From May 15th through the 17th, I attended the Pennwriters 2015 conference. Throughout, the conference ran smoothly, at least from someone on the outside looking in. The A/V worked; the sessions ran on-time; and the rooms were at a comfortable temperature.
The workshops ran in four tracks, so at best, I could only attend a quarter of the talks. In actuality, I missed a couple of sessions because I was pitching agents. All of the workshops I attended were informative. Below are a few highlights.
Pitching to Agents and Editors – Jon Sprunk
This my first session Friday morning. Jon provided a formula to produce an elevator pitch. As part of the session, I rewrote my pitch for Shifting Mars’ Sands, which I used as my pitch to agents instead of the one I wrote a couple months earlier and memorized.
POV – Annette Dashofy
While I felt that I had a good handle on POV, I attended, hoping to get a tidbit or two from the workshop. I received far more. A couple of her statements focused vague ideas that I’d been holding.
Description tells as much about the character as it does the thing being described. If a woman is sitting in a coffee shop with a laptop, a computer tech type will notice the computer brand. probably its capabilities. A hairdresser will notice her hair, probably makeup and fashion, too. I wouldn’t expect the computer tech type to notice her high-heeled shoes and know the brand.
The POV character knows his/her feelings, knows others outside appearance. The POV character’s cheeks can warm, but the POV character can’t blush. A blush is an outward appearance the POV character can’t see in themselves. They can, however, see a blush in another, but shouldn’t merely think/say the other is embarrassed.
Science Fiction Read and Critique Session
This session, like all of the other Read and Critique sessions, occurred after the keynote supper. I was a few minutes late, so I missed the formal introductions of the four critiquers. Over the course of the conference I discovered three of their names: Tim Esaias, Bob Mecoy, and Lawrence Connelly.
I almost didn’t attend because I didn’t submit anything for the critique session. I’m thankful that I did. They read synopsis and the first two pages (I think) of eight stories. Then each critiquer had two minutes to present his thoughts. How they looked at the synopsis and story was telling. Several times they said the writing was filled with confidence. They pointed out items that were good and items that could be improved upon. Not only did I learn more about craft, but I learned a lot about critiquing.
What to Put in and What to Take Out – Tim Esaias
After the Read and Critique, I changed my plans to attend this double session. Not only was it informative, it was highly entertaining. He conveyed so much information, especially in what to remove, I couldn’t possible begin to summarize. What I can say is that I realized I had some edits to do in my own work and some bad habit that need to be broken.
From Draft to Polished Manuscript – Hillary Hauck
This workshop was part how-to and part motivational. Surprisingly, I found that the motivational part needed as much or more than the how-to. Attitude is everything. Not feeling like it isn’t the path to success. She pointed out, “Are you willing to say you almost wrote a novel?”
Dialog Basics – Catherine McLean
This was a summary talk on dialog in fiction. I picked up several points that I’m incorporating into my work.
From an Oyster to a Pearl – Vicki Fisher
This workshop was purely motivational, focused on combating the author’s doubts and fears. The truth of the matter is that success lies on the other side of doubt and fear.
I learned a lot at the conference, both in craft and in attitude. For a serious writer, I can’t recommend this conference enough. I look forward to next year’s conference in Lancaster, PA.
I’m interested in many things, from Mars to space travel, music to books, movies to creating my own stories. My sci-fi novel, The Music of Mars, is available now.