Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pennwriters 2013 in Review

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Last weekend I attended my first ever Pennwriters conference (first for me, that is). Sorry, I don't have a lot of pictures. I was too busy having my mind blown.

There were definitely things I was looking forward too. For one, I was going to get to (finally!) meet Twitter friend Jenna Bennett. And I would be able to (finally!) meet one of my remote Sisters in Crime friends and a fabulous editor, Ramona DeFelice Long. And, of course, I'd be able to hang with all of my local SinC friends as well.

And learn stuff. Don't forget learning stuff.

And boy, did I learn stuff! Lots of panels on branding and marketing. A fun session on bladed weapons to start things off (I picked the right sword for my Hero's Sword series - yes!). An in-character panel, where I learned I really do understand Jim Duncan, my PSP trooper hero of the Laurel Highlands series (and yes, pretending to be a 35-year old man is a challenge).

I really wanted to attend the Thursday pre-conference session with Donald Maass. But there's, you know, that money thing. But I did buy his books - and got them autographed. He's a charming, funny guy.

I had a fabulous dinner Saturday, talking to all my SinC sibs and visiting with the always lovely Hank Phillippi Ryan - and Hank, we're all right about that title business.

And I met people - oh boy, did I meet people! I won't even bother to try and list them by name, because I will forget someone and feel horrible. That's just the way it is. But I met two wonderful ladies from the Buffalo area, where I grew up (finally - people who understand that snowfall in "Buffalo" is all too often actually in the suburbs!). Had breakfast on Sunday with some fine folks from eastern PA. Shuttled two agents from the Amtrak station Thursday, before the conference, to the Marriott. I did behave myself - I didn't meet them at the station with manuscript in hand. I do think I scared them a little bit merging from Liberty Ave. onto the Ft. Pitt Bridge. But hey, that's Pittsburgh, right? Talked with Jason Jack Miller and wife, Heidi Ruby Miller, who are funny and friendly. (And, thank you again, Jason for talking me off the ledge when I thought I was going to have to start my digital footprint all over again!)

I learned that writers, of all types and genres, are fabulous people. But you knew that, right?

But I suppose the most powerful moment of the conference was Friday night's keynote by Donald Maass. Two things he said:

  1. In the 21st century, life changing books will be written.
  2. This is our (writers) century - because we're going to write it.
Oh. My.

I suppose Friday and Saturday could have, and maybe should have, been spent mingling and schmoozing. But I couldn't. I went back to my room and finished my current round of revisions on Wedding Bells: Hero's Sword Vol. 3. On Sunday, I finished reading Revision & Self-editing. And then on Tuesday, I plotted a new Laurel Highlands story. I was so fired up and ready to write, I just couldn't do anything else.

Will any of these stories change the world? I don't know. I hope I at least entertain, if nothing else. But you can't change the world with a blank page. You can't entertain unless you tell the story. Learning is important - critical, even - but unless you put pen to paper (or pixel to screen) what's the point?

Will people be inspired, entertained, changed by what I write? I don't know. But doggone it, after last weekend, I'm going to try.

Because if I don't try, really, what's the point?


  1. Yes - this is exactly how I felt at the end of the weekend! I've read other blog posts about the conference and we all seem to have the same collective feeling about it. We came away with an overwhelming motivation to just write! I've written more in the last 3 days than I did in the last month.

    I also loved Donald Maass's speech. Pure motivation.:)

    It was great meeting you and sharing the Buffalo stories.

    Adrienne (One of the Buffalo ladies. :))

    1. Great meeting you too. Hope to see you again.

      Yes, a lot of us seemed to come away with the same "fired up" feeling. And I guess that's really the best part of these kinds of events - reminding us just why we do this crazy thing called "writing" in the first place.

  2. Great post, Mary! It was so nice meeting you. :)