from grace,” I echo. “What does that say about how we perceive the roles of men and women in society?”

“Exactly my point,” says Melissa, taking a moment to nod to Thalia. “Women are at a disadvantage. They fight to maintain what they have. Men get to venture forward. Women who are on the road were forced out or are fleeing. Men are on the road to seek their fortunes.”

We watch a container ship, in silent effort, slowly, laboriously work its way up the Thames Estuary headed for the Port of London.

“In our story,” I return to the subject, “what about the disappearing child? When his mother and supposed father are cast out to sea, does he go with them?” I let a little false shock enter my voice.

Melissa, smiling, claps her hands once at my humor. “You have addressed the economy of characters so common to the fairy tale. Of course we don’t know what happens to the child. He has played his role and since he no longer forwards the story, he disappears. Though a prince he may be, he no longer shows his face.

“Also in our story, he is not the first to meet that fate. Lars’ parents are given no better. Lars’ father is mentioned at the start, so we know Lars had a recognized father. (Lars’ parentage of his son is not so clear.) Lars has a conversation with his mother, who sends him to the communal well, but after that she is no longer part of the story. Even when Lars is transformed into a decent human being and becomes king, there is no mention of him inviting his parents to live with him and his wife in the castle. Some tales will extend that courtesy, but they are usually French.”

“Fathers,” I say, finishing off my salad, “suffer the most from what you call the economy of characters. The notable exception is in Hansel and Gretel, where the children returning to their father at the end of the tale is their return to their former status. He needs to be there. Usually, as in the Beauty and the Beast variants, the father creates the dilemma, but then fades from the story as the jealous sisters take over.”

Melissa nods in agreement as, for dessert, she presents from her basket a peach cobbler. All conversation ceases. 

 

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Charles Kiernan:  Mark Twain impersonator, traditional storyteller, and writer.

Charles Kiernan performs at theaters, listening clubs, schools, libraries, and arts festivals. He is also coordinator for the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild, Pennsylvania State Representative for the National Youth Storytelling Showcase and Pennsylvania State Liaison for the National Storytelling Network. He’s been showcased on Lehigh Storytelling, and The Southsider magazine. 

Charles specializes in Brothers Grimm and other fairy tales. Be warned, however, he does tell them in their original spirit, under the belief that the “grimness” of Grimm serves a purpose, and should not be removed.

He has, of late, been fobbing himself off as Mark Twain with great success. Twain is wont to ramble on about his boyhood memories, the book publishing business, life on the Mississippi and frogs. Mostly, though, he likes to talk about the river.

He also performs Americana stories, collectively labeled theLost Dollar stories, a collection of Appalachian tales whose wisdom and humor is woven into the life of a little village stuck way back in the hills. The village is named “Lost Dollar” after the original settler’s mishap that caused him to stay there. The main industries seem to be the growing of apples and the catching of cat fish. Just ask about Uncle Willard’s Catfish!

In addition, Charles is a writer, best known for his blog “Fairy Tale of the Month.” He is presently working on a YA novel, in which his protagonist is falling through history as a pawn in a cosmic chess game played by Loki, the Nordic Lord of Destruction and his counterpart the Goddess Freya.

You can visit his website at www.lostdollar.net (don’t forget to scan down for a video trailer of his Twain show), his WordPress blog, and his Facebook Page

The Spark of Imagination

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Phil Giunta

In the next couple of months, the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group will feature some of our published authors. Phil Giunta is a regular fixture at GLVWG, has shared his advice on Writing the Compelling Short Story at past conferences, and has quite an impressive bibliography of works to his name. 

Phil offers his perspective on “The Spark of Imagination”, followed by a teaser of his upcoming book, “Like Mother Like Daughters“, due for release by Firebringer Press in November 2018.

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When I use the term “speculative fiction” in my response to the inevitable question, “What do you write?” the common reaction is a blank stare, even from some in the writing community. 

When that happens, I take it as my prompt to explain that speculative fiction is an umbrella term that covers science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Once they hear that, the blank stare is washed away and replaced by understanding followed by the inevitable, “Are you published?”

The answer to that question can be found in my bibliography below. At the moment, I’d like to address another question, asked less frequently, yet far more satisfying to discuss—“Why do you write in those genres?”

Simply put, they appeal to me because of the wide breadth of stories that can be told, the infinitely exotic worlds that can be created, the strange, beguiling, or alien characters and situations that allow us to escape into a milieu unlike anything we experience in our daily lives.

Someone once said that science fiction and fantasy are not so much genres, but settings through which any tale can be spun—murder mysteries, police procedurals, medical dramas, coming of age tales, the immoralities of war, racism, sexism, nationalism and the other chauvinisms that plague our society. Writers have always used fiction as parables to address the ills of the world around them.

Speculative fiction also appeals to me because these were the genres and themes I grew up with from the time I watched my first episode of Star Trek in reruns at age six and dreamed about exploring the galaxy. That same year, Star Wars was released—the pure, untainted, perfect version—that fired my young imagination even further. I started watching The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits around that same time.

From then on, I was hooked and began reading science fiction, which led to fantasy, which led to ghost stories and mysteries. From Asimov to Clarke, from Bradbury to Ellison, from Heinlein to LeGuin, from Poe to Lovecraft, and from Doyle to Dumas, I could not get enough. Still can’t. Still reading as yet undiscovered (by me) works by some of these writers and more including Philip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Lester Del Rey, Murray Leinster, Ben Bova. The list expands continuously.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I began attending science fiction conventions, hauling along stacks of Star Trek novels and comic books to be autographed by writers who have since become mentors, friends, and yes, colleagues. Little did I realize at the time that by inquiring about writing and publishing and attending their discussion panels, I was also networking with chaps like Steven H. Wilson, Michael Jan Friedman, Howard Weinstein, Peter David, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and many others.

These bestselling and award-winning writers of comic books and media tie-in works also made their own marks with original SF, fantasy, and horror. Over the past twenty-six years, my relationships with some of these writers solidified into writing and publishing opportunities.

Steven H. Wilson’s Firebringer Press published all three of my paranormal mystery novels and a trilogy of speculative fiction anthologies that I created and edited to give voice to emerging writers.

Crazy 8 Pressformed by Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Glenn Hauman, and other august scribes—included two of my whimsical short stories in their ReDeus mythology series a few years back.

As a reader and fan, the speculative fiction genres have always brought me joy and wonder and have enriched my life by introducing me to scores of wonderful people.  As a writer, these genres sparked my imagination at an early age and inspired me to pursue and hone my skills as a storyteller.

 

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And now, click Like Mother, Like Daughters-Teaser  for a sneak peek at Phil Giunta’s newest story, due out in November 2018. 

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Like Mother, Like Daughters-Teaser

 

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Phile Giunta

Phil Giunta’s novels include the paranormal mysteries Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side published by Firebringer Press. His third novel in the same genre, Like Mother, Like Daughters, is slated for release in late 2018.

Phil’s short stories appear in such anthologies as A Plague of Shadows from Smart Rhino Publications, Beach Nights from Cat & Mouse Press, the ReDeus mythology series from Crazy 8 Press, and the Middle of Eternity speculative fiction series, which he created and edited for Firebringer Press. His paranormal mystery novella, Like Mother, Like Daughters is slated for release in 2018.

As a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG), Phil also penned stories and essays for Write Here, Write Now and The Write Connections, two of the group’s annual anthologies. He also served as chairman of the 2015 Write Stuff writers conference in Bethlehem, PA.

Visit Phil’s website: http://www.philgiunta.com

Find him on Facebook: @writerphilgiunta and Twitter: @philgiunta71

You can listen to Testing the Prisoner and By Your Side for free at Scribl: https://scribl.com/browse?au=1017

 

Bibliography – Phil Giunta

Meanwhile in the Middle of Eternity – Firebringer Press (Summer 2019)

Like Mother, Like Daughters – Firebringer Press (November 2018)

A Plague of Shadows – Smart Rhino Publications (September 2018)

Write Connections – Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (March 2017)

Beach Nights – Cat & Mouse Press (October 2016)

Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity – Firebringer Press (August 2016)

Write Here, Write Now – Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (March 2016)

Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity – Firebringer Press (August 2014)

ReDeus: Beyond Borders – Crazy 8 Press (May 2013)

By Your Side – Firebringer Press (November 2012)

ReDeus: Divine Tales – Crazy 8 Press (July 2012)

Testing the Prisoner – Firebringer Press (November 2009)

 

 

Flash Fiction Winners – 2018 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™

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Article by Bernadette Sukley

 

Closing up with our final post about this year’s GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™, we are honored to list the winners of the Flash Fiction Contest held on March 24, 2018.

Bernadette Sukley, contest chairperson for the last eight years, gives us a quick rundown on how the process worked.

 

  1. Contest is open to Conference Attendees Only.
  2. Participants provide 100 words of poetry, fiction or non-fiction (or all three genres).
  3. Entries submitted via email or in person at the Write Stuff Writers Conference™.
  4. Entries are posted for reviewing and voting by all attendees.
  5. Tally of votes and announcement of winners (first, second, third prizes awarded for each of the three genres) at the end of conference.

 

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For the Fiction Category:

1st Place – Rita Civitella: “Round Up”

2nd Place – Chris Ochs: “An Evening Encounter”

3rd Place – Douglas Troxell: “One More for the Pile”

 

Winning Entry – Round Up, by Rita Civitella

“Don’t do it Steve. Think of the loss.”

“They’ll only take over. Should’ve killed them all before.”

“No, some are good. We need them.”

“I’m only shooting the bad ones.”

“How can you tell bad from good? To you they all look the same. If you shoot at anything you don’t like, you’ll kill all the good ones, too.”

“You know how much I’ve sunk into this place? I’m not letting them take over. You can let your property value go down, but not me.”

Steve aimed the weed killer at the flower bed and pulled the trigger.

 

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For the Non-Fiction Category:

1st Place – Rita Civitella: “The Escape”

2nd Place – Rosemary Detrolio: “Garden Blessings”

3rd Place – Suzanne Mattaboni: “ Near-sighted Girl’s Guide to Twins”

 

Winning Entry – The Escape, by Rita Civitella

 While she inspects some contraband, I see my chance. I slowly back away, attempting to soundlessly reach the tiny room, avoiding the squeaky floorboard near the stairs. I purse my lips, exhaling a short silent breath, trying to quiet my thumping heart as I reach my goal.

The door closes with a soft click. Easing myself onto the seat, I relax.

Sudden pounding on the door causes me to nearly jump to my feet. I see the doorknob turning back and forth.

“Grandma what are you doing in there?”

At least I got into the bathroom before I wet myself.

 

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For the Poetry Category:

1st Place – Douglas Troxell: “The Express Lane”

2nd Place – Suzanne Mattaboni: “Lie Glitter”

3rd Place – Rita Civitella: “The Curse of the Blarney Stone”

 

Winning Entry – The Express Lane, by Douglas Troxell

 

Twenty-four items?

Twenty-four?!

Lady you’re gonna bring 24 items into the express lane?

The sign above the cashier reads 15 items or less not 15 items or best offer.

I’ve got two items

A Gatorade

A hoagie

Two

We arrived in the lane that same time.

And I being a gentleman I am, ushered you forward

Grocery store chivalry is not dead

YOU looked at me

You saw my items

You glanced at my Gatorade

You glanced at my hoagie

And still, you stepped forward with your 24 items.

Twenty-four items.

Twenty-four.

 

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Bio Bernadette Sukley

Bernadette Sukley, Write Stuff Writers Conference™ Flash Literature Contest Organizer and Chairman of the GLVWG Anthology, ‘The Write Connections’, has been researching, writing and editing for over 25 years. Her work has been featured in national and international publications. Her focus is human interest, health, and lifestyle. She’s also written and edited guides, pamphlets, columns, stories, and novels. She’s published two novels (A Saving Hurricane, Find Me a Woman) and a nonfiction book (Made in Pennsylvania) within the last eight years.

Remembering the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ in Pictures

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The 2017 Write Stuff Writer’s Conference™, hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, has come and gone. Once again, our resident photographer, Joan Zachary, took pictures during the March sessions. 

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Thursday, March 22, we held a full day workshop with bestselling author, Bob Mayer. In his seminar, he guided attendees through all the steps to develop an original idea, create characters, establish point of view, create setting, manage dialog, and how to go about selling our works in today’s market.

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Friday Morning, March 23, Bob Mayer focused on the challenges in the business of writing; researching a story project, POD, and the future of publishing.

In the afternoon, Jane K. Cleland conducted a session on Mastering Suspense, and Managing Structure & Plot.  

Dan Krippene, Social Media Chair for GLVWG, offered a one hour presentation on how writers can use Pinterest to connect with others and enhance author brand.

Early Friday evening, Dianna Sinovic moderated GLVWG’s annual Page Cuts Critique Session, which gave participants an opportunity to have a short piece of their work critiqued by three panelists composed of writers and agents.

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Richard White, Tabitha Lord, Veronica Park

Friday ended with a welcome reception where participants had the chance to network with presenters, agents, editors, and other conferees. 

 

Conference Chair, Dawn Sooy, spoke about the group’s 25th anniversary, and founding member, Peggy Adamczyk, reflected on GLVWG’s history through the years.

GLVWG member and professional magician, Arjay Lewis, entertained the event with amazing displays of prestidigitation.

Of course, no conference would be complete without a visit from ‘Samuel Clemmons’ (aka Charles Kiernan).

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The main event for GLVWG’s 2018 Conference encompassed a busy day with six presenters on subjects for self publishing, weapons in fiction, time management, steampunk, writer beware, and ways to improve writing. 

Conference Schedule for Day 3 Saturday V2

 

Those not attending the first morning session, had the chance to hear the latest publishing industry trends from a panel of Agents and Editors, Sheree Bykofski, Noah Ballard, and Amara Hoshijo. 

After introductions by GLVWG’s President, Keith Keifer, and Conference Chair, Dawn Sooy, our conference keynote speaker, Bob Mayer, gave an upbeat talk on “I Will Make It Work”, encouraging writers to find their passion and mine it. He also had us laughing with stories of his military days in the Green Berets.

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Following the day’s last sessions, winners were announced from the Flash Fiction Contest (of which the winner’s entry will be posted on the blog at a later date). Bernadette Sukley conducted the raffle for the many door prizes available at the conference. 

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Bernadette Sukley

The day ended with a book fair, where participants could purchase signed copies from authors and presenters. 

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Our thanks to Joan Zachary for providing the conference photographs.

Joan Zachary

 

We hope to see you next year at the GLVWG Writers Conference 2019.

2018 Write Stuff Writer’s Conference™ Recap

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Conference Snow

By: Dawn Sooy – GLVWG Conference Chair

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Another year, another conference for the Writers Group has ended. I think back to the beginning of 2017 when the committee started making plans for the keynote, presenters, agents, and all of the odds and ends necessary. Remember the moving staircases in the Harry Potter movies? This is the best analogy I can think of that’s close to the ‘behind the scenes.’ Someone once told me “there are so many moving parts to the conference, it’s hard for one person to know them all.” After spending a year as chairperson, I wholeheartedly agree.

For the first few months, I drove the team crazy insisting no one would show. But then, registration opened in December and people signed up. I was giddy when the emails would appear in my inbox indicating so-and-so choose to attend.

But, as the fates have it, we began our conference with a ‘Noreaster the day before it started. The picture donated by Jon Gibbs was taken Wednesday afternoon, and it looks like the outside chairs have nice, fluffy, white cushions, eight inches thick.

When I contacted our keynote, Bob Mayer on Tuesday afternoon, I was so relieved to hear him say, he was already en route and would make it to the hotel by that evening. Phew, I’m happy he had the foresight to start earlier than Wednesday.

 

I woke at 9:30 AM, and we already had three inches outside the door. I shrieked to my husband, “I thought it wasn’t supposed to start until Noon!”.

“No, that’s when the heavy snow starts.”

Two cups of coffee later, showered and dressed, my husband helped me get the Escape packed so I could be on my way to the hotel.

As I drove on Route 22, (I hate this road with a passion), traffic was minimal, and only one driver had me shaking my head, as s/he decided to ride my bumper. Oh, and the car was white, and snow covered both headlights. That was my only adventure for the drive.

The Thursday and Friday sessions were well-presented, and the evenings capped with events such as a Writer’s Café, Page Cuts, a presentation on Pinterest, and finally the “Meet and Greet” as I like to call it. Peggy’s reflections on 24 years of the club had excellent points of interest, and Samuel Clemmens stopped by to regale a story.

As I sit in my “comfort” chair, I think about the conference, and I’d like to say, “Gang, we did it. We put our heads together, worked very hard, and held a conference where folks gave us a multitude of compliments.”

The surveys people filled out are on my list to read through them and note what the attendees have to say. I take this information seriously.

So, now that the snow has mostly melted, my feet no longer hurt, I’m not so tired I could sleep on the floor. To emulate the scene from the movie “Elf”, where the team cheers after another successful Christmas delivery, they immediately begin the process of preparing for the next season.

Oh, I’ve decided to offer my services as conference chair for 2019. See you next year at the 2019 GLVWG Write Stuff Writers Conference™.

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Dawn Sooy

Dawn Sooy is a multitasker with the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group, fulfilling the duties of Secretary and Conference Chair for the 2018 GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™.

A native of Eastern Pennsylvania, and too full of energy to even consider a rocking chair, Dawn published six short stories, the most recent, “Love Knows No Boundaries,” featured in the 2016 GLVWG anthology, Write Here – Write Now. She is currently working on a full-length novel titled, “From The Darkness,” scheduled for publication in early 2018, with plans to publish a horror anthology later in the year.

You can find Dawn on her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/DawnMSooyAuthor/

 

 

 

 

The GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ — The Grand Event

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Day 3 Main Event on Saturday, March 24, includes 20 Workshops, Agent/Editor pitch sessions, Marketing Consults, plus lunch and Keynote address with Bob Mayer, Bookfair, Flash Literature Writing Contest, and Door Prizes.

PLEASE NOTE: The printed Presenter/Room Map you received at registration for Saturday has changed. The updated map is below. Each room will have a sign as well.  

 

Bob Mayer 2

 

Announcements in Lehigh Room 7:30 AM – 8:20 AM

Agent Pitches and Marketing Consults will run concurrent to workshops. Advance registration required. Please check you appointment times upon registration.

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Saturday, March 24, Overview 

Lunch with Keynote Address by Bob Mayer 

Book Fair, Flash Fiction Contest

Door Prizes announced during Book Fair (must be present to win)

 

Conference Schedule for Day 3 Saturday V2

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Morning Sessions Syllabus

 

8:30 – 9:30 AM

 

 

In the Muhlenberg Room

Agent Panel

Moderated by Suzanne Mattaboni

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Agents will share insights, guidelines, and ideas for writers. These agents will also meet with participants to hear pre-scheduled pitches throughout the day.

 

In the Cedar Crest Room

Using Metaphors to Add Richness and Texture to Your Work

Jane Cleland

Metaphors are, according to Aristotle, a sign of genius. Certainly, they are more efficient and economical than ordinary language; they give maximum meaning with a minimum of words. In addition, metaphors are generous to readers by encouraging interpretation. In this workshop, we’ll put four approaches to creating metaphors to work—whether you write fiction, non-fiction, memoir, or poetry, you’ll develop rhetorically sound images that communicate emotion on a multi-layered level.

 

In the Lafayette Room

Make History with Your Writing!

Matt Betts

Learn about the exciting genre of alternate history and find out what it takes to change the world in your novel. Discover the importance of research, the consequences of toying with time, and how to foster believability. Then take those ideas to a practical level when we spin the “Wheel of History” during the session and ask attendees to re-imagine the outcome of actual events.

 

In the Moravian Room

E-Pub, POD and the Future of Publishing for the Writer

Bob Mayer

Publishing is changing exponentially, not linearly, and today’s writer must be aware of these changes to succeed. This workshop is designed to help authors navigate through the latest information on various forms of publishing options and the state of the industry. Traditional, ePublishing, Print on Demand, self-pub, vanity, and more. We will cover the advantages and disadvantages of these venues to help you, the writer, decide what’s the best choice for you and your work. This is not a nuts and bolts tech class, but a strategic concept of the future of publishing and what it means to writers. We will discuss numbers, royalties, formats, and lessons learned in all areas.

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9:45 – 10:45 AM

 

In the Cedar Crest Room

Tabitha Lord

So You Want to be an Indie Author

Independent publishing is no longer a path of last resort. For many authors, it’s a business decision, and an exciting one at that. As an independent author, you will be responsible for your story content, your brand and platform, and your marketing and sales. What makes a successful indie? For whom is this a viable choice? Let’s talk about the pros and cons of this path to publishing, and consider what your first year as an indie author might look like.

