Every year, I leave the Philadelphia Writers’ conference fired up and ready to write. After the 2017 conference, I decided to do something about it.
I write literary fiction, but that doesn’t stop me from sampling a bit of everything the conference offers. Whether it was (returning instructor) Fran Wilde’s short story class, Jon McGoran’s thrilling look into suspense & pacing, or Austin Camacho’s deep dive into creating characters, I came away with some new insight that translated into whatever I was working on.
So the Monday following PWC, I took a leap of faith: I announced to the world that I was going to WRITE A NOVEL.
If I wrote three pages a day, by the end of the summer, I would have finished a novel. I took off Saturdays because a) I needed some kind of break; and b) I’m Jewish. Even with a day off, that would be 18-20 pages a week, or approximately one chapter.
It wouldn’t be my first novel – I’ve written two others, the most recent of which I’d pitched to agents for the last couple of years at the conference. I’d gotten nibbles but failed to get it published, so I figured it was time to dangle a different bait on my hook.
I asked for buddies to join me because some of us work better under pressure, and what better motivation that fear of letting your writing buddies down? Over the summer, my accountability partners fell by the wayside, but I kept chugging along.
I had a bit of a health crisis in August and once school started for my kids, my pace slowed to more like a page or two a day, but I persisted. I also ended up discovering new plotlines that needed to be told, and ended up writing 50 pages more than I anticipated. Nevertheless, on October 18, I finished a novel.
The experience was a bit like running a marathon, but I got so much more out of it than a first draft. I wrote and delivered a talk about novel planning for Barrelhouse’s Writers Connect conference in Pittsburgh, after I realized that the way I plan out novels is totally different than what most people do. I developed relationships with different writers whose work I hadn’t seen before. And at every writing event or PWC board meeting, when people asked, “How’s your writing going?” I had something to say.
I can’t say what will happen with this novel: I’m deep into revisions and just starting to get feedback from beta readers. I’m determined to be finished with the second draft in time to pitch at the 2018 conference in June. I know one thing for sure: this novel wouldn’t exist without the support, ideas, and craft lessons that I took home from the Wyndham.
The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference can’t write your book for you. But it can certainly be the springboard for you to make that dive.
Stephanie King has won the 2006 Quarterly West Novella Prize and the 2013 Lilith Short Fiction Prize, as well as PWC’s 2015 Spring Warmup Contest. She received her MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars. A Philly transplant with the zeal of the converted, she joined the PWC board in 2017.
Do you have a story about how the PWC has has inspired you? Got a great tip that led to a breakthrough? Met a writing buddy who’s gone the distance with you and your writing? We’d love to hear it! For the 70th anniversary of the conference, we’re looking for stories from conferees.
Submit your post through the Write For Us link at the bottom of the page. Please be sure to include at least one photo (it doesn’t have to be of yourself). We’ll be featuring a select few conferee stories here on our website in the lead up to the conference! Conferee stories are unpaid; we cannot guarantee publication of any story. By submitting your Conferee story to us, you agree to have your submission posted to the PWC website.
The 70th Annual Philadelphia Writers’ Conference will be held June 8-10, 2018, at the Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District. Visit this page for more information, including speaker information and a general schedule of events.