PNWA 2013 Writer’s Conference – What Did You Learn?

2013 PNWA Writers Conference

2013 PNWA Writers Conference

Bummer, it’s over.  The 2013 PNWA Writers Conference finished this last Sunday and I’m excited to use what I’ve learned!  I had a wonderful time and I’ve dedicated this posting to a trip report, from the perspective of both a writer and board trustee with PNWA.

The Seattle conference, held July 25th – July 28th, covered a wide selection of topics important for writers today. Workshops addressed the craft of writing, agent/editor relationships, marketing and social media, and the many ways to become published. In parallel, the schedule highlighted a set of nerve-wracking sessions called, “Power Pitch.” Organized like speed-dating, these ninety-minute pitch fests connected writers with agents and editors searching for new manuscripts to read and represent.

Pam Binder (PNWA President) and Sandy McCormack (PNWA Vice President) kick off announcement of literary contest winners

Sandy McCormack and Pam Binder (PNWA Vice President and President) kick off the literary contest awards on Saturday night

Several well-known authors stopped by to regale the attendees en mass. Keynote speaker Greg Bear was welcomed at the Thursday evening dessert reception.  Friday’s panel with Deb Caletti, Stella Cameron, Robert Dugoni, and Gerry Swallow offered encouragement and humor. On Saturday night, we celebrated the winners of PNWA’s Literary Contest, announced over dessert.  And on Sunday, Mary Bisbee-Beek wrapped up with a discussion on the differences between Marketing and Promotion.

Some new activities were introduced to the program this year.  PNWA hosted a free workshop for budding writers (ages 8-12) called, “Kid’s Day with Dr. Cuthbert Soup.” They also launched the 2014 PNWA Nancy Pearl Book Award, an annual literary contest.  The pilot program recognizes PNWA member’s Best Books published in 2013.

Margie Lawson, Tara Sheets, and me

Margie Lawson, Tara Sheets, and me
(Sorry for the blurry photo!)

I now have three conferences under my belt and this year was my favorite.  As a writer, I focused on the craft workshops, anything to help finish my WIP!   And I moderated three wonderful sessions, Introduction to Speculative Fiction by Danika Dinsmore and two of the many mind-bending sessions led by Margie Lawson on her EDITs system and deep editing techniques. (This list barely hints at the packed agenda.  See PNWA’s website for the full listing.)

Tara Sheets & Jean Miller

Tara Sheets & Jean Miller

The conference was also a great forum to speak informally with agents and editors and a way to connect your peeps.  I hung out with Tara Sheets, a 2013 finalist for the RWA Golden Heart Award (Thanks for the photos!).  I caught up with Richard Hacker, who recently signed a contract for his third book with Champagne Press. And had the opportunity to say hello to many writer friends, like Jean Miller, who I met in the Popular Fiction Certificate programs put on by the UW.

Tara Sheets and I, waiting for more caffeine.  And look, our outfits match.

Tara Sheets and I, waiting for more caffeine. And look, our outfits match.

And as a new writer, I send a big thanks to the conference organizers.  A special shout-out to Pam Binder, best-selling author and PNWA president, for her vision and tireless efforts.  And a call-out to the amazing PNWA staff, volunteers, and other board members who helped make the conference into such great event.

My favorite learning from the conference?  For me, it was Margie Lawson’s workshop on how to write dialogue cues like a psychologist.  That, and her review of “power words” provided a focus for final edits on my current WIP.

What’s the favorite thing you learned?

Posted in PNWA (Pacific Northwest Writers Association), Reading and Writing Events, Seattle Events, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Come On, Babs! Do You Want To Miss the Sky God?

Why do we yell and scream like maniacs, just to celebrate the new year?

I live about a block from the Space Needle where there’s a spectacular fireworks show on New Year’s Eve.  Last December, I decided to stay home and comfort my cat, Pandora.  It was loud night.  Partiers grouped on the sidewalk outside, drank openly and hollered at the show, exploding overhead.  A couple guys actually ran down the center of my tiny street, flailing their arms along the way.

You’d think the world was coming to an end.  But nope.  Not even in 2012.  But it got me thinking.  Why do human being celebrate like this?  When did we start going a little crazy, just because tomorrow happens to be a new year?

So I checked out  

shutterstock_38809144According to one of the site’s stories,  Babylonians are the earliest on record to kick up their heels on New Year’s Eve, some 4,000 years ago. These party-hardy ancestors actually whooped it up twice a year, in a festival called “Akitu,” celebrating the renewal from the past and prosperity in the future.  Festivities coincided with both the spring equinox (the beginning of the lunar calendar) and the fall equinox (the time to harvest).

I can just imagine the typical Babylonian husband calling to his wife during the hoop de la.  “Hey Babs.  Let’s run from hut-to-hut and scream joyous prayers at the sky.  Plus we can’t miss the neighbor’s reenactment of Maruk’s victory over Tiamut, in costume.  I love it when that evil, sea goddess bitch gets tromped by the god of the sky.”

