Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday's Inspirational Quote

Four weeks ago today the 2009 Pennwriters conference ended. Amazing how time flies. But between recurring car troubles and my parents visiting for a week and several other projects I needed to get off my desk, I simply haven’t had time to sit down and reflect on the conference. I do know it was one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended anywhere, and for that, kudos go out to Annette Dashofy, conference coordinator extraordinaire, who managed to make the whole weekend look effortless. Check out her Diary of a Conference Coordinator blog here.

My biggest surprise was to check the conference schedule the night before and find out it started at 9:00 a.m. on Friday instead of noon, as it has in years past. (Although not in recent years past, but I was fixated on noon for some reason.) I managed to get there around 11:00 a.m. and check in before heading on down to a delicious—best conference food I’ve ever had—Published Author’s Luncheon with two guest speakers.

The first was copyright attorney Heather S. Heidlebaugh who impressed upon us the absolute necessity of having our work registered with the copyright office, and the second was former Pennwriters keynote speaker D.L. Wilson, author of Unholy Grail, whom I was unfortunately unable to stick around for, as my workshop on dialogue had inadvertently been scheduled next door at the same time.

So I slipped out of the luncheon to prepare myself for my workshop, which was the best attended of my workshops for Pennwriters over the years, and went off without a hitch, except for the fact that due to chemical sensitivities to perfume and such, I developed a tickle in my throat and started to lose my voice during the presentation.

Finally I had to ask if anyone had a piece of gum or cough drop with which to keep my throat lubricated so I could get the words out. I didn’t plan to give my talk unprofessionally chomping on a piece of gum, but you do what you have to do, and I kept thinking of friend and fellow author Susan Meier, another past president of Pennwriters and former keynote speaker I had once witnessed giving an all-day workshop in the midst of a horrendous cold, and the image of Susan gamely carrying on and delivering what she had promised the group despite her obvious misery inspired me to keep going.

The workshop went well—I handed out 19 of my 20 handouts, and just before the end D.L. Wilson stopped by for moral support and asked a question about dialect I had skipped during my presentation due to keeping an eye on the clock, enabling me to deliver my workshop in full. Thank you, David :). After that, I headed upstairs for my editor/agent appointment, which as anyone who has been to one knows can be a harrowing or even devastating experience, both of which I have survived in the past, but this time went extremely well—her last words to me were, “How soon can you get it to me?”

It doesn’t get any better than that.

After that, I was free to relax and enjoy my weekend. Which is exactly what I did. Twenty years ago I was the Pennwriters conference coordinator. How things have changed since 1989! When I did the conference, it was an optional Friday night cocktail party—I still remember Susan’s awesome dress!--and a one-day conference on Saturday, with one headline speaker--in my case the late and totally great Gary Provost—lecturing for most of the day. My, how we made that poor man work. But we wanted to know everything he could possibly tell us about writing. I still regularly recommend his book Make Every Word Count, which is long since out of print can only be found on Amazon, used. The other speakers that day were Victoria Thompson, Carla Neggers, and Alice Orr. But we only had one speaker scheduled at a time.

Now we start at 9:00 a.m. on Friday and closing ceremonies are at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, with three choices of workshops to attend at any given time, a slew of editor/agent appointments, a banquet with a headline speaker, a business meeting breakfast, an awards luncheon, the aforementioned published authors luncheon, an authors’ autographing tea—loved those brownies!!--a cocktail party or some other social event (in previous years we’ve gone to the racetrack or on a riverboat cruise, or had a murder mystery play or masquerade party—come as your favorite literary character), and read and critique sessions long into the night. Not to mention the bookstore, merchandise table, basket raffles, writing contests and numerous other activities in the hospitality suite. See what I mean? Annette and her committee did an amazing job. See Annette's photo album of the conference here.

I’ve attended 19 of the 22 Pennwriters conferences to date. That’s a lot of people met and a lot of memories to relive, and relive them we did. I can’t remember when I spent so much time laughing and just having a non-stop good time. I spent most of my down time hanging out in the lobby, reminiscing with old friends about conferences past, and making new ones, including my roommate, fellow Wild Rose Press author Sharon Donovan. The hotel we were at was the same one we’ve been going to in Pittsburgh for years, despite many name changes, and there never fails to be a wedding or a prom night full of elegantly-dressed attendees to entertain us and fuel our writers’ imaginations as we sit in the lobby schmoozing.

My only regret from the weekend is that I didn’t get enough one-on-one time with some of my favorite people, fellow writers I only get to see once a year at the conference. It was like my high school reunion. Never an idle moment, and much too short to fit everyone in. But I did my best to catch up with everyone I could, despite attending more workshops than ever before, because the line up was just too good to pass up. In years past, I was on the board, and so busy attending meetings and dealing with moment-to-moment glitches, that I missed the entire conference. Nobody realizes how much goes on behind the scenes at these things until you’ve been in the trenches, volunteering your heart out for the good of the organization. There were other conferences where I was so busy kibbutzing in the halls or hospitality suite, that I didn’t make it to a single workshop.

Not so this year. But I’m afraid I’ll have to tell you more about that next time, because to refresh my menopausal memory, I have to find my conference program, which isn’t happening this morning. Apparently a thorough office cleaning is in order :). I even checked the Pennwriters website, but all the information has been taken down in preparation for next year’s conference.

So more on the workshops, and the inspiration of banquet keynote speaker Lisa Scottoline and awards luncheon keynote and fellow (albeit currently former) Pennwriter Tim Esaias next time. (Tim seems to think he was thrown out of the organization—all in good fun, mind you--during the conference). Since I’ll be contacting him this week on another matter, I’ll see if I can get the scoop :))

Until then, consider attending a writer’s conference near you. You never know what will come out of it, and you’ll be making memories to last a lifetime.


jodi said...

I've been thinking about the Emerald City, but--just that, thinking. Maybe I'll get more thoughts on it later. I dunno.

It looks like a great conference, all the people look happy and relaxed. :)

Annette said...

Liana, thanks for all the kind words. As you mention, I didn't get to participate in very much of the conference this year, so I love hearing other's perspectives. Thanks for doing your part to make the event a success.

(And sorry for scheduling your workshop at the same time as the published authors' lunch. Oops.)