Four years ago, my life changed forever!

dramatic man…cue the dramatic music…

 

That may seem a bit overblown, but it’s hard to underestimate the impact of attending my first Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.  I had only recently reacquired the writing bug (which had laid mostly dormant in my twenties and thirties), and had gone into the conference not knowing what to expect…probably a bunch of dotty old poet ladies giggling over tea, maybe some goateed hipster holdover jamming with the bongos, or some over-intense caricature of the “Next Great American Novelist” straight out of the movies, someone without any sense of humor or irony that would move from boring me to turning me into my homicidal self within the first day.

 jimbane2…you know, as opposed to my calm, rational self…

 

I found none of these (well, I did find some poet ladies, but they were far from dotty!).  What I did find was workshop leaders quick with praise and insight, board members who were beyond friendly, and an overall supportive environment that solidified in my mind that this crazy mid-life crisis dream of becoming a writer was a viable choice.  I learned that there was a whole community of writers, that Philadelphia may have one of the largest and the most supportive networks in the country, and that it was possible to be a writer and work a full time job.

 writer…something I haven’t quite gotten a handle on yet…

 

The highlights that year: some heartfelt words of praise from my official Lady Writer Crush Kelly Simmons (praise I still reflect on today whenever the words on the page misbehave), the discovery of a good friend in social media guru Don Lafferty – who became the driving force behind my blog, and meeting another good friend, and all around inspiration Kathryn Craft, who was the Registrar that year (and whose first novel, The Art of Falling, is out now, if you haven’t already you should check it out!). I contacted Kathryn after the conference and let her know that if she ever needed help, that I’d be happy to pitch in next year with whatever the Conference needed.

 Craft_small_photo…little did I know the devious plan hiding behind that innocent smile…

 

I returned in 2012, and this time went with the whole package: contests, critiques, dinners.  I marveled at Solomon Jones’ story of grace and redemption.  I got lost in the rhymes of Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez.  I met Caridad Pineiro, who taught me about work-life balance, and finally, I ran into the force of nature named Jonathan Maberry, the New York Times Bestselling author who is more open and accessible to new authors than anyone at his level of success could ever be.  I’m not saying I developed any sort of unhealthy man-crush on the uber-talented Mr. Maberry, but lets just say the only reason I’m not secretly living in his attic crawlspace is he now lives 3000 miles away.

 Jonsword…plus, he knows Ju-Jitsu…

 

I also found out what was behind the twinkle in the Kathryn Craft’s eyes, when she informed me I had been elected to the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference board.  A few months later, I volunteered to be Registrar.  It’s been two years, a hell of a lot of work, and I’ve never regretted one moment of it!

So whenever someone asks me: “do you think the conference is worth it?”  I think back to that first year, to that sense of wonder and achievement, the feeling of community and support; and I think about all the new things we’re doing and the new avenues that open for writers every day, about the agents, editors, and authors – both established and new, that I’ve met, and that sense of hope and possibility every time I speak to one of them; and I say honestly and unequivocally  “Absolutely…I loved my first conferences so much that now I work for them!”

 enforcers…and I’ll never, ever be able to leave…

 

 

Jim Knipp is a full time corporate drone and part time writer who has served as the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Registrar since 2012 and is a member of the South Jersey Writers Group.  You can find his irregular musings on life, flash fiction, and interviews with writers, agents, and editors at KnippKnopp and his weekly Game of Thrones recap at BiffBamPop  His short piece “No Fun Joe” was published in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey.