Valuable Connections

by Uriah Young on February 3, 2016

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell emphasizes how accomplished individuals don’t just achieve on their own. It’s a no-brainer, right? Too many times though, successful people are placed in a box; this box prevents outside observers from knowing the full journey and the help that elevates those who strive. The following writers met some key people at a past PWC. These people eventually played an important role for the PWC attendees. Enjoy how their writing vision manifested once connections were made.

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I wouldn’t have made my most memorable PWC connection in June 2010 if it weren’t for fellow board member Dave Wilson. He’s the one who told me Emily Rapoport was on site from Berkley and she was a great genre fit. I wasn’t going to pitch to an editor because I didn’t have an agent yet; also, the week before I’d learned that the title I’d used and loved for years was coming out on a major new novel, and I was so dejected I didn’t even know what to call my project. Dave said what could I lose? So, with no preparation and with an improvised title, I pitched, and Emily loved it. She didn’t end up taking the project—in fact, she left Berkley soon thereafter—but the amazing thing is that completely without obligation to me, a year later she wrote up a two-page editorial letter that brought my project up to its final level of marketability. With my next batch of submissions Emily’s interest earned me agent interest, and I signed with my agent after revising, in fall 2011.
– Kathryn Craft  @kcraftwriter

 

Children’s Book Author and Illustrator, Judy Schachner shared a rare gem with her class on the first day of the workshop that lit a fire of inspiration in me that is still going strong. She pulled back the curtain on her creative process, allowing us to see her art journals that were filled with sketches and notes of her upcoming stories and characters. Some journals were for one story only and other journals were chock full of her ideas, all of which jumped off the page with color and art and words that made me go out and get my own art journal the very next day. I currently have a story in the works, all because of Judy’s class.

– Shelley Szajner

www.shelleyszajner.com

 

My most memorable connection made at PWC has been a constant building of a broad base of writers, year after year, who add bits and valuable pieces to my writing perspective. It allows me to grow and appreciate the very complex and enjoyable writing world. It has allowed me to create a best-selling novel that has been published in seven languages.

– David Wilson

 

Meeting Jim Knipp was an important connection I made at the PWC. Initially, it was through email when he had no idea who I was or what my writing goals were. Basic questions he answered in a timely manner made me realize how on top of his game he was as I started attending conferences. The subsequent years went by, and I remember collecting my badge and folders from him at the registration table. Arms folded, but with a grin, he’d greet me and drop a quick joke or helpful tip. As each June came and went, I observed how approachable and friendly he was toward many attendees. After a while, I was approached by Jim to lend a hand with the blog. How could I say no? Now, because of Jim, I am honored to be a part of something I love doing: bringing the writing community together through blogging.

– Uriah Young  @UriahYoung

 

The most memorable connection I made at a PWC conference was with Glo and Bill Delamar when I was just getting started with my writing. I learned a lot from them. They taught the necessary skills and provided personal feedback. They also allowed feedback from others in the class. I found their instruction so helpful that I took every workshop they offered through the Cheltenham Adult School until I started having booksignings at the bookstores at the same time as the class was held.

 – Alice Wootson

 

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Strength in Numbers

by Uriah Young on January 19, 2016

Writing can be a lonely practice. However, no one said a writer’s path has to be lonely. At the PWC, writing communities converge on that evil army of minions who feed on our insecurities. Doubt, criticism, and rejection try to defeat us as individuals. With other writers who’ve got your 6 and flank to your left and right, there’s no way you’ll go down. The following writers share insight on how to build and strengthen the writing community. Enjoy.

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I recognized early in my writing life that associating with other writers was crucial in many ways. Attending groups improved my attitude and productivity, provided feedback, access to training, and more. I concluded that participation in writing groups is a minimum requirement to live a writer’s life. After showing up at meetings for a while, I realized that writing groups need volunteers to keep them going. By contributing to writing groups, I realized I was adding value not just to myself and fellow writers, but to the entire community. In addition to volunteering in groups, I also promote the writing community by touting other writers, and supporting them in their efforts to reach readers.

– Jerry Waxler @jerrywaxler 

 

To me the first thing is to try to find a way to pull different communities together, or at least make them aware of one another—because there isn’t one writing community. We’re not that organized (seriously, what can you expect from people who sit by themselves in a room and make things up?).

