Yesterday, I attended Pennwriters‘ Writers Project Runway — Fashioning Your Story in Leesburg, VA.I arrived at the Ida Lee Rec center and found the main entrance locked. Huh, a test to start off the day. I walked to the left and found a second entrance, this one to the ground floor. Balloon festooned the stairs’ railing. This was the correct entrance.
After registering, I ran into Pat DiCesare. Growing up in the Pittsburgh, PA area listening to rock radio, you couldn’t help but hear his name. He promoted all of the rock concerts in the area. The commercials either began with “DiCeasare-Engler presents” or ended with “a DiCesare-Engler production.”
Pat remarked that I’d held on to it for 30 years. I didn’t realize it, but it was 30 years ago that I saw them on their Wheels are Turnin’ tour. I save all of my ticket stubs and keep them with a CD from the artist. I told him that I bought his book about his experiences promoting concerts for my wife as a Christmas present, and she loves it, so much I can barely get my hands on it.
The conference had two tracks running concurrently, so I could only attend half of the sessions. I had to make a few tough choices, but I hope to catch the other speakers at the annual conference in Pittsburgh this May.
The first session was about crafting with Ramona DeFelice Long. The biggest takeaway was that a scene should ask and answer a question. It must have a purpose to further the story, either tell us more about the character or advance the plot, hopefully, both.
The second session was with Pat DiCesare. He spoke about marketing. providing valuable information, especially on properly using Amazon.
Dixiane Hallaj conducted the third session, discussing self-editing and the need for outside editors. She recommended several books, including Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. I’d found the book incredibly useful and was glad to see it recommended. Further, she also discussed the need for outside editors performing development, substantive, and copy editing. She also pointed out that authors tend to repeat issues, so if an issue is pointed out more than once, it’s a good idea to search for it within your manuscript yourself–don’t count on an editor to keep pointing it out.
After lunch, Hana Haatainen-Caye discussed writing what you know. Most of it applied to writing non-fiction, but she showed through several exercises how to apply her ideas to fiction.
The fifth session was about creating a protagonist that leaps off the page. Don Helin delivered as advertised and more. Not only was his advice applicable to protagonists, it applied to all characters, antagonists and even placeholder characters such cabbies and bartenders. One example was to have a cabbie, a minor character in one scene, shine by giving him an interesting characteristic, such as having him sing opera. I admit if I read a scene with cabbie singing opera while driving a fare, I’d remember it. His discussion using his protagonist from his novel Devil’s Den made me want to read his book, which I bought.
Val Muller-Egger conducted the last session on exploring and testing fiction elements to improve storytelling. She discussed using description effectively, using just enough for the reader to picture the scene. She encouraged the writers to trust their writing and allow the readers to figure it out, pointing out that we don’t need to write about opening a car door, inserting a key, turning it, pulling the gear shift into Drive, and pressing the accelerator when all that needs said is they drove to the airport.
The conference was everything I expected and more. I had a great time. I appreciate Bobbi Carducci, Pennwriters’ Area 7 representative, and her team for taking the idea of a local writing conference from idea to reality.