Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Philadelphia Writer's Conference and a Contest Winner


Todays blog will be about two special people in our South Jersey Writers Group, James Knipp and Shelley Szajner. Not only are they both featured authors in Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey, but Jim is now the Registrar for the Philadelphia Writers Conference and Shelley is the winner of a partial scholarship that allows her to attend the Philadelphia Writers Conference at half the cost.        Three cheers for Shelley!!! 

                                                   I'll start my interview with Jim.


Hi Jim. Everyone with the South Jersey Writers Group is very excited about your new position with the Philadelphia Writers Conference, but I bet our followers would like to know more about the job. Could you please give us a little info?

I'm the registrar for the Philadelphia Writers Conference, which means I'm responsible for getting individuals signed up for their workshops and getting ID badges printed. In previous years, this was done mostly manually. We previously had a site that you could register online and pay with a credit card, but there were a number of problems with cash flow and there were still a lot of manual processes.

What was your first duty as the Registrar?

This year we bought some great new software that required us to set things up from scratch. It was great because we were able to really put together a complete End to End process for our users. The new set up lets users select their specific workshops in a way that's more intuitive. It applies discounts for our workshop presenters, our board, and our scholarship recipients. It allows users to select their dinner choices. We were also able to build a page that allowed people to upload their manuscripts for the annual writing contest and the critique sessions. Previously, all these things were done manually and by individual board members.

Could you tell us a little bit about the contest?

Setting up the scholarships was especially challenging because I had to create a unique scholarship code that could be used only once. We offer five full Memorial Scholarships to worthy applicants and nearly 100 scholarships worth 50% of the basic cost of the conference to writers organizations and area colleges and universities. This is the first year the South Jersey Writers' Group was part of the list and I thought it be a good idea to have our own contest to determine who would win the scholarship. Turns out it was Shelley!

Who won the contest and how was the winner chosen?

What I suggested to Amy and Krista was that we mimic the Writers Conference contest, so we set up the rules (one entry/participant, 2500 word limit) and sent a note out to group members letting them know. I posted the entrants at my blog and asked group members to vote. Shelley's came from behind with a late surge and ended up winning by one vote!
Thank you, James, for taking the time to do this interview and for all of our followers, you can find James Knipp on the sites below or better yet, buy the book and read "No Fun Joe".

For more information about the Philadelphia Writers Conference, visit

Jim Knipp's blog is

                                    Now dear readers, it's Shelley Szajners turn to shine.


1. Shelley, we are all so proud of you, and my first question is why did you enter the contest? 

A. I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to attend the PWC through a scholarship and at the same time test my skills as a writer. Through the many workshops that I’ve attended and articles I’ve read, it was stressed many times over that to get your writing chops, you had to put yourself out ‘there.’ And for me, the contest was the next logical step. Never having submitted any of my writing in a contest before, I discovered that I was a little apprehensive but also excited. I didn’t expect to win since there are so many talented writers in our group, although I was both surprised and delighted when I did.


2. Is this the first time going to the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference?

A. Yes. I was aware of the conference and heard many good things about it but never entertained the idea of going until I had learned about the contest. I was born in Philadelphia and have an affinity for this city, a city that should be honored for its important role in the birthing of our nation.


3. What do you hope to gain by going?

A. First and foremost, I hope to make some contacts as well as meet other writers and indulge in writing related events or workshops for three days. Secondly, I want to learn more about the craft of writing. Speaking of craft, when I first started out as a writer I didn’t have a clue as to what was involved. Writing great fiction or nonfiction requires an extensive knowledge of the craft. You can never seem to know enough. There is always more to learn! Of course, practice makes perfect, so along with craft, writing and more importantly, rewriting are the skill sets that will truly make your stories shine.


4. Tell us about the story you entered and why? Include a paragraph from the story.

A. Amenti is a short story that is essentially about the Grim Reaper, personified as the main character Amenti but with a twist. He wants to quit his job. The problem is that his bosses won’t let him out of the contract. Disaster ensues when Amenti doesn’t get his way. I chose this story because I thought it was intriguing and not my usual genre, which is middle grade and YA fiction.


Excerpt below:


The sound of children’s laughter from below the second story window broke the heavy silence as Amenti waited. He liked children. They were the least afraid of him and some even gave him the rarest of gifts—a smile, just before he took them into the land of night. Their flower blazed like a brilliant sun before it shot up through the tunnel and was gone. It contrasted with his own darkness, so complete, that literally nothing save the Flower of Fire could withstand his presence and not be eclipsed. Children had the brightest of flowers with the exception of the old ones who had fulfilled their ancient contracts and were free to leave, never to return again. He longed for that same freedom—no, he ached for it, would die for it even, but he, Amenti the Taker, the Shepherd of his flock could never die.
Thank you, Shelley, for taking the time to do this inteview and for sharing a part of the story that won the contest for you. If you're interested in seeing more of Shelley Szajner's writing style, please visit her site below or buy the book and read "The Feathered Messenger".
Shelley’s Blog

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