 

In the Muhlenberg Room

Writer Beware Part 1

Richard White

Publishing has never been so easy and so dangerous at the same time. This presentation will help writers identify what makes a publisher or an agent desirable or undesirable and help them identify the red flags that identify undesirable outcomes in the publishing industry. Part 1 will focus on traditional publishing.

 

In the Lafayette Room

Steampunk: Eveything Old is New Again

Matt Betts

Have you heard the word “Steampunk” thrown around for years, but never knew what it was? Now is your chance to get a quick and painless tutorial on gears, goggles, and giant airships. Find out how to use the genre to create your own unique worlds and enhance the excitement of your next story.

 

In the Moravian Room

The Military for Writers

Bob Mayer

An introduction to the military from conventional warfare, through Special Operations, the War on Terror, weapons of mass destruction and insight into the men and women who make up our armed forces—all tailored for the writer who might need research in this area.

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11:00 AM – 12:00 Noon

In the Cedar Crest Room

A Marathon, Not a Sprint: Long-Term Marketing Strategies for Indies

Tabitha Lord

Indie authors have to think beyond their book’s release in order to implement an effective marketing and sales strategy. From platform-building to pre-orders, from back-lists to book tours, let’s talk best practices and creative strategy for getting your book into readers’ hands.

 

In the Muhlenberg Room

Writer Beware Part 2

Richard White

Publishing has never been so easy and so dangerous at the same time. Part 2 will focus on self-publishing and the cottage industry that has sprung up to separate the self-publisher from their cash. Remember, writing is an art – publishing is a business, so get to know both sides of the coin before launching your latest work into the world.

 

In the Lafayette Room

The Rhyming Dead: Horror Poetry

Matt Betts

Wait. Horror poetry is actually a thing? Yep. So is science fiction and fantasy poetry. Come get a brief history of speculative poetry, hear a few examples, and check out the markets that might even bite on your vampire, alien and zombie poems. Learn it all from an instructor who somehow made it into The New York Times with his zombie poetry.

 

In the Moravian Room

Weapons in Fiction

Ben Sobieck

Firearms, knives and other weapons play an outsized role in fiction. Critical plot points often hinge on the way characters use them. Unfortunately, much of what’s depicted in pop culture is misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst. Here are the shortcuts to getting these important story elements correct, the myths to avoid and top tips from the author of “The Writer’s Guide to Weapons: A Practical Reference for Using Firearms and Knives in Fiction.”

 

 

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12:00 – 12:45 PM      Banquet Lunch

Sat Keynote 3

12:50 – 1:30  PM      Dessert – Keynote Speaker – Bob Mayer 

I Will Make It Work

Being an author requires a unique mindset; what other people label madness. I’m still standing after three decades and still quite mad and will share some techniques on how to sustain a writing career.”

 

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Afternoon Sessions Syllabus

 

1:30 – 2:30 PM

 

In the Cedar Crest Room

Editing: Soup to Nuts

Tabitha Lord

For many authors, the editing process is a daunting one. But a well edited manuscript can mean the difference between a book that’s ready for the world and a document that sits in a drawer collecting dust. Let’s talk about the different parts of the editing process, and how to successfully find and work with an editor. We’ll then spend some time discussing the goals of a developmental edit, and share techniques that will help make the editing process efficient, effective, and satisfying.

 

In the Muhlenberg Room

Enter The Hobbit: Writing Realistic Fight Scenes

Richard White

This presentation is designed to help writers design realistic fight scenes for inclusion in their stories. While there’s no substitute for the real thing, writers do not have to have multiple black belts to be able to make their audiences believe they know what they’re talking about. As with anything, a little experience, a knowledge of where to do your research, and a whole lot of imagination can take an author a long way. This workshop will provide authors of multiple genres ideas and resources to help add that little touch of reality into their fiction.

 

 

In the Lafayette Room

What is a Media Kit?          Why do I Need One?

Matt Betts

You want to create a buzz about your books, but the morning TV shows aren’t calling? Your publicity plan may be missing a crucial element. Explore the components of a media or press kit, find out how to put one together, and find out how to use it effectively.

 

In the Moravian Room

Writing Inside a Franchise

Ben Sobieck

In the era of digital publishing, collaboration is key. Writers can piggyback off of each other to provide the kind of synergy that once was reserved only for publishers and the well-connected. Franchising a series is a practical way to leverage self-publishing success so that one plus one equals three. Here’s how to do it.

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2:45 – 3:45 PM

 

In the Cedar Crest Room

Balancing the Busy:  A Crash Course on Time management

Tabitha Lord

As Indies, we’re responsible for all aspects of our project, from the first word on the page to a marketing and sales plan, and everything in between. Some of us are balancing family life and a day job as well! How do we stay productive, healthy, and inspired amidst all the business? How can we maximize our time and make sure we’re attending to our priorities first? Let’s talk about time management in a guilt-free, supportive environment.

