See you at the Pennwriters Conference!

May 6, 2010

***UPDATE*** 5/9:

AREA 6 PENNWRITERS: Join Lisa Kastner at Breakfast!

Lisa is our Pennwriters President and fellow Area 6 member. She coordinates the monthly Philadelphia Pennwriters critique group and supports writers throughout the region. Lisa is a great writer, a great leader, and a great person to know in Pennwriters.

Join Lisa at breakfast for a quick rally with other writers. Put faces to names, and make a new friend!

Jade Blackwater regrets to announce that after having fun day getting her hair done in Seattle to prepare for the Pennwriters Conference, she promptly came down with the flu and is unable to fly. Jade sends her deepest regrets, and encourages all writers to take full advantage of the Pennwriters Conference.

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We’re a week away from the 23rd Pennwriters Annual Writers’ Conference to be held in Lancaster, PA May 14-16 2010. This year’s conference features keynote speakers James Rollins and Elizabeth Kann, a stellar lineup of agents, editors, and authors for workshops and pitch sessions, plus designated party time at the Pennwriters ‘Heroes and Villains’ Saturday Night Masquerade Ball.

REGISTER NOW FOR THE 2010 PENNWRITERS CONFERENCE

So why should you attend? For starters, if you’re a Pennwriters member of Area 6 or another writer from the Mid-Atlantic, this is a fabulous opportunity to participate in a writers’ event right here in your region. Pennwriters offers a variety of workshops, networking, and promotional opportunities to help writers of all levels improve their work and build their business.

You don’t have to be from the East Coast to enjoy a Pennwriters event! Keynote James Rollins joins us from Northern California, and I’m flying over from Western Washington state to join the fun and support Area 6. The great thing about the Pennwriters membership is that it started with a strong community of writers from Pennsylvania, and has grown to include members from all across the US, and a few far-flung folks overseas. The annual conference is the perfect time to put a face to a name/handle/avatar/penpal/writing-buddy.

LOOK FOR LISA KASTNER JADE BLACKWATER AT BREAKFAST

AREA 6 MEMBERS (and all writers) can find me at breakfast – I’ll have something to catch the eye and make it easy to spot me – and please come introduce yourself! I want to meet members, shake hands, and introduce you to one another.

I’m on the hunt for a new volunteer for the Area 6 Representative position. All members of Pennwriters Area 6 extend a hearty thank you to Bob Michalsky for his support of Pennwriters, and wish him all the best in his endeavors! If you are ready to support writers in your area and do more with Pennwriters, then I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

GET READY TO PITCH YOUR WRITING

Over at the Pennwriters Area 6 blog, Conference Coordinator Ayleen Stellhorn stops by with tips to prepare yourself to pitch, and a detailed interview discussing more about the conference.

Pennwriters Area 6 Member Ash Krafton has also prepared a link-rich post about pitching your work, plus more about editing the muse and navigating the transition from hobby writer to career author.

Follow @Pennwriters on Twitter for even more resources including tweets about Pennwriters activities as well as news, tips, and insights from members, guests, and other writing resources. You can also Follow @JadeBlackwater on Twitter for my own #PWcon tweets plus more about writing, art, creativity, ecology, sustainability, and various miscellanea.

If you’re on Twitter, remember to use the #PWcon hashtag to tweet the conference, and use the #Pennwriters hashtag any time to chat about Pennwriters. Send @Pennwriters a @ (mention) or DM (direct message) and let them know you’re a member (tell them your name so you can be located in the roster). @Pennwriters follows Pennwriters members and guests.

If you’re on Facebook, be sure to join the Pennwriters Group and Page to keep up on news and announcements and to engage with the membership.

Contact me with any questions (or to be my last-minute volunteer angel).

See you all in Lancaster!


Feature Artist Interview: Ayleen Stellhorn

February 1, 2010

This interview also appears at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ayleen Stellhorn, freelance writer and editor, Pennwriters Member, and 2010 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Ayleen works hard, balances multiple projects, and still greets everyone with a smile (you can even “see” her smile in her friendly emails).

You can contact Ayleen via email with questions about this year’s Pennwriters Conference at this address: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com.

[Additional details are available at the end of this interview.]

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JB: Greetings Ayleen!  Thanks for joining us for an interview at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.

AS: Nice to be invited, Jade. Thank you.

JB: First, tell us a little about yourself.  What do you write?  When did you first join Pennwriters?

AS: I write newspaper and magazine articles mostly. My articles have appeared in the Hanover Evening Sun, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Right now I’m writing regularly for Lancaster Farming Journal and Adams Electric’s corporate magazine PennLines, and I just signed a contract to author a book featuring contemporary hooked rugs. I also do a lot of freelance editing for publishers of craft and hobby books. I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for about 10 years.

JB: I understand that this isn’t your first time volunteering as the Pennwriters Conference Coordinator.  Could you tell us a little about your experiences, and what brings you back to organize the 2010 Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania?

AS: I coordinated the 2008 conference in Lancaster. We had an amazing turnout, and overall, everything went really well. Award-winning literary writer and Princeton University professor Joyce Carol Oates was our keynote speaker; Susan Meier, Mary Jo Rulnick, Brian Butko, and Valerie Malmont were a few of our workshop presenters; and a record 236 people attended. We had a lot of firsts that year, including the preconference intensive classes, an author as a Friday keynote, and the networking lunch. I decided to volunteer one more year because I wanted to do a couple things differently: the first was a new hotel and the second was a commercial fiction writer as a keynote. So in 2010, we’re at the Eden Resort in Lancaster and we have adventure-thriller writer James Rollins as our Friday night keynote.

JB: This year I’ll be joining everyone in Lancaster for my first writers’ conference ever.  Can you tell a newbie like me what to expect?  What would be the *top three* things a writer could do to make the most of the Pennwriters Conference experience?

AS: Top three things for a newbie… Let’s see…

Be prepared to be overwhelmed is one. A lot goes on in a very short time, and your brain will reach overload quickly. I’ve been to five conferences, and I always walk out of each workshop with my head spinning with ideas. Even if you think you’ll remember something, write it down anyways. Odds are you’ll get another great idea — or piece of advice or link to follow — at the next workshop, and that first idea will be long gone.

Be ready to talk is two. If you’re generally the person who sits back and listens to conversations flowing around you, make a conscious decision to not be that type of person at the conference. Introduce yourself to the folks sitting at your breakfast table; find out what the person sitting next to you in a workshop likes to write; join a group of people hanging out in the hospitality room or at the bar; volunteer for one of the little jobs like moderator or Penn Pal. And along those same lines, be prepared to answer the question, “What do you write?/What are you writing?” in one or two sentences. You’ll get asked that more times than you can count.

Latch on to the positive is three. Getting published in any form takes a lot of skill, but it also takes a lot of persistence: you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. You’ll hear lots of gloom-and-doom statistics at a writers conference dealing with how many queries an agent receives and how few they accept, or how many rejection letters an author received before he or she got published, or how many writers write but quit before their manuscript is even completed. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the encouraging personal stories and listen to the advice of the agents and editors we’ve invited.

JB: Event planning is a huge undertaking – especially for something like this.  Can you tell us about some of the joys and trials of volunteering as the Conference Coordinator?  What advice would you give to other volunteers who organize events for nonprofits?

AS: The joys far outweigh the trials. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be back for my second shot at this! I love seeing a writer make a connection with an editor or agent. I love to sit at dinner and hear people talk about how their characters are running their lives. I love providing an opportunity for writers to learn and grow and just be writers in whatever genre, whether that’s nonfiction, thrillers, comics, magazines, poetry, corporate communications…. The trials (and they are sometimes devils) are in the details. Putting together a quality three-day program that will appeal to a broad range of writers is a real challenge. Lining up everything the editors, agents, and presenters need — from travel arrangements to special room set-ups — can fall through the cracks with one missed e-mail. And making sure all the little things are covered, like codes to book rooms online and full coffee pots 24/7, is sometimes overwhelming. My advice to other volunteers who organize events like ours would be to believe in what you’re doing, and be a list-maker!

JB: I know that readers can get the scoop if they follow Pennwriters on Twitter, join the Pennwriters Group on Facebook, or visit the Official Pennwriters website, but please tell us again: What are the highlights for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Highlights:

Keynote James Rollins, author of adventure thrillers, the movie novelization for the most recent Indiana Jones movie, and a new series of young adult thrillers. Watch his videos at www.jamesrollins.com to see why we think he’s going to be an excellent keynote.

Eight agents and editors: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency; Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency; Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Agency; Alex Glass, Trident Media; Janet Reid, Fine Print Literary; Barbara Lalicki, senior vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children; David Pomerico, assistant editor at Del Rey Spectra; and Leis Pederson, associate editor at Berkley. They’ll be hearing pitches, teaching classes, and critiquing first pages.

Preconference classes. Attend in-depth and interactive full-day and half-day seminars with Tim Esaias (fiction), Jonathan Maberry (nonfiction), Loree Lough (plotting), and CJ Lyons (fiction queries).

Three days of workshops. The conference fee includes more than 40 to choose from, and all the instructors are published authors or industry professionals.

JB: We’ve held the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster before.  For visitors who’ve never been to Lancaster (or perhaps even Pennsylvania), what are some of the other local perks you might suggest they check out?

AS: Take an extra day to wander through Amish country. (The city is filled with tourist attractions, which give you a good overview of the culture, but there’s nothing like checking out the roadside stands and sharing the byways with buggies.) Go shopping at the outlets. Play golf at the Host. Eat at a smorgasbord. See a play at the Dutch apple. Check out Central Market. Visit Landis Valley Farm Museum.

JB: How can writers, editors, agents, publishers, book sellers, readers, etc. help to get the word out about the Pennwriters conference?

