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!!



Deconstruct to Build Short Stories

by Marsha Gilbert on May 31, 2016

Kathleen Volk Miller “Crafting the Short Story” Kathleen Volk Miller, workshop leader for “Crafting the Short Story”


So you like writing short stories? Well, Kathleen Volk Miller is someone you should know. Kathleen, an English professor at Drexel University, is leading the workshop, “Crafting the Short Story,” during the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, June 10-12. In this three-day class, you’ll create short fiction by deconstructing peer and published work and identifying essential features in each. Kathleen is the director of the graduate program in publishing and co-director of the Drexel Publishing Group, co-editor of the anthology Humor: a Reader for Writers, and co-editor of The Painted Bride Quarterly. Kathleen’s articles have been printed in the New York Times, Family Circle,, and Philadelphia Magazine. Her work also will appear soon in O, the Oprah magazine! Read more about Kathleen, other workshop leaders, and events, then register for America’s longest running writers’ conference here



A Talk with Fran Grote (“Polish Your Pitch”)

by Uriah Young on May 29, 2016

by PWC board member Gregory Frost

Fran Grote


You’re teaching a workshop about the best ways to pitch your book. Were you motivated to do this because you’re a small indie publisher and it will make your life easier, too?

Well, never let it be said I’m not a fan of making my own life easier…  But the truth is, helping people write and deliver an effective pitch is something I just feel passionate about.  Don’t forget, I was once a new writer with a book I desperately wanted to see in print and no idea what would get me successfully to the next stage.  Somebody was kind enough to give me the right pointers to get me started on my pitch.  (Well, okay, I paid for a class, but still.)  I suppose it also has something to do with the fact that my first career – I went on to become an executive in the biopharma industry – was as an instructor at Rutgers.  The joy of seeing people learn and master a new skill, being part of their “Aha!” moment, is a real motivator for me.  Once I’ve figured something out, I can’t wait to share that with others.

After giving your original question due consideration, though, a great pitch is as much a piece of art as the work it represents.  So teaching people the secret to creating their strongest pitch might not make my life easier, but it will certainly add to the enjoyment of hearing pitches.

Would you talk a little about how you became a small press publisher?

I’m not sure this answer will win me any points for strategic thinking, but I decided to become a small press publisher the same way I’ve made all my other mega-life decisions – I saw an interesting opportunity to try something that was new for me and promised to be a big challenge.  The fact that it also offered a possible means for me to move some frustrating obstacles out of my way was an added bonus.  At the time I decided to take the plunge, self-publishing was still considered a form of “outsider art”, and the traditional channels for selling books were not very interested in anything that didn’t come from well-established publishers.  But I was lucky to find a few extraordinary mentors, and I was determined never to give up, and never allow myself to feel anything but proud of doing good work.

As the marketplace for books from non-traditional sources has grown (and rapidly) over the past few years, it has actually become more of a challenge to run a small press.  That’s because there are so many more options for distributing books, and the opportunities are growing every day.  A publisher has to work hard to stay on top of things in order to do the best job for her authors and her publishing house.  It’s not enough anymore to just have a current list of who buys books at some indie bookstores – though the people who run indie bookstores remain some of my favorite people on the planet.  How can you not admire people who are willing to devote their lives to the love of books?  But that won’t make your publishing house a success the way it once might have.

What sort of work does Rule Bender Press look for? Are you open to genre fiction or are you inclined to more reality-based, (and I hate to use the term but) “literary” fiction?

It’s so funny that you have some hesitation around the term “literary” fiction.  Personally, I balk at classifying fiction at all.  I know that’s not a very sound business strategy these days, and I will grant you that it is important to know the proposed target market.  But think about this for a minute – who paid for all those Harry Potter books that made J. K. Rowling the wealthiest woman in England?  And did you read The Hunger Games?  I did.  So while it’s important to know what type of book the author is aiming to write, I firmly believe that a good book is a good book.  To answer your question, Rule Bender Press was established with the goal of…bending the rules.  I’m looking for work that grabs my attention and pins my restless butt in a chair and won’t let me go, even when I put the book down.  I’m looking for writers who love, but respect, language.  Who comb through their work over and over again, removing anything that isn’t critical to the beating heart of their story, who can draw me a picture of a reality that invites my imagination to fill in the gaps.

Boy, that was a wordy answer.  The bottom line is, I’m not particular about genre or not genre, YA vs. women’s fiction, or any of the other boundaries that are typically drawn.  I want to see a great story (or memoir).

Will you be moving the operation back to Doylestown, PA now that you’ve left Marblehead, MA?

Rule Bender Press has physically relocated to Doylestown along with me.  But I’m working to keep my contacts in Massachusetts active.  There is a very vibrant and supportive indie bookstore scene up there, as well as a strong writers’ community based in and around Boston.

Beyond getting their pitch right, what advice would you give writers of fiction?

Ah, one of my favorite soapboxes – the most important piece of advice I can give, which I’m sure many of the people reading this have heard ad nauseum, is be open to changing your work.  I have had to turn away two books I was interested in publishing because their authors did not want to make changes.  In the first instance, the author had already done what he felt were a sufficient number of rewrites, and was eager to get his book in print.  With the other book, the author had a very specific format she wanted to follow, and did not feel that my requested changes were consistent with her vision for her book.

Were either of those authors wrong to feel the way they did?  Absolutely not.  And I would be delighted for them if their books get published by someone else.  But the critical thing to understand about getting published is that writers are both artists AND artisans.  They have to create something beautiful, but it also has to be something that will sell.  And every publisher you approach is going to have her own specific idea of what will sell.  She’s going to believe in that idea so strongly that she’s willing to put a lot of time and a fair bit of money into producing the books that fit her vision.  It says a great deal about the quality of your work if someone is interested in investing that time and money in it. But what it doesn’t say is, okay, you’re all done now.  Instead, it says, I’d like to form a partnership with you to produce something wonderful.  So don’t feel frustrated when an editor or agent or publisher asks you to revise your work.  Feel proud that they think highly enough of you to ask.