 

In the Muhlenberg Room

World Building 101

Richard White

This presentation is designed to help writers design and create realistic worlds and help them avoid common mistakes. Working from the premise of outside in, the participants in this presentation will help create a small island continent step by step.  Along the way, we’ll show how your initial drawings will shape terrain, governments, militaries, and the economy of your world. Presented by the author of Terra Incognito – A Guide to Building the Worlds of Your Imagination, World Building 101 should help fantasy, science fiction, alt-history, and even historical fiction authors create worlds people will believe could (or could have) existed.

 

In the Lafayette Room

The Art of Distraction:  Using Red Herrings to Create Suspense

Jane Cleland

A red herring is a “false clue,” used by writers the way magicians use sleight of hand—the goal is to distract readers from what’s really going on. When done well, red herrings add complexity to plots and intrigue to stories. Red herrings fall into three broad categories: Human Nature (including the halo and devil effects); Details (including the ones readers miss); and Expertise (including trusting those characters with specialized knowledge). You’ll learn how to weave red herrings into your narratives, allowing you to increase suspense as you create engaging and ingenious puzzles.

 

In the Moravian Room

Using WATTPAD to Build a Writing Career

Ben Sobieck

Reading is no longer an insulating experience. Social reading apps, such as Wattpad, are changing the way readers consume content. They’re also expanding opportunities for writers. This presentation will review how social reading works and the ways it can accelerate your writing career.

 

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3:45 – 5:00 PM

 

Socializing

Contest Winners, Door Prizes (Must be present to win)

Book Fair — All published GLVWG members are eligible to participate in the book fair, provided a reservation was made in advance with Book Fair coordinator, Jerry Waxler.  Detailed instructions for selling books at the Book Fair can be found HERE.

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5:00 PM — Conference closes

Check this website in the next couple of days, where we’ll post pictures of the conference and a special section highlighting the Flash Fiction contest winners.

 

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Article by DT Krippene – Social Media Chair

 

The GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ – Day 2

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Day 2 of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Write Stuff Conference™ on Friday, March 23, will consist of half-day seminars with Bob Mayer and Jane Cleland, followed by the annual “Page Cuts Critique”, and a “Pinterest 101” by Dan Krippene.

7:00 a.m. Check-In table opens.  Pick up registration materials at the check-in table

 

 

Friday, March 23 Overview —  Two Half-Day Seminars: 

 Includes Lunch, Page Cuts Critique, Pinterest Workshop, and Welcome Reception

 

Conference Schedule for Day 2 Friday

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Morning Session Syllabus

Bob Mayer – Write It Forward: From Writer to Successful Author

For fiction and non-fiction authors, an over-view workshop that educates writers how to be authors. Based on over a quarter century of experience in traditional, hybrid and indie publishing. Write It Forward is a holistic approach encompassing goals, intent, environment, personality, change, courage, communication and leadership that gives the writer a road map to become a successful author. Many writers become focused on either the writing or the business end; Write It Forward integrates the two, especially in the rapidly changing world of digital publishing.

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Afternoon Session Syllabus

Jane Cleland – Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot

Jane Cleland’s Agatha-winning book, “Mastering Suspense, Structure & Plot” has been an Amazon bestseller in its category for more than a year.

By integrating these 13 thinking, writing, and revising tips into their writing processes, participants will write tighter, more polished first drafts. They’ll improve their story’s pace, while ratcheting up suspense. These tips serve both as a checklist and as a mandate. The tips relate to tightening a story’s structure, adding complexity to the plot, integrating back story, enhancing character motivation, choosing words for sensual specificity, balancing narrative with action and dialogue, and improving both productivity and professionalism.

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Page Cuts Critique Sessions – Advance registration required

6:30 – 8:30 PM

Page Cuts critique sessions are optional and included in the Friday session. Limited to 36 readings, participants who have been informed of their successful enrollment should bring to their session four copies of the first page of a longer work (fiction, creative nonfiction, or memoir) along with four copies of a 100-word overview of the entire work.

Participants will be assigned to a room headed by a team of publishing professionals who have been asked to provide off-the-cuff feedback. Your work will be read aloud by a room moderator and commented upon by our panelists. No names will be used, all works are COMPLETELY ANONYMOUS. Copies must be formatted. Double-spaced, 12 pt. “Times” font, 1-inch margins, Title & Genre at top of page. No names please. Print to start at the top of the page.

Opinions of workshop panelists are theirs alone and do not represent the opinions of GLVWG.

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Pinterest – What is it, and How to use it

7:00 – 8:00 PM

Session will run concurrent to Page Cuts Critique

 DT Board List

Conceived as a virtual bulletin board, Pinterest has grown beyond its visual thematic platform of recipes, fashion, and kid’s crafts, and unlike other social media posts that quickly disappear in a blink, Pinterest postings have a longevity through re-pins that can go on for months.

For writers and authors, Pinterest is a great place for writer inspiration, and a way to connect to readers and other writers. It’s all about connecting with good pictures and a well thought out blurb. It’s also highly addictive.

The seminar will cover the basics of setup, creating a great writer profile, themed boards, keywords, search functionality, group boards, and tips from a few industry experts in how to utilize this fun platform to enhance your writer brand.

 

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Welcome Reception

8:30 – 10:00 PM

Join us for hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, and the chance to network with agents, editors, presenters, and other conferees. Dress is business casual.

Reflections on 24 years of GLVWG with Peggy Adamczyk, Founding Member and former President.

Also, an appearance by guest presenter: ‘Samuel Clemens’

 

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Article by DT Krippene – Social Media Chair

The GLVWG Write Stuff Conference™ – Day 1

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It’s finally here.  Day 1 of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group Write Stuff Conference™ begins tomorrow Thursday, March 22. Starting us off is NYT bestselling author, Bob Mayer.

7:00 a.m. Check-In table opens.  Pick up registration materials at the check-in table

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Thursday March 22 Session Overview

 Includes Lunch and Writers Café

Day 1 Summary Graphic copy

 

Morning Session Syllabus

 

The Original Idea: The Heart of Your Story and Key to Selling Your Book

Can you say what your book is about in 25 words or less? This is essential to writing a tight book and then selling it.  We’ll discuss ways to find and state your original idea so that you stay on course while writing the book and an approach with which you can excite those you tell your idea to when trying to sell it. Conflict drives your story.  Not only must conflict escalate throughout the entire novel, every single scene must have conflict in it. The Conflict Box is an effective technique for focusing your story on the protagonist, antagonist, their goals and finding out if you have the necessary conflict lock.

Plot and Outline: The Events of Your Story Part 1

  • Narrative structure is a baseline craft for a writer to understand.
  • The creative process before the actual start of the book
  • The elements of narrative structure with examples from film clips.
  • The exciting opening that grabs the reader through the escalating conflict to the climactic scene and ending with the resolution
  • Discussion with emphasis on hooks, the remote-control effect, building suspense, and having satisfying endings.

Plot and Outline:  The Events of Your Story Part 2 and Introduction to Character Part 1:

The most critical component of a novel is character.  How do you go from flat two-dimensional characters to vibrant three-dimensional ones? Templates to develop characters and the concept of character arc and change will be discussed. These include profiling, psychological frameworks to show character arc and change.

 

Afternoon Session Syllabus

 

Introduction to Character Part 2 (Continued from morning session)

Point of View, Setting, and Dialogue goes beyond just first person, third person and omniscient voices. The point of view you write in is your voice as a writer and often the issue lies deeper than simply a mechanical device. For example, voice dictates what you can say about your characters and what you can’t. It also sets you apart from others and makes you distinct. Setting is not just where, but also when, and can help set your story apart from others.

The Creative Process for Writers

Why do we write? How do we write? How do we create something out of just our minds? The longer I’ve been writing for a living, the more I’ve been focusing on process. It’s unique for every writer, but the most important aspect of what we do. We have to understand how our minds work, how we create, how we process idea, story and put them into our writing. A topic rarely covered, but I’ve found it’s the most fundamental thing a writer needs to understand.

Selling and Marketing Your Book

Should you go traditional or self-publish? Which is better for you? What should you do to succeed on either path? In the quickly changing world of publishing it’s often confusing to know what to do. The benefits of various paths will be discussed as well as ways to market books, regardless of path chosen.

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And don’t forget Writer’s Cafe at 7:00 PM, where you get an opportunity to practice your pitch, or share the first page of your story to others.

 

Article by DT Krippene – Social Media Chair

 

How to Get the Most out of Your Conference Experience

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GLVWG’s Donna Brennan offers some advice for getting the most out of the  Write Stuff Conference™.

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No matter where you are in your writing journey, attending a writers conference is a good way to improve your craft and network with others interested in the publishing field, including editors, agents, and fellow writers.

Let’s face it, conferences can be expensive, and they take time away from family, other responsibilities, and of course, writing. The cost—in money, time, and travel—is usually a good investment. Here are some tips for getting the most out of that investment.

Choose Your Conference Wisely

There are a lot of conferences out there, and new ones seem to be added every year. But not all writer’s conferences are right for every writer.

Some things to consider when choosing which conference to attend:

  • Focus/Genre: This one should be obvious, but it isn’t always. If you write in a specific genre, pay more attention to conferences with a focus on that genre. However, general writing conferences may have some workshops that would very beneficial to you, so don’t rule them out. Read descriptions of the sessions offered and find a conference that cover the topics and content important to you.
  • Presenters/appointments: Check out who the presenters will be. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they aren’t good, but do your homework and google their names. What do they write? Do they speak often? Do they have a blog? Has anyone else blogged about attending a session by this person? Have they been interviewed?
  • Appointments: Are agent or editor appointments available? Research who those agents and editors are. See if they represent or publish the type of things your write. What about marketing appointments? Go to those folks’ websites and see if they are someone you could learn from.
  • Skill Level: Some conferences are geared toward beginner writers. Some are for the more seasoned writer. Many have a mixture, with sessions geared for different levels of experience or sessions that can benefit writers wherever they are along their writing path. Make sure the conference you attend isn’t way above or way below your skill level.
  • Cost: This is more than just the cost of the conference; it includes the cost of getting to the conference and possibly staying at a hotel. Local conferences will have lower travel expenses, but if your ideal conference is on the other side of the country, it might be worth the trip.
  • Timing: Not just when the conference is, but how many days. Maybe you can get away from work for one day, or maybe you can afford to take off a full week. Maybe you can only attend a weekend conference. Maybe you need to coordinate your schedule with your spouse to make sure someone is around to take care of the kids and get them to their activities. It may be hard, but definitely worth the effort if your writing is important to you.

