Posted by Kathleen Pooler/@kathypooler
“Believe in yourself. Read.Write. Don’t stop.” ~Author Lisa Scottoline, Keynote Speaker,Writer’s Digest Conference 2017
Back to The City for The Annual Writer’s Digest East Conference
When I began my journey with home peritoneal dialysis in March of 2016, I figured my days of going to the City for the Annual Writer’s Digest Conference were over. I had attended every one from 2012-2015.
Boy, was I wrong. Thankfully.
I hoisted my three suitcases with supplies and equipment and loaded the boxes of solution into the trunk of my daughter’s car and we traveled south into the heart of midtown Manhatten. She handled the midtown chaos quite well, though I’m not sure she wants to go back there any time too soon. After she left to visit a college friend in Brooklyn, I realized the bellhop had loaded her suitcase with my luggage and I called her.
“I’m not coming back until I pick you up on Sunday, Mom.”
Let’s just say we were both off on our own “adventures”.
This country girl is going back to the “city that doesn’t sleep”.
The next three days were spent reconnecting with writer friends and meeting new ones.
The first thing I noticed was the swarm of writers–close to 1000–who milled around the expansive halls of the Hilton Midtown. Most of the sessions were packed, some with up to 300 in the room. Overall, the venue accommodated the masses very well with the exception of the elevators being slow and, of course, the lines at the Women’s rooms, being very long. But isn’t that usually the case?
The Writer’s Digest Conference delivers a wide variety of educational offerings to choose from–Getting Published, Platform and Promotion, The Business of Being an Author, Genre Studies.
My goal in attending this conference was to hone and solidify my work-in-progress memoir and to explore publishing options.
For every session I attended, there were several others I wanted to attend. The good news is that the recordings of most of the sessions will be available to the attendees.
Pitch Perfect, an orientation to the Pitch Slam session with Paula Munier, Senior Literary Agent and Content Strategist for Talcott Notch Literary Services, LLC:
A pitch slam is likened to “speed dating” , only with agents. You try to hook an agent within the first 90-seconds with your elevator pitch. You then have another 90 seconds where the agent can ask you questions about your story, your platform, your background. A bell rings after three minutes and you are off to your next agent.
She stressed the importance of “reducing word count (of your pitch) and elevating your story by emphasizing its commercial aspect –USP, its “unique selling prospect” How is it unique? What is its emotional impact?
More later on how my pitch went..
Each offered something different and indie authors can use more than one at the same time.
Clearly, the publishing industry has opened its arms to the indie author.
Story Trumps Structure
National bestselling novelist Steven James rocked the house with a dynamic presentation about breaking the rules:
- Root yourself in story…what lies at the heart of your story? Think about four things: Desire (what does she want?); Setbacks (what keeps her from getting it?); Stakes (what will happen if she doesn’t get it?); Outcome (what will change in her life when she does fulfill her desires?)
- Let narrative forces rather than formula drive the story…write organically.
- Trust the fluidity of the process
- Follow rabbit trails..are you letting the story grow naturally rather than sticking to a preconceived notion of the story?
- Deliver what the reader wants and more…compassion for the character and concern for her safety create the worry that draws readers emotionally into a story.
- Write yourself in a corner..then brainstorm, free write , research.
- Take time to meet your characters…attitude, flaws, habits, values.
Write From the Heart: Crafting and Publishing Powerful Personal Essays
Estelle Erasmus,an award-winning journalist, writing coach and former magazine editor-in-chief of five publications reviewed the elements of powerful personal essays:
- Start with a strong beginning. Be provocative, use dialogue, include some form of mental, emotional, physical action.
- Create a point you will go back to later
- Go deeper and deeper.
- Create an arc
- Get rid of adverbs, get right into the action
- Be your own enemy–be harder on yourself than the person you are writing about.
- Create an ending that resonates..leave reader with a takeaway…go back to the point you mentioned in the beginning.
- Create a title that transforms (Try Phrase Thesaurus to generate ideas)
Shut Your Monkey: How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Writing Done
Danny Gregory has written nearly a dozen internationally best-selling books on art and creativity. He discussed the impact the inner critic has on your life, your work and your happiness then took us through strategies to quiet the voice:
- Worries and fears are tools for the negative voice …you are NOT the monkey!
- When the monkey is on your back…journal..put dialogue from your head to the page.
- Support yourself..be on your own side.
- Embrace failure ” I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.
- Be adaptive…risk change vs falling into old patterns.
- Embrace limitations. They are an essential part of creativity.
- Create a structure for yourself.
- Pros “Show up”
The Importance of Being Scenic: Scenes Versus Summary:
Lauren B. Davis, a critically-acclaimed author and creative writing teacher, explored the elements of a scene–complex characters, POV, sense details, dialogue, new plot information, conflict and setting.
- A summary cover is relatively long period of time and is useful in giving information, filling in a character’s background, revealing a motive, altering pace, creating a transition and encompassing moments or years.
- A scene is a crucial means of allowing your reader to experience the story with the characters through the senses.
It is possible to write a short story in a single scene, without any summary at all. It is not possible to write a successful story entirely in scene.
Revealing Character Through Setting
Laura DiSilverio, the national bestselling author of 17 mystery and suspense novels, and a retired Air Force intelligence officer, shared how to reveal character through setting ,via both the environment the character creates for herself and her reaction to the setting she finds herself in.
Ways to show how character experiences her world:
- Environment–use a variety of senses –tactile, visual, auditory, scent.
- Economic circumstances
- Compare and contrast–i.e, character’s public and private responses
- Use more than one sense.
- Focus on one to two key details.
- Use language character would use.
I Hear Voices: The Art and Craft of Distinctive Voices
Heather Webb, historical novelist and editor, shared how to find your distinctive voice:
- Go all in..have confidence.
- Look at your own emotional self through free writing.
- Understanding your character from all angles–traits, hopes, language– is the best way to refine your voice.
- Know your own voice and distinguish from your character’s voice.
- Listen to speech patterns.
- Go light on dialect.
- Show state of mood of characters by their physical reactions.
Update on my Pitch Slam session:
In a phrase…beyond my expectations.
I met with five agents who were marketing memoir. All five requested queries. Two of the five were very enthusiastic about my story and requested the first 100 pages.
I will submit a query letter and partial manuscript to the two who seemed genuinely interested in my story.
Will he or won’t he accept it?
Now to the main stumbling block–my concern about my son’s response to the story. We had a joyful Mother-Son reunion, attended 5:30 Mass at the beautiful St Patrick’s Cathedral, walked around then enjoyed a delicious dinner at a nice restaurant on 8th avenue.
Over our guacamole and tortilla chips appetizer, we discussed “the” story.
“So, B, what’s your take?”
‘I still need to go through it again. Just a few areas I question.”
“You said I was 6’2′ and I’m only 6’1″.”
“But, I need to know. Are you OK with this story being published?”
“Absolutely,”he said, without hesitation, “I thought you knew that.”
“You’re sure?” I said, wondering if I was missing something.
“Yes, Mom. I know that my past is part of who I am. If it was five years ago, even one year ago, I’d feel differently, but I’m OK with it now. “
It was a pivotal moment when I thought to myself, yes this is a story that must and will be told.
How about you? Have you ever attended a writer’s conference and found the answers you’d been looking for?
I’d love to hear from you. Please join in the conversation below~
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“Transitions: Embracing Change and Moving on”
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