AS: I’d like to ask folks to simply drop our name and website into whatever social media they’re using. Mention us in your Facebook status, twitter about a favorite author who will be teaching, write about us in your blog, list the event info on your own website. I’ve also got fliers that you can hang up at local coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, etc. Every little bit will help. We’ve got an amazing program, and I want to share that with as many writers as possible.

JB: Where and how can writers register for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?

AS: Online, go to www.pennwriters.com, click on Conference and then Register. If you prefer to send a check by mail, download and print a registration form at the Pennwriters website, or call or email me so I can send you one. Registration forms will also be printed in January-February 2010 issue of The Penn Writer newsletter. (Remember to book your room early. The Eden [1-866-801-6430] is a gorgeous facility but much smaller than the Host.)

JB: Finally, as a writer and journalist (and all-around awesome person), what words of wisdom or inspiration would like to share for writers and artists?

AS: Always end an interview with a question that strokes your source’s ego and makes her feel appreciated. 🙂 Nicely done, Jade.

Ayleen, we thank you again for joining us and sharing some behind-the-scenes insight.  See you at the Pennwriters Conference in May 2010!


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2010 Pennwriters Conference – The Writer’s Craft

When: May 14 – 16, 2010

(May 13, Preconference Seminars)

Where: Eden Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA

POC: Ayleen Stellhorn, Pennwriters 2010 Conference Coordinator

Web: www.pennwriters.com

Email: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com

Facebook: Be a Fan of the Pennwriters Annual Writers Conference

Twitter: Follow Pennwriters on Twitter

LinkedIn: Join Pennwriters on LinkedIn

Listserve: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PennwritersConference/


Stay True to Your Poetic Voice

July 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the July-August 2008 issue of The Penn Writer, a bi-monthly newsletter published by Pennwriters, Inc. 

 

I am a business writer by trade, and a poet by craft.  Poetry doesn’t pay bills, but when I think of all the things I love about writing, poetry is always at the forefront of my thoughts.  For me, the process of creating poetry is one of exploration and growth.

 

About five years ago I began to seriously consider pursuing publication for my poetry.  Most of my life poetry has been an independent pursuit, shared occasionally with colleagues, friends, and the random coffee-house audience.  When I began to write professionally, I realized that I was ready for the next step: I wanted to improve my poetry to be appropriate for an audience much bigger than myself.

 

The path to publication is neither direct nor generous.  Like most writers, I have a healthy stack of form rejection letters, each offering the same unhelpful response, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  From time to time, I’m inclined to wonder if I should reign in my poetic voice – modify my own work to emulate the more popular forms, tones, and styles that I see in contemporary publications.  While I might wonder about conformity, my conclusion is always the same: I must stay true to my own unique poetic voice.

 

I come to this conclusion by considering my original goals: I pursue publication for improvement and an audience, not for a byline.  How then, do I turn rejection notices into a useful tool for growth?  For me, the answer is in the editors, and in the pages of the journals to which I submit.

 

Recently I received a form rejection letter from Editor Paul B. Roth of The Bitter Oleander Press.  I like to send my work to Roth for two reasons: 1) I admire the work he publishes in The Bitter Oleander, and 2) he is one of the first editors who ever sent me thoughtful feedback on my poetry.

 

The form rejection letter is new for Roth.  He traditionally has taken the time to ensure that each submission receives a brief, personalized response.  However, like many editors, Roth faces ever-increasing numbers of submissions (hence the new form letter).  Nonetheless, in his letter Roth writes,

 

“Without the give-and-take between writer and editor, we know the effort each of us puts into our work may somehow seem a bit emptier.”

 

Herein I find the opportunity for growth:  Paul Roth and editors like him value the individuality of the writer, and are interested in the conversation of art – the interplay of creator, audience, and critic.  Roth may never find a place for my work in his pages, but the professional relationship we build – no matter how remote – is a critical part of my growth as a writer and poet.

 

I develop my trust in certain editors by reading the journals they compose.  When my work is sent back, I immediately return to the most recent issue of the selected publication and review my favorite works.  Again, I ask myself same questions that I always pose before I submit: Can I see my work in these pages?  Can I see my poems on the page facing the best works in each issue?

 

Although I may not find clear answers to these questions, I am consistently reminded of the fact that I submit to these journals because I admire what is contained in their pages.  I value individuality, and I am attracted to writers with unique voices.  I do not want to modify my work to match the common voice simply to earn a byline: I want to clarify my own voice so that it has the potential to find its own harmony in the contemporary chorus.

 

Poets must be brave.  We must conjure the strength to be mercilessly self-reflective.  We must be willing to be concise in both thought and form, sacrificing beautiful phrases for the counterweight of whitespace.  Poets and other creative writers must be willing to endure the sea of rejection letters in order to preserve our own small islands of creative individuality.  These are the challenges and rewards of the poet.

 

To poets and all writers, I offer these few words of encouragement: stay true.  Poetry is by definition an art of innovation.  In our struggle to find and nurture our own, unique poetic voice, we have the potential to create something new.  I encourage all persistent poets out there to embrace the rejection letter like a dear friend: the one who reminds us to be ourselves at the risk of not fitting in, because our individuality is our strength.