 

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Plan Ahead

Read the sessions descriptions. Decide ahead of time which ones you want to attend and plan your schedule. Write it down so you don’t forget. It so easy, in the whirl of activities at most conferences, to look at the names of the sessions and not remember the descriptions or why you had preferred one over another.

However, if you sit in a session earlier in the day and you enjoy a particular presenter’s style or message (or you don’t enjoy it), you might want to think about attending (or avoiding) another session given by the same speaker. As long as the conference permits it, allow yourself the freedom to change your plans.

If you have an agent or editor appointment, be certain to prepare for that meeting. An earlier blog post on this site will help you do just that.

For networking purposes, you might want to have business cards printed out. If you already have business cards, be sure to bring them with you.

Check the conference website to see if they have a recommended or required dress code. Most conferences seem to be business casual (or even just casual) dress, but many require dressing up for a banquet or other special event.

One things that’s often overlooked is getting enough rest before you attend a conference. You want your brain to be fully rested to take in as much new information as possible, and you want your body to be fully rested because some conferences have late evening and early morning sessions. You won’t want to miss attending anything important or fun, and you want to be able to be fully engaged.

 

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What to Bring

Bring something to use to take notes. Paper and pen/pencil work well, but often at conference people bring small laptops or electronic notepads to take notes. The problem with that is some conferences have classroom style seating (with tables and chairs) and others have theater style seating (with rows of seats, and no tables). A paper notebook will work in both those settings, but it’s not as easy to use a keyboard on your lap—and some keypads make noise that might disturb those around you. Also, electronic devices have a limited battery supply, and there might not be available outlets near your seat.

Some conferences have stacks of magazine samples and submission guidelines. If you’re interested in taking some of these home, bring a tote bag to put them in. You can also keep your notebook and pens in there.

Most conferences have water or coffee stations, but you might want to bring a bottle of water just in case. You can keep that in your tote bag as well. A few hard candies or mints might come in handy in case your throat gets a little sore or raw. If you think you might get hungry, throw a small snack in your tote bag as well.

Sometimes conference rooms can be too hot, other times they are too cold—often in the same day or even the same session. If you tend to get uncomfortable with uncertain or unstable room temperatures, it’s a good idea to wear a thin or short sleeved shirt and to bring a light jacket or sweater.

If you have an agent or editor appointment, bring a one-sheet and a bulleted list of topics to help you remember what you want to say.

And don’t forget to bring your business cards if you have them. Conferences are about networking; handing out and collecting cards makes the process easier.

 

While You’re There

Yes, you are at the conference to learn, but you should also take time to enjoy the event. Enjoy the sessions; enjoy the food; enjoy the people.

Writers have a reputation for being solitary beings living in our writing caves and rarely coming out to mingle with others. Honestly, many “normal” people don’t understand us writers. Be sure to take full advantage of being with other people who share many of the same fears, dreams, frustrations, and joys as you do. Be sure to hand out your cards to folks you’d like to keep in touch with, and ask them for theirs.

This might also be a good time to find folks for a critique group. If you meet others who write in a similar genre or with whom you get along, ask if they already belong to a critique group. If they do, maybe you can join. If they don’t, maybe you can start one up. If they live too far away for in person meetings, consider forming an online critique group.

Many presenters have handouts for their sessions. Many others don’t. In order to help you remember what you learn, it’s a good idea to take notes. But don’t be so busy taking notes that you miss much of what’s being said.

Some conferences or speakers sell recordings of their sessions. Consider buying these recordings if you find a session particularly helpful. If the conference isn’t selling recordings and you plan to make your own, you should ask permission first. Some speakers don’t want to be recorded while others don’t care. And in some states it’s illegal to record other people without their consent.

If you feel yourself getting stressed or overwhelmed, give yourself permission to take a break. All is not lost if you sit out a session or two. And the break may help you get that much more out of the next session.

Lots of conferences have book fairs—either the entire time or a certain day and time. Be sure to browse the tables for good books on craft. You can ask other writers which books helped them—and which books didn’t.

 

 

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After You Leave

If you met with an agent or editor and they told you to send them something, be sure you send it!

If you met other writers and exchanged cards or emails, send them a little message saying how much you enjoyed meeting with them. If you planned to form a critique group, don’t put it off too long or it will never happen.

Read through your notes and the handouts while the conference and talks are still fresh in your mind. If you wait two months you might not remember what the things you wrote mean. In fact, as you read through your notes, if you remember something you didn’t write down, write it down now. If you have recording of the sessions, listen to those recordings with your notes in front of you, jotting down any additional details you wish to include.

If you bought books at the book fair, start reading those books. Take notes on the books too, if it helps.

But most important, get busy writing. And don’t forget to apply what you’ve just learned to your work in progress.

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Article written by Donna Brennan

Donna Brennan was a technical writer for over ten years before becoming a computer programmer. Since leaving the corporate world after her twins were born, she’s had numerous short stories, interviews, and nonfiction articles published online and in print magazines including Thriving Family, Encounter, Splickety, and Christian Fiction Online Magazine. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG). She’s served in various capacities on the GLVWG board, including two terms as Conference Chair. She’s always looking for opportunities to encourage others and to share what she’s learned.