Just locally there are dozens of writing communities. There are communities associated with local bookstores like Big Blue Marble and Main Point Books and Open Book; there are communities built around projects and ‘zines, like the Philadelphia Stories community; and around genres, like the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society; there are communities built around conferences such as PWC, of which there are many of all shapes and sizes; and those that have grown around the Writers’ Coffeehouses that some of the local Liars Club members have helmed for years now. And there’s an inestimable number of small writing workshops—anywhere from two-person “writing buddy” teams who meet at coffeehouses, to dozen-member critique groups. Those communities cross-pollinate to some degree, too; but one way to strengthen the whole is to make the smaller groups aware of each other, aware of available resources…help them connect. And I think one of the goals of PWC each year in drawing upon writers across the spectrum, is to afford individuals the opportunity to network and discover what lies outside their experience.

– Gregory Frost  @gregory_frost

 

I can’t imagine being on the outside of the writing community. I’d be pretty sad. My confidence would collapse, and my dreams would probably drive themselves off a cliff. Can’t afford that, so I make it a point to contribute as much of my time and effort as I can to support other writers. Writing groups are helpful, and people shouldn’t join one just for networking purposes. Offering constructive feedback to fellow writers helps each members’ growth process. In addition, online support helps strengthen communities. Goodreads is a great site to show love fellow writers. Retweeting authors within my community is another way I attempt to push wind into the sails.

– Uriah Young  @UriahYoung

 

The best way to strengthen the writing community is to support the efforts of other authors. Just think of what you wish other writers would do for you and do that. Watch for book signings at local libraries and bookstores. Your presence tells the world it’s an event of interest. When you hear about a local author appearing on television or a radio show, spread the word on your social media channels. And when you appear or speak someplace, don’t be reluctant to ask other writers to do the same. Cross promotion is a key function for building a community of writers. Also, don’t just join a nearby writer’s club, attend the meetings and offer to present. Finally, attend conferences like the Philadelphia Writers Conference and the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity Con in MD (www.creaturescrimesandcreativity.com). Surrounding yourself with writers, learning from those more successful than you and sharing what you’ve learned with aspiring authors is the best way to build a strong writing community.

– Austin Camacho  www.ascamacho.com

 

There are so many things we can do to strengthen the writing community. We can feature local authors and host book signings at our bookstores and cafes. Networking through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter is helpful, too. Join local writing and critique groups, and if writers are unable to attend meetings, they can join online critique groups or take writing courses online. Attend workshops in the area to sharpen skills, and network with published authors. Mentor an aspiring writer in the area by sharing markets we submit to, passing on trade magazines and books, and sharing our knowledge and encouragement.   Most important, write a letter telling an author how much you enjoyed their book or article. When trying to strengthen the writing community, any of these small gestures could inspire a discouraged person to keep on trying.

– L.A. Strucke  @LAStrucke

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Leaving a Mark

by Uriah Young on January 8, 2016

Those who’ve attended the PWC know that it’s great to network and be around other writers. What may get overlooked sometimes is the impact an instructor can have on those who attend the workshops. Here’s how some board members feel about their most memorable classes.

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Kelly SimmonsFor my most memorable class, I’d have to go with the “Novel: Character” class taught by this year’s opening speaker, Kelly Simmons in 2011.  Kelly was an excellent teacher, but on the second day of the workshop I read something I had written as part of our homework, and she said something like “I’m probably not supposed to say this, but that was effing awesome.” It was a huge confidence booster to keep pursuing this crazy dream to become an author.  Whenever I feel like maybe I should give up, I think of her saying that it it keeps me going.

– Jim Knipp @knippknopp

 

Don Lafferty and Jonathan Maberry at Clinton BookshopThe most memorable class I ever attended at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference was the very first class I attended — Jonathan Maberry’s “Nuts & Bolts of Publishing” — a two day feature where he broke down the work a writer must do before and after the writing. About the business of publishing, and the professional expectations of editors and agents. When I attended the PWC for the first time in 2005, it was the first writing conference I’d ever attended. I had no idea what to expect, so when I started off with Maberry, whom I barely knew at the time, I was unprepared for the sheer excellence and relevance of the information he shared with us. I’d been a successful sales executive for years, so his “blocking and tackling” concepts powered by best-in-class business practices made perfect sense, and empowered me to blow the roof off my writing career. It was the information I needed at the right time in my growth as a writer. I have since gone on to attend hundreds of sessions at conferences all over the country, and frequently teach at writing conferences. While every now and then somebody still blows the roof off my writing career, nothing compares to the awakening I experienced in my very first class, at my very first conference, ten short years ago at the PWC.

