The Secret Life of Writers

by Jim Knipp on April 1, 2017

We haven’t really done a conference “theme” for a few years now, but I still like to look through the classes each year and see any patterns or trends that might appear.  This year, perhaps because of the weird political climate, it seems we are thinking a lot about secrets….and truth.

We have Harriet Millan showing how to use fiction to capture the truth in your writing. Sheree Bykofsky, reveals the six secrets of successful authors. Doreen McGettigan exposes the truth about writing memoir.  Therese Halscheid ask the question is it better for you to reveal the truth or conceal your secrets?  And Thom Nickels explores the magical mystery in how newspapers can feed your non-fiction work.

Even the workshops that don’t directly deal in secrets or truth, get into the act.  We have a heavy emphasis on the thriller genre this year (Jon McGoran, Austin Camacho, and Master Class Leader Robert Blake Whitehill), and what better way to kick off a killer thriller than to reveal (or obscure)  secrets?  Poet Peter Murphy helps you break through the secrets of the abstract, and Chrys Tobey teaches you to reveal truths about society in your poetry.  Opening speaker Yolanda Wisher will deliver you into the rhythmic secrets of blues poetry in her master class, and Keynote Speaker J.H. Sullivan will reveal the harsh truths overcome by her great-grandfather in post-reconstruction Virginia.

And perhaps this emphasis on secrets and truth is fitting, for aren’t we as writers eternally balanced between the two?  Many non-writers watch us as we lock ourselves in our rooms or sit silently in the dark corners of the coffee shop and must think we live secret lives.  Fiction writers share secret worlds that have sprung up inside them.  Journalists scour the shadows to illuminate the truths, and memoirists reveal the secrets that led people to choose the paths they followed.  In a way, we as writers have always been the true keepers of secrets, the true revealers of truths. And perhaps in this crazy world, it is us, the scribes of the seen and unseen, who are the ultimate owners of both.

I’d like to think so.  And I’d like to invite you to this years’ Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.  Join us, on Friday, June 9th and share in our secrets, discover new truths, and take your place as the owner of both.

Hope to see you in June!




by Jim Knipp on February 8, 2017

Friday, June 9, 2017 through Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 2017 Conference is just four  three two-and-a-half short months away and board members are working diligently on the finishing touches.

Registration open on April 1st!



Authors discuss literary influence tonight

by Marsha Gilbert on October 28, 2016

robin-author-pic-3 Author Robin Black


Author Curtis Smith Author Curtis Smith


Come hear award-winning fiction authors, Robin Black and Curtis Smith, talk about literary influence tonight October 28, at Arcardia University in the Rose Room of Grey Towers Castle. This event, presented by The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, starts at 7 p.m. with light refreshments. The discussion is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Feel free to join in the question and answer session at the end of the talk. Read more information here.




Rizzo: strikingly relevant

by Marsha Gilbert on October 15, 2016

Rizzo Actors Scott Greer and Steven Wright star in the play Rizzo


There is a play running about a tall, aggressive politician who promised that if he was elected he’d make society great. No, the play isn’t about the current presidential election, but this production recaptures the racial, financial, and status battles from 1950 to 1991, along with the temperament of the controversial beat cop, who became Police Commissioner, and then Philadelphia Mayor, Frank Rizzo.

“Given the uncanny similarities between Rizzo and our current political environment, this play’s story continues to be strikingly relevant, especially given the immediacy and proximity of the upcoming election,” said executive producing director Sara Garonzik.

Performances of the play, Rizzo, are extended for an additional week through October 23, by the Philadelphia Theatre Company in the Suzanne Roberts Theatre at Broad & Lombard Streets.

The play is based on the bestselling book Rizzo: Last Big Man in Big City America by Sal Paolantonio; directed by Joe Canuso, the Founding Artistic Director of Theatre Exile; and written by Philadelphia-based playwright, Bruce Graham (who led a playwriting workshop for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference last June).