Fast forward several thousand years, in 46 B.C., when Julius Caesar had to solve a “syncing issue” between the existing Roman calendar and the actual orbit of the sun.  Apparently, part of the fix was to move New Year’s Day to the beginning of the month of Januarius, honoring Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, an interesting dude.

Janus is a deity with two faces who can simultaneously look into the past and out to the future.   His particular festivities included crazy parties, and “sacrifices to Janus, exchanging gifts, decorating their homes with laurel branches.”

Sounds a little like today?  Well, sort of.   Instead of sacrificing a goat to Janus, we destroy a few brain cells.

And I think we do see New Years Eve as a time to look with with two faces, to be relieved we’ve survived the past year and to hope for our futures.  When we blow paper horns and scream at the top of our lungs, are we, like our ancestors, issuing a loud kind of prayer to our gods for renewal and prosperity?  Maybe railing at what lurks ahead helps us cope?

Celebrating in the street – or the center of an ancient village – must help, right?  And what better way to rock the ancient Babylonia’s sky god, Maruk, than the dazzling fireworks of today.  I’ll bet that even Babs would agree.

As a footnote, I was inspired to write this post by my friend Pam Binder.  She posted a wonderful summary of ancient Yule Tide celebrations (“Winter Solstice”), in her blog at

Posted in Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NW Bookfest: Another Reason to Buy Books!

Yesterday, I attended Northwest Bookfest 2012 , a festival held this past weekend in Kirkland, WA.  Free to attendees, it celebrates the literary arts and provides a forum to connect readers, writers, publishers, editors and authors.  Attendees can participate in and host workshops, panels, and author readings.  Plus, you can buy more (signed) books than you can carry!

I staffed a booth at the festival with author Tara Sheets. Tara is amazing – it’s always a kick to hang with her and we’re doing complementary blog postings on the topic!  We were at Bookfest supporting the Pacific Northwest Writers Association (PNWA), a non-profit dedicated to helping “develop writing talent from pen to publication through education, accessibility to the publishing industry, and participation in an interactive, vital writer community.”  Tara and I followed Jim Harris and Brian Mercer who worked the booth on Saturday.

Throughout the day, we chatted with festival attendees, described the benefits of PNWA membership, and awarded newly-signed members one of the amazing Author Magazine mugs, rumored to improve writing skills with each use (I’m using Tara’s perfectly staged photo of the mug for this blog).  New members also received a PNWA tote bag and for the brave, an electric, lime-green tee shirt, size large.

It was great to be surrounded by others with a passion for reading (make that, obsession?).  I ran into a couple folks I knew from Vulcan Inc., Betty Mayfield and Christey Bahn.  Some of the other wonderful visitors included:  romance author Deb Schneider, also a tireless Bookfest volunteer, historical romance author Gerri Russell, who taught a workshop on indie publishing, YA steampunk author Ren Cummins, who in addition to writing other books, wrote a series for his daughter with a strong girl protagonist who also likes pretty dresses, historical fiction author Katherine Pym, pilot author Karlene Petitt, Karen Junker, the founder and executive director of Cascade Writers. Also Cynthia White, a development editor, and an author about government and politics, George Scott.  Plus lots that I missed.

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who joined PNWA – member fees enable the organization to operate.  And a shout out to all the volunteers that made Northwest Bookfest possible. Well done!

Posted in Reading and Writing Events, Seattle Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jump, You Big Chicken, Jump!

What enables someone to fling themselves into the Blogosphere, pushing past fear of failure in a very public way?  I think it’s a combination of knowledge, chutzpa, and knowing they’re not alone.  I salute these brave souls.

I’ve talked about “launching a blog” for several months, studying books and websites which espouse the rules of creating a web log.  I lurked, strategized, planned and started listing out my tasks.  But I like to get things right.  And the prospect of baring my soul before being completely ready – much like many writers – turned me into an immobilized skydiver, quivering at the open door of a plane, staring down at the world of WordPress below.

Today, my internal pilot took control.  She accused me of wasting precious fuel and pushed me out of the plane.

So here I am, hurdling into this aspect of my online journey with what I’ve learned to date.  Successful bloggers note that the best blogs serve to educate their readers.  They communicate in a way that’s consumable, entertaining, and they inspire people to connect.  Kristen Lamb, in her book, Are You There, Blog?  It’s Me, Writer, explains how blog postings should be true, helpful, informative, necessary and kind.  I plan to take these teachings to heart.  And since I want to enjoy what I’m doing, I hope the things I’m passionate about can be made of service to my readers.

I own a small plaque painted with a quote from John Burroughs, “Leap and the net will appear.”  I guess it’s about time to dive into the discussion.  Maybe, my followers might want to come along?  I just hope that, like me, they don’t take too long to jump in!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments