Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Five Reasons to Go to the Philadelphia Writers' Conference 2015

C'mon, Jim, just one conference, it'll make you feel good...
By Jim Knipp 

It’s all Krista Magrowski’s fault.  This whole infatuation with the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference started with her innocent little statement of “the Philly conference is happening soon, you should check it out.”

I checked it out.  And within two years of that first conversation, I was on the Executive Board, building registration sites, and generally doing nothing but breathing, eating, and sleeping Philadelphia Writers’ Conference for six months out of the year (the other six months are spent dreaming about the next conference.)  That first conference was five years ago, and I think I love it more every year.  And this year I’m especially excited.  I’ll give you five reasons why.

Our speakers. Both our opening and our keynote speaker are nationally recognized talents and I really can’t wait to hear what they have to say.

uh...dude, that was a cheetah...
Opening speaker Sara Shepard caught a tiger by the tail a decade ago when her debut novel Pretty Little Liars hit the shelves.  And she’s ridden that tiger like Harold and Kumar through thirty novels, two television series, and enough awards to need a second or third mantle.

Speaking of awards, every year The American Society of Magazine Editors gives out the National Magazine Award.  It’s basically the magazine version of the Pulitzer Prize.   Our Keynote speaker, Stephen Fried, has two of them.  TWO!  It’s like he won the first and decided he needed a matching piece to balance out his book shelf.  Stephen as won these by writing about subjects as varied as supermodels to restaurateurs; from the joys and trials of being a husband and father to the trials and lies surrounding the pharmaceutical industry.
Dan Stabb

Our Workshops. In addition to our regular standbys The Novel, Short Story, and Poetry, we also will be offering Playwriting, three separate genre workshops (Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult, and Romance), plus a great assortment of features, including an hour with Sara Shepard to talk about her experiences selling pieces to Hollywood and an exciting course about developing your improvisational skills to help your writing.

Melinda Emerson
Most exciting for me is a three-day workshop on Social Media with “Small-Biz” lady Melinda Emerson.  While we’ve offered social media workshops before, they’ve always been shorter affairs, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much more in depth we can get by giving Melinda three hours to walk through these most necessary of tools.

Could it be you?
Agents and Editors.  As writers who want to market our work, and who know how hard it is to get the attention of an agent or a marketplace, the chance to sit down with an agent or an editor is damn near priceless.  And at the PWC, you’re offered that chance!  On Friday afternoon, we have five minute “speed dates” were you can pitch your work or even just discuss some of the challenges you face or the ideas you have.  The market last year seemed to finally open a little, and it was great to sit at the registration table and hear some of the chatter from the agents (or even better, help track down a conferee who an agent wanted to speak to again!).  Markets seem to be trending as open again, so I can’t wait to see who I’ll be helping towards success this year.

Critiques not following guidelines get reviewed by Carl;  you don’t want your piece reviewed by Carl.
Critiques.  Most of us belong to critique groups where our peers offer feedback on our work.  How would you like nationally recognized, Asimov and Tor published Fran Wilde to critique your short story?  Or maybe have your blank verse checked out by Ken Pobo, the Linback Award-winning PhD who teaches at Widener University.  Or how about international bestseller Suzanne Palmieri (The Witch of Bourbon Street) or the award-winning Solomon Jones (Pipe Dream) giving your novel excerpt a read through?  All of our three-day workshop leaders have agreed to critique work.  You won’t get that opportunity anywhere else.

Networking.   During my first conference, I met Don Lafferty who essentially is the midwife of my blog, KnippKnopp.  I met Kelly Simmons who said four words to me (“that was fu**ing awesome”) that keep me going to this day.  During the second conference, I met Jonathan Maberry, who let me interrupt his breakfast to give me additional imput on the piece I submitted for critique.  And the networking isn’t limited to board members and workshop leaders.  I’d need four extra hands to count the friends I’ve made, the advice and input I’ve been granted, and the energy I’ve gained by just meeting other writers, sharing in their stories, and seeing how similar they were to my own.

Wait, isn’t that this many?
Cost.  The price of admission (minimum $270) seems high.  If you compare to other conferences, you’ll find the PWC is right in-line (and in many cases lower), then comparable conferences.  But I understand when there are bills to pay, it may not matter and scraping together that cash can be tough. 

To that end, the PWC board has done a few things.  One, we extended the student discount to all students.  So if you’re attending a local college, you can attend for 50% of the price.  Two, we’re keeping the writer’s group scholarships.  The SJWG scholarship has already been awarded, but if you’re part of  another writers group that hasn’t been issued code, talk with the group, register them, and claim their code.  Finally, we’ve initiated a group discount policy.  If you register with seven others as a group, you get 20% (that’s up to $60) knocked right off the top.
And if you can get nine dressed like this, I’ll make sure you get the best seats at dinner

I truly believe that all of the things I mention above: the critiques, the camaraderie, the exposure are invaluable.  For the years before I joined the board, I always considered the conference an investment.  I really hope you see it that way too, and I hope to see you at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference!

About today's guest-blogger: 

Jim Knipp is a writer only in the sense that he very occasionally gets to actually write things.  He has been not-writing like this for over thirty years and most recently can be found posting ridiculous things on his blog, KnippKnopp, or guest writing for the very patient folks at BiffBamPop!.  In addition to not-writing, Jim is an HR Project Manager at Comcast, the Registrar for the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference, and a member of exceedingly seedy standing at the South Jersey Writers’ Group.

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