For information call 215-985-0420 or visit



Local fiction authors discuss literary influence

by Marsha Gilbert on September 30, 2016

Author Curtis Smith



The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference presents Curtis Smith and Robin Black, two local authors of short stories, essays and novels, as they discuss literary influence. Come out and hear these award-winning fiction writers’ comments on Friday, October 28, in the Rose Room of Grey Towers Castle at Arcadia University. Light refreshments will be served at 7 p.m. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. and ends with a question and answer session. Check here for more information



2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Memories

by Marsha Gilbert on June 22, 2016

The 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference may be over, but you can continue sharing moments from this exciting weekend with our video of selected scenes. Just click this link to watch!



2016 Contest Winners

by Uriah Young on June 16, 2016


Congratulations to this year’s contest winners! Thank you for submitting and bringing your A-game. May your talent and skill be shared at next year’s conference. We are looking forward to more quality writing pieces!



1st Place

Ed Kratz, A Mother’s Love

2nd Place

Stephanie King, The Way Heat Shimmers

3rd Place

Beth Moulton, Lotteries

2016 Poetry

1st Place

Mary Mooney, Triangle Goodbye

2nd Place

David Page, Teacher

3rd Place

Katherine Hogan, Solitude

* Honorable Mention

Carol Clark, Tiger Talk

2016  Nonfiction

1st Place

Sharon Esterly, Last Confession

2nd Place

Katherine Hogan, The Bracelet

3rd Place

Mary Mooney, Remedial English


2016  WoW Fiction

1st Place

Beth Moulton, The Cutting Fence

2nd Place

Mike Cohen, The Pretty Little Lady with the Big Ugly Dog

3rd Place
Stephanie King, Six Word Memoir Workshop Seems Interesting

2016  WoW Poetry

1st Place
Beth Moulton, Steel Mill

2nd Place

John Sozanski, Expecting Hands

3rd Place

Kathleen Murphy, Anal Sex

2016  WoW All-Genre Prompt Contest

1st Place

Mike Cohen, Houston, You Have a Problem

2nd Place

Laurie Struke, Reflection

3rd Place

Nancy Jackson, Event Horizon

2016  WoW Nonfiction

1st Place

Mike Cohen, Shooting Superman

2nd Place

Loretta Wish, Affairs to Remember

3rd Place

Brenda Morris, Minus Two


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Q & A with Donna Cavanagh

by Uriah Young on June 10, 2016

PWC workshop leader Donna Cavanagh, founder of HumorOutcasts Press/Shorehouse Books will share her insights at this year’s conference. A former journalist, Donna has built a national following and has been published in First Magazine and USA Today among others. An author of four humor books, Donna speaks to writers about comedy and the new age of publishing. You can also find her and some very funny writers at:




What is the most important asset one can have in writing humor?  

The most important asset one can have in humor is a thick skin. Humor is subjective. No two people have the same sense of humor, so the chances of someone not liking what you write is pretty high. You will not please everyone ever with your humor. That possibility should never stop you from your desire to make people laugh. 

Is finding a niche in humor important?

Establishing a niche is fine. Niches give writers a sense of comfort. They have a category in which to create something funny. But as writers develop, a niche might become restrictive. So the answer is that a niche should flow with your life. 

 You’ve been doing this for a while on Humor Outcasts and before as a columnist, do you respond to comments/hecklers? Or is that part of the thick skin process? What was the worst comment? Care to share? (Okay if you don’t want to!!)

I get a good amount of “hate” mail on HO because it’s a humor site, and humor is subjective, and the writers are sure to hit a nerve or two. Hate mail used to bother me, but not so much anymore.  If they are legitimate commenters who have an issue with a post, I will post the comment and respond. Most of the legitimate comments are about the site’s lack of political correctness which is true. You can’t do humor and always worry about being PC. I do not respond to hecklers who use profane language or want to remain anonymous just because they want to yell and scream because they are filled with hate. I can now tell who are legitimate commenters and who are the people whose anger fuels their comments. My worst criticism was on one of my writer’s work who is an atheist. The devout religious person who commented, went off on a tirade not about the writer’s work but about me for creating the site, saying that I was the spawn of Satan and I deserved to die a long death. He went into some detail about his wishes for my judgment day. Yep, I remember that one. For the record, I do not publish these personal attack comments. My writers rarely know when the personal attacks occur as I send them to spam and trash.