– Don Lafferty @donlafferty

 

A few years ago, PWC ran two “NOVEL” classes. Kelly Simmons’s was in the morning, mine in the afternoon; she taught Structure and I taught Character. I sat in on hers with the idea of being able to build on things she said. I was unprepared for the amount of very smart and easy-to-apply information she was providing her class—so much information in fact that I jettisoned maybe half of my prepared lecture and just built out from where she’d begun. It is always a wonderful experience to sit in a class and be surprised, dazzled, and exposed to a whole new way of thinking about your own writing.

– Gregory Frost @gregory_frost

 

Lynn LevinIf I can only choose one class, it might have to be Lynn Levin’s three-day workshop on the lyric poem. It provided me definition for the form and freedom to experiment. One “homework” assignment led to a published poem. Lynn is an excellent communicator and teacher.
– Dave Kozinsky
PWC

 

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Iron Sharpens Iron

by Uriah Young on December 8, 2015

With proper tools and an anvil, blacksmiths shape metal into something that lasts for years. Great writers are similar, working wonders with their tools and devices: vocabulary, imagination, and something to type on.  PWC board members were drawn to the creative force of the following writers, their words magnetic.

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From top left, clockwise

JD Salinger, Isaac Asimov, Richard North Patterson, and Muriel Barbery

 

My favorite author is JD Salinger.  I know he has passed away and has a somewhat limited oeuvre, nonetheless his characters and story telling ability have stayed with me since I first read him in high school.  My favorite of his works is Nine Stores which contain which contain what for me is the ultimate short story: The Laughing Man.  One can say that the disaffected post WW II writers are passe , however Salinger’s writing still elicits a tremendous emotional response from me.  For those who are interested in Salinger you might enjoy a recent work by Joanna Rackoff titled, My Salinger Year.  The book is a memoir of the time Rakoff worked for Salinger’s literary agency when he was much older and reaching the end of his life.

Ed Krizek @edkrizek

edkrizekwriting.com

 

My journey through favorite authors provides a history of my evolution as a person. During junior high school, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury were my intergalactic guides. In high school, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare were my literary gods. In college, Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett helped me understand that life sucks and then you die. In adulthood, Tony Hillerman and PD James entertained me by solving murders. When I was ready to write, Julia Cameron and Natalie Goldberg gave me permission to find my creative center. Joseph Campbell and Brian Boyd added a scientific base to my writing dreams by proving what I already knew in my heart — that human beings are storytelling animals. That led to my admiration for Frank McCourt, Kate Braestrup, James McBride and hundreds of other memoir writers who share their lives with readers through the lens of story. Today, my favorite author is anyone who attempts to turn life into literature.

Jerry Waxler @jerrywaxler

 

French author, Muriel Barbery, combines a poetic voice, uncompromising intelligence, exquisite writing, profound questions, essays about our lives, wonder and  luminosity all in a philosophical fairytale often focused on the terrifying beauty of art. The cherry plum test she offers as a gift to all of us who dare to try it will make a happy home in your mind. I challenge you to discover her NYTimes best selling novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

– Susan Robbins @Sisterwriter

 

Richard North Patterson first caught my reader’s eye with his book, The Race. Its politically driven plot took me on a ride I couldn’t abandon if I had wanted to.  Later, I explored the pages of Eclipse and became hooked to his prose. Especially in this book, which was more of a geopolitical thriller, I got to know the depths of human relationships oscillating between continents. Lastly, Patterson (yes there is another besides James) gets dark with The Spire, where mentorship goes awry on a college campus and secrets obscure morality. Because of his style and rich characters, I claim Richard North Patterson my fave.

– Uriah Young @UriahYoung

 

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Pages Turned

by Uriah Young on December 4, 2015

PWC board members share their thoughts about a special book that planted a seed of inspiration.

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The book that made me want to become a writer was Freefire by C.J. Box. Its opening grabbed me, shook me, and never let go. The setting intrigued me, and the protagonist’s relatable nature made me root for him every step of the way. I reached out to the author, C.J. Box, on Twitter and thanked him for writing Freefire. He was humbled by my sentiments because I told him his novel helped me escape the reality of a very rough time in my life. I hope to meet him in person one day.

