Posted by: Kelly Deeny | June 16, 2014

The 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference Did Not Disappoint

Writers, like their fellow artists, tend to spend a large majority of their time absorbed in the creation of their art. As pivotal as that may be, we also close ourselves in with only a laptop or notebook for companionship. We become immersed in our own stories that we don’t always take the time to interact with characters not on the page.

Joining a writers’ group, going to a seminar, or attending a writers’ conference are just a few ways to add some much-needed perspective, inspiration, and motivation to your craft. Come next June, I highly recommend registering for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC). It’s well worth your time, money, and artistic development. Plus, whether you go by yourself or with your entire writers’ group, you’ll leave with a plethora of new contacts and writing buddies.

Held June 6-8th in historic Philadelphia, this year’s writers’ conference not only met my expectations but exceeded them. The wide range of courses and topics offered allowed conferees to choose the ones that interested them most. If you found yourself struggling with conflict development in your story, then taking Alma Katsu’s Upping the Ante: Creating and Sustaining Conflict 3-day workshop was a fitting choice.  Austin Camacho’s Creating Characters that Keep Fans Reading course offered an assortment of techniques and insights into creating characters that are unique, fleshed out, and memorable.  In addition to the ones I just mentioned, screenwriting; comic book/graphic novels; memoirs; and poetry were only some of the varying topics offered this year.  Plus, you could also learn about the value of book trailers and audio books, freelancing, or social media. They even held an open mic event on Friday afternoon, which I urge the conference organizers to do again next year.  It was both comforting and exciting to see my fellow writers step out of their comfort zone and share a piece of written work that meant something to them.

I chose a combination that suited my writing interests along with presentations that educated me on the business end of my craft.  After all, we create stories that people want to read, but if you don’t know how to market it, promote it, or sell it….then you’ll be the only one who knows of the amazing finished piece you’ve created.  I enjoyed all of the courses I chose this year, but there are two in particular that inspired me greatly:

  • UPPING THE ANTE: CREATING AND SUSTAINING CONFLICT – Led by author Alma Katsu, this 3-day workshop delved into a topic that authors can find intimidating and frustrating…conflict.  As writers, we focus on creating memorable characters, figuring out what our “voice” is, and even determining our target audience.  All of those elements are important, but including conflict in our story gives us a mechanism to add dimension to our work.  Alma provided a clear explanation of the types of conflict and gave us examples of how they are applied in works already published.  She challenged us to examine our own stories and analyze it.  Do we really know what our character wants?  Do our characters encounter challenges, hurdles, or internal conflict in every scene?  I learned a lot about my own writing and came away comforted to know that while there are areas I need to re-examine/strengthen I am on the “write” track.
  • CREATING CHARACTERS THAT KEEP FANS READING – Austin Camacho’s ability to both engage and educate fellow writers made this course one to remember! With a laid-back demeanor, sense of humor, and ardent appreciation for writing, Austin took us on a journey of character development.  We examined techniques to help us flesh out our characters.  In addition to describing physical attributes, do we also paint a clear picture of the character’s wants and needs?  Where did they grow up?  What are their fears? He kept our attention, prompted us to contemplate our own characters, and gave us innovative examples of where to look for character inspiration.  I wrote down his insights and techniques fervently as he spoke but one quote stuck out most: “Ordinary traits make characters believable; Unique traits make characters memorable”.

Given my positive experience during both of those workshops, I hope the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference organizers consider asking both Ms. Katsu and Mr. Camacho back again next year!  In the meantime, please click on their names above to learn more about these talented authors.

To all the PWC organizers, board members, workshop facilitators, volunteers, and conference attendees: Thank you for making this year’s conference one to remember.  See you again in 2015!!!

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