I arrived in Allentown, Pa., on Friday for the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Write Stuff Conference. This was my first Writers Conference and I was filled with mixed emotions. I was thrilled to have taken this step in my professional career as a writer and nervous about meeting the people who potentially held my novel’s fate in their hands. The first workshop I attended, Claim Your Victory in Today’s Publishing Revolution, was presented by Marie Lamba. I left this session feeling genuinely positive about my prospects on publishing. “People are speculating that big publishers may fail but they are adapting.” They still have the “best resources,” she told us. She recommended joining Publishers Marketplace to stay up on deals that are happening within the industry. She told us about the small presses that are popping up and the indie opportunities available, as well as the 500% jump in sales in 2011 of eBooks. Her most important advice: “Make sure it’s your best work,” and “Have it professionally edited.” Something I was not aware of is that if you publish a book and it goes out of print you can get the rights back from your publisher and reprint it through indie publishing and eBooks. Indie is a good place to publish poetry so I may follow up on this to start getting my name out there. It is an “opportunity to build your brand and audience,” Marie Lamba said. “It is the Age of the Author,” she told us, and I believe her.
On Saturday, I first attended the Agents Panel. It was very helpful to hear from actual literary agents. They shared with us their individual backgrounds and experiences, the value of social media and having a strong platform, and that sometimes agents will reach out to self-published authors and authors with great blogs. There was a suggestion that we review other middle grade novels on our blog sites to help bring more readers to you. They mentioned She Writes, Goodreads, and Writers Unboxed.
Next, I attended the workshop presented James Scott Bell, Revising A Novel They Can’t Put Down. He is an amazing presenter! He told us about Robert Heinlein’s 2 Rules for Writing. 1) Write. 2) Finish what you write. Then he added his own corollary 3) You must learn your craft as you write. He included a bit of humor with a quote from Somerset Mangham: “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.” Mr. Bell shared his invaluable Rules for Drafting: write hot, push limits, revise cool. He told about the “rolling outline” and about Stephen King’s “boys in the basement.” My favorite quote that he shared was that of the great Alfred Hitchcock: “A great story is life with all the dull parts taken out.” I can not possibly share all of his great advice. Let’s just say I took 10 full pages of notes!
My next sessions were with the great Joyce McDonald, writer of young adult fiction, and the wonderful Gayle Roper. I also included some photos of some of the wonderful people I met. Overall, it was a terrific conference and I learned so much.