Do you try out material before you post? I know Enzo (my dog!) is a great audience for me… but… what’s your process? I think sometimes the faster I do things and not look back is better. Other times I redo a line until I want to scream. You?

Some writers try out new material extensively. I tend to read them to my dogs once and then go with my gut. I have been doing humor for almost 30 years, so I know that if I sit too long on an idea, either it dries up or I lose my interest in it. If something strikes me, I tend to post and let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes it’s a hit and sometimes it’s a dud. It’s all part of the game. 


Thank you, Donna for giving us a glimpse into what will be an informative, fun, and funny workshop.

Carol Sabik-Jaffe



Author Alice Wootson Author Alice Wootson


Since grade school, Alice Wootson always liked writing poetry and reading romance novels – because of the happy endings. So, it was no surprise that the first book she wrote was a romance novel. But what was unexpected was that an agent rejected her work for being “too poetic to sell commercially.”

Before Wootson could get discouraged by this speedbump on her writing journey, an editor called her two days later asking if the manuscript for Snowbound with Love was still available. And that was the start of the Northwest Philadelphia resident’s writing career.

Wootson, who started writing after she retired from teaching, credits the instructions and feedback she received from workshop leaders, Gloria (Glo) and William (Bill) Delamar, at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC) with helping her develop her storytelling ability and establishing a literary career. The PWC is now the longest running writers’ conference in America and will be celebrating its 68th annual assembly this weekend, June 10-12, at the Wyndham Hotel at 400 Arch Street.

For 10 years, Wootson looked forward to participating in this annual storytelling and publishing learning opportunity. By 2000, her enthusiasm and creativity gained her attention and an invitation to join the PWC board of directors.

The PWC offers workshops on short stories, poetry, plays, memoirs, novels, humor blogging, scriptwriting, query letters, opinion editorials or Op-Eds, social media, grammar, pitching to agents and editors, travel writing, spiritual writing and creating a digital brand, as well as writing competitions.

“The workshops are very helpful, relaxing, and exhilarating,” said Wootson, who conducts workshops at several writing conferences, is a member of the Mad Poets Society, belongs to the Romance Writers of America and the Valley Forge Romance Writers. “It’s great to hang out with other writers because you’re free to talk all day about writing. They get it.”

But the weekend isn’t all classes. Friday morning the conference opens with a message from Kelly Simmons, author of the popular novel Standing Still, addressing the question, “Are You a Writer?” After Friday night’s buffet dinner, agents and editors will head a panel sharing helpful publishing tips for would-be authors. The keynote speaker at Saturday’s banquet will be New York Times bestselling nonfiction writer and poet, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, who wrote Dr. Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine, which was named one of the “Best Books of 2014” on seven national book lists, including Amazon. Some previous speakers at the conference were Pearl S. Buck, James Michener, Ed Rendell, Larry Kane, Nelson Johnson, Jennifer Weiner, Michael Smerconish, Mark Bowden, Stephen Fried, and Rachel Simon.

Wootson, who now has published 13 romance novels, and the rest of the PWC voluntary board of directors have been planning this weekend for a year and will continue working during this event beginning with the on-site registration and ending with the award presentations on Sunday afternoon.

For more information on the PWC and to register please go to

Marsha Gilbert is the promotions and publicity chairperson for the PWC board of directors.



Writing and Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction

by Marsha Gilbert on June 6, 2016

Anna Kashina Anna Kashina


Do you know the difference between science fiction, fantasy, urban, paranormal, and other types of speculative fiction? How about identifying which forms of speculative fiction were used in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” “Star Trek,” and “Game of Thrones”? If you also want to learn the elements of worldbuilding, then you should register for “Writing and Worldbuilding in the Genres of Speculative Fiction.” Anna Kashina, winner of two 2015 Prism Awards, “Best of Fantasy” and the “Best of the Best” grand prize, is leading this three-day workshop during the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, June 10-12, in the Wyndham Hotel, at 400 Arch Street. Read more about Anna, find out what other exciting events are planned, and register here for the longest running writers’ conference in America that starts in just FIVE DAYS!!