– Uriah Young @UriahYoung

 

Danse Macabre, Stephen King’s nonfiction book about the horror genre, is probably more responsible than any other for making me a writer.  Not so much the book itself, but the preface in which King talks about why he wrote the book.  Just reading about how his brain works, the conversations he has in his head made me realize I was built the same way.  I’ve never wanted to be anything else ever since.

– Jim Knipp @knippknopp

 

I would have to split this into two, in that there are books on writing that I find inspiring, and there are books I read in my, er, formative years that made me react with “I want to do that.” The former in many ways comes down to one of seven essays by Samuel R. Delany and now collected in his book About Writing. But the writer who inspired me to write, probably more than anyone, was Roger Zelazny, and if I had to pick a book, it would likely be Nine Princes in Amber, in which he manages to write a high fantasy novel that pitches most of the dross of high fantasy out the window, and to pull off a narrative of the sort I had never before encountered.

– Gregory Frost @gregory_frost

 

I can’t answer what book made me want to be a writer, but I can say which book made it possible to be a writer. After I read Stephen Covey’s book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People I realized that to achieve my dreams, I must carve out time and energy. Another book that changed my relationship to writing was Story by Robert McKee. Because I had always written essays, and earned a living as a technical writer, I didn’t think I could ever write stories. When I decided to write a memoir, I needed to find out if story writing is a learnable skill. I came across a thick book named simply Story, and even though it’s for screen writers, it showed me that it’s possible to learn how to construct stories.

– Jerry Waxler @jerrywaxler

 

The first book I remember looking forward to reading was The Works of Edgar Allan Poe. I enjoyed how he kept readers engrossed in finding out what happened to his angst-ridden characters. (Before the end of the Tell-Tale Heart you actually could hear the throbbing beat of the dismembered organ!) I’ve since been drawn to write and read authors who create authentic characters in realistic settings that keep you mesmerized with the conflicts of their existence all stuffed into short stories.

– Marsha Gilbert @marshagilbert

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SAVE THE DATE: 2016 CONFERENCE HAS BEEN SCHEDULED!

by Jim Knipp on August 22, 2015

Mark your calendars, the 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference will be held on Friday, June 10, 2016 through Sunday, June 12, 2016, once again at the Wyndham Hotel on 4th and Arch Street!  We’re gathering another great slate of workshop leaders, speaker, agents, and editors.  See you in 2016!

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THANK YOU!!!

by Jim Knipp on June 23, 2015

Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been a week since this year’s conference (our 67th) ended.  And what an incredible conference it was, full of energy, knowledge, and friendships both rekindled and newly forged.  It was the sort of conference where one looks back when it’s done and thinks “yeah, this is why we do this.”
 
As you can imagine, putting together a conference of this magnitude takes a lot of work.  And I wanted to take a moment to thank those folks who have contributed their time to getting this done.

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Message from PWC President Eileen D’Angelo

by Jim Knipp on June 12, 2015

EileenOn behalf of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Writers Conference, please allow me the pleasure of extending our sincere welcome to you! We hope it will be stimulating and inspiring three days. We are honored to be able to present so many talented people as our speakers, agents, editors, judges and faculty members. They are accomplished professionals who are well-known in their specific genre or field. In addition to the educational aspect of the conference, we hope you enjoy the networking opportunities and the camaraderie between old friends and new friends.

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Keynote Speaker Stephen Fried – Part II

by Jim Knipp on June 8, 2015

SFRIEDPICPWC Board Member Greg Frost was given the task to pick the brilliant mind of our keynote speaker Stephen Fried.  What he gathered was enough information for two posts.  Find out what else Stephen had to say after the break.

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Keynote Speaker Stephen Fried

by Jim Knipp on June 7, 2015

SFRIEDPICReally what can you say about Stephen Fried?  A two-time National Magazine Award winner, Stephen burst onto the scene by exposing the darker side of the modeling world in Thing of Beauty. Since then he’s covered everything from the sins of the Big Pharma to the genius of restaurant pioneer Fred Harvey, and along the way has become a statesman and a guiding force for journalists everywhere.  Stephen will be delivering our keynote address at the Saturday Awards Banquet.

PWC Board  member Greg Frost interviewed Stephen and their chat provided enough information and advice to two posts.  See what they talked about after the break!

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