I always love it when a conference starts with an adventure, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the weekend. The Write Stuff did not disappoint! Due to a mechanical failure with her plane in DFW, our keynote speaker, Kristen Lamb, missed her connecting flight from Philadelphia to the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday. It was 6PM when the Social Media Jedi called me from Philly and the next flight out to LVI would not depart until 10PM! As conference chairman, I took the care and gluten-free feeding of our damsel-in-distress keynote seriously. Thus, I jumped in the car and took off for Philly. After brief confusion in the airport (which also set the tone for events to come), I finally located Kristen and we were on our way!
The ride back was smooth and, in fact, is now a blur due to one of the most engaging conversations I've ever had. I found myself instantly comfortable, thus making the hour-plus ride feel like 15 minutes. We stopped off at a Rite Aid in the Lehigh Valley for gluten-free and dairy-free snacks before heading over to the hotel--with a brief sight-seeing detour through the back roads of Easton, PA. That last sentence was, of course, my way to avoid admitting that I took a wrong turn and was lost. For more hilarious details on this leg of our misadventure, see this post
Our first pre-conference session on Thursday, led by Kristen, was "The Novelist of the 21st Century". This full-day class was divided into the business of publishing (morning) and craft (afternoon). Kristen covered different types of publishing (traditional, small press, and self) and the inherent benefits and drawbacks of each. After lunch, she delved into topics of story structure, concepts of antagonist, protagonist, "Big Boss Troublemaker", log lines, and other topics. Ever the engaging speaker, Kristen's session was as entertaining as it was edifying.
My evening ended with our first thunderstorm of the year during dinner at On the Border with Kristen and conference volunteer Dan Krippene.
On Friday, the first session I attended was Kristen's afternoon course, "Social Media for Writers" where attendees were taught many ways to properly create a blog and website and effective uses of log lines and tags. During the class, many of our presenters, agents, and editors arrived for the Friday evening and Saturday programming. After Kristen's session, I had a few minutes to catch up with Steve Wilson and Richard White before it was time for Page Cuts and Writer Beware.
Page Cuts consists of three presenters who critique the first pages of stories as submitted by attendees. The presenters are given the pages to read while a moderator reads them aloud. Each presenter is then allowed approximately five minutes to provide feedback. Although the authors of the stories are among the audience members, all submissions are anonymous.
While Page Cuts was happening in four of our session rooms, Richard White presented "Writer Beware" in the Foundry, a small room to the left of the hotel restaurant, and Pattie Giordano and Tina Gallagher sat in the Allentown room for "Pitch Practice" wherein they coached writers on their agent and editor pitches, occurring on Saturday.
As is our tradition, Friday evening concluded with our reception. After disseminating the complimentary drink tickets to our various faculty members, I hung out with presenters and writer pals Steve Wilson, Aaron Rosenberg, and Michael Jan Friedman. We were joined by Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group President, Peggy Adamcyk and our programming chair, Donna Brennan (who, in all honesty, was far more responsible for the success of this conference than I). Peggy is a fan of Michael Jan Friedman's and it gave me great satisfaction to introduce them.
Near the end of the night, Mike and Steve turned in, but Kristen had not eaten since lunch. Aaron wanted pie and suggested Waffle House. Since there happened to be one near the airport (last I saw it was still standing after we left), we rounded up Richard White and took off for breakfast food, pie, and excellent conversation.
Saturday is a big day for the Write Stuff with 20 classroom sessions on all manner of craft, editing, revision, publishing, book cover design, and editor/agent pitch appointments. It kicked-off with continental breakfast, during which Peggy welcomed everyone and distributed thank you gifts to the conference committee and volunteers. After some brief announcements from yours truly, we launched into the final day of the conference.
Hats off to Becky Bartlett and Donna Galanti for their standing-room only presentations! I spent the morning attempting to play photographer with my phone, sitting in on part of Steve Wilson's podcasting and audio books session and peeking in on Richard White's historical fiction session. After lunch, I had the pleasure to introduce Kristen as our keynote speaker. It was her last appearance of the conference and her energy never wavered for a minute. She delivered an funny, poignant, and inspirational speech and the audience responded in kind.
In the afternoon, I provided my Windows laptop to Aaron Rosenberg for his book cover design session and hung out there in the event tech support would be needed (it wasn't). Finally, it was time for the book fair and Flash Fiction Lit contest awards. By 4:30PM, the conference had wound down. After loading up my car, exchanging goodbyes with presenters, conference committee members, and volunteers, Kristen and I headed to Chipotle for dinner, joined by Richard White. That's when it hit me...IT WAS ALL OVER!
I must admit that after dropping Kristen back at the hotel, it was nice to be home early enough to have some quiet time and chat with my wife about the conference. As an epilogue, I picked up Kristen on Sunday afternoon and after a quick lunch at Reb Robin, delivered her safely to LVI airport for what turned out to be a smooth journey home.
All photos taken by Phil Giunta except for final photo (above) which was taken by Brenda Havens.