Women Who Write’s Third Annual Conference a Great Success

by Deborah Amadei

Women Who Write, Inc. a New Jersey based writers collective, held their third annual writers conference on September 28, 2013 with a crowd of 77 attendees and 9 faculty members.

After opening remarks and instructions by Women Who Write President, Ginger Pate, and Conference Chair, Pat Weissner, attendees dispersed to one of three writing tracks: poetry, prose and children’s.

Award winning poet and Fairleigh Dickinson faculty member, Rene Ashley opened the poetry track with “Logic For Poets” in which she attempted to bring her audience to a leaping point from classic logic to a more open form of communicating truth, a sophisticated approach to writing poetry.

“We all very much enjoyed her engaging personality,” said Mary Lee Waldron.

In “Changing the World,” Sean Nevins, another award winning poet and Drew University faculty member focused on generating poetry that allowed poets to share universal experiences through the individual lens. Using the example of what one person had for breakfast, the discussion ensued on details of this breakfast. The point made was that poets must control which details to include and which to leave for the reader to fill in. Attendees were given an assignment: pick a meaningful object, create a cascading list of details and create a poem.

Literary agent Barbara Poelle challenged her prose group audience in her session “Trimming the Fat and Refining Your Voice. She introduced a writing exercise called “24 in 24”, in which her students would write 24 titles in 24 hours. For this session she narrowed it down to 10 titles in 10 minutes.

“The ideas that writers in our group wrote down were fascinating,” said Norma Hopcraft.

According to Author Peggy Ehrhart, in her session, “Powerful Plots: How to Structure a Narrative that Keeps Readers Turning the Pages, an ordinary story can be made into a good piece of prose; it’s not the story but the way it’s told that matters. A plot has to have an inciting incident and should lead to a change in the protagonist. The dramatic question, “Will she survive?” advances the plot. The audience was asked to pick three favorite books and describe the Inciting Incident or the Dramatic Question for each.

The turning point of a story happens when either the main character moves from a down situation and then turns up, or the character is down and goes further down.

Brett Wright, Associate Editor, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, gave the morning presentation for Children’s Track, “So Your Characters Walks into a Plot Hole & Other Common Traps to Avoid in MG and YA Manuscripts.” The reader needs to be hooked right away. The first chapter gets the momentum going. Major characters need to be introduced in the first thirty pages. Too much backstory can slow a story down. The writer needs to keep in mind what journey the main character is going on. Make the ending be satisfying but don’t spend too much time on it.

When Laura Biagi, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency, reviews a picture book manuscript she asks these questions: Does she love the book? Will it sell? Five hundred word picture books are selling for fiction, 800 for nonfiction. She discussed different kinds of picture books: high-concept, which has a unique angle, plot-driven books which have conflict driven by the character. A character-driven book has to have a unique character. She passes if the story is too quiet.

The session on self-publishing: “eBooks 101: An Author’s Toolbox for Digital Publishing” was presented by Jita Fumich of Folio Literary Management and Daniel Nayeri, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Digital publishing has two categories: open platform vs. curated brands (curated by editor). With open platform the author does much of the work herself. Another option is assisted self-publishing such as Smashwords and BookBaby. With self-publishing the book goes directly to retail.

Additional reporting was provided by Mary Lee Waldron, Norma Hopcraft, Mira Peck and Ronnie Hammer.

Enjoy these photos from our conference.  Enlarge any image by clicking on it.

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