This year, I attended six and a half workshops, moderated two, have a batch of handouts to preserve in binders and lots of useful tools to add to my writerly toolbox.
Though Melva and I arrived at the conference mere minutes too late to attend Katy Regnery‘s workshop on boutique and small publishing, we were right on time for T.L. Costa’s “An Agent Wants to See Pages, Now What?” Ms. Costa’s infectious energy whisked us through the essentials of polishing manuscripts, use of active voice and making white space our friend. She put us to work with a Cards Against Humanity-like exercise, randomly pairing unique characters and settings. to come up with openings to hook agents, editors and readers. My assignment was “seventy-six year old man with a broken hip” and “p*rn convention.” My exercise
may have included the phrase “lifetime achievement award.”
Next up was my first ever time moderating a workshop in person (I’d been online workshop chair during my tenure at Charter Oak Romance Writers) I’d already heard Leigh Duncan’s Book It, Dan-O on a recording of last year’s national conference, and found it extremely helpful. I’m still a paper gal at heart, so learning how to use a good old fashioned binder to organize my research and plotting was right up my alley. Leigh couldn’t have been more gracious, or put me more at ease. To access Leigh’s handouts at her website, click link above. I’m going to have to try some of these for my own notebooks. My only disappointment was that Leigh’s workshop was opposite Cathryn Parry‘s Rediscovering the Joys Of Writing, which I also heard on last year’s National recording. I have handwritten notes aplenty from my multiple listenings, and would love to catch Cathryn present it in person in the future.
Another favorite workshop started off the day, Patricia Grasso’s Plotting With Panache. I always get something new out of this workshop, which applies the estimable Ms. Grasso’s plotting techniques to two classic movies: Jaws and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Bonus points for handwritten handouts, including a blank plotting chart to try out this method on our own. I was thrilled to moderate this one, as Ms. Grasso has long been a favorite, and her workshops are not to be missed. Definitely need to get current on her backlist, as this workshop reminded me how much I enjoy her voice.
My half workshop was the Ann DeFee half of “From Monty Python to Michelangelo,” by Linda Cardillo and Ann DeFee, but Melva proved her friendship by snagging me handouts for the whole thing. Though my pitch session didn’t allow me to hear Linda Cardillo’s approach, Ms. DeFee’s voice came through loud and clear as she gave helpful pointers for keeping comedy true to the authorial voice. Bonus points to both presenters for dressing as a team, in gorgeous jackets, identical in design and complementary in color. Now that’s commitment to team teaching.
Terri Brisbin taught us how to be happy hookers…in the writing sense, that is. Standing room only for this one, though I did snag a seat when another attendee left for a pitch session, and Terri promised to send pdf files of all handouts to any who didn’t get the paper version. Along with Terri’s handouts on different plotting techniques and how to hook readers, she also gave us Deborah Hale’s adaptation of The Hero’s Journey to romance specific writing, titled The Lover’s Journey. There’s another workshop I’d love to attend, if Ms. Hale were to present it. I have a few Brisbins moving up the ladder on my TBR pile as well.
Barbara Wallace spoke on Busting Through Writer’s Block, detailing different sorts of blocks, brainstorming ways around them, and would you believe there’s even a case for neuroscience having a hand in this? Surprisingly (or not,) there is. No easy cures, alas, but this workshop offers some useful tools in getting back in the writing groove, whether the cause is medical, situational or creative.
Final workshop of the weekend had my ears perked, as former Harlequin Presents powerhouse Sandra Marton spoke on her transition to self-publishing and presented (pun unintended) the pros, cons and cautions of taking the independent route, as well as some blunt talk about money along the way. In short, with great power comes great responsibility, but oh how sweet freedom can taste. Short-short version, self publishing isn’t for sissies, but can be a viable route for those willing to work hard.
I wasn’t able to attend all the workshops, alas, so am still looking forward to Devon Ellington‘s workshop on building a series, Madeline Hunter‘s workshop on books that write themselves (wouldn’t that be handy?) and the other intriguing offerings at future events.