Friday, January 22, 2010

The Inside Scoop on The Write Stuff: Part I

The 2010 Write Stuff Conference is coming up fast. Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group President Tori Bond caught up with Kathryn Craft, Conference Chair, and Tammy Burke, Conference Co-Chair, for some insider information about what’s new this year, tips about making the most of the conference, and some advice about networking with agents and editors at the conference.

Tori Bond: The Write Stuff conference usually runs Friday and Saturday but this year it starts on Thursday, March 25th and runs through Saturday the 27th. Can you tell us what’s happening on Thursday? What else is new this year?

Kathryn Craft: Expanded pre-conference activities this year required that we tack on Thursday as well. Our keynote, James N. Frey (HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD NOVEL) actually proposed it: we will offer a two-day workshop with James, "How to Plot Like the Pros," in which he will lead us through the collective plotting of a story in two 8 a.m.–5 p.m. sessions. We hear that former participants have loved it. Since the first conference activities on Friday begin at 6:30 p.m., conferees who choose to do so can participate in both without conflict. This will be a rare opportunity for East Coast writers to interact James, who lives in California, and has a reputation as one of the finest creative writing teachers in the country.

On Thursday night, we'll offer a special conference edition of The Writer's Cafe. This informal networking event will encourage conferees to get to know one another while talking about our favorite subject—writing. The 7:30-9:30 p.m. event is free, open to all conferees, and, if we're pitching work to agents or editors at the conference, we can practice our pitches on one another and gain feedback.

T: How many years has The Write Stuff conference been going on? Why do you feel it has been so successful for so many years?

K: This is the 17th year for GLVWG, which has held a conference in one form or another every year but one, I believe. There are so many reasons for its success—the opportunity to gain valuable face time with agents and editors, to learn more about the craft, to gain insight into the world of publishing, to keep up-to-date on new trends, to network, to refuel the muse—that maybe its very diversity of opportunity is the answer. There's something for everyone. We continue to find new ways to reach out to writers and meet their needs.

T: You’ve attended, and helped organize other writers conferences in the area. What do you feel makes The Write Stuff unique?

K: It's size—small enough for good interaction yet large enough to attract good speakers and agents—and the fact that rather than support a set agenda, we actually listen to the evolving needs of the writing community. A GLVWG member once told me that she had been coming to the conference for ten years and that it held nothing new for her (remember, Joan?). She may not realize it, but I took that comment on as a challenge. Yes, there are some topics we always see requested, like the agent panel or how to write a query letter. But in the years I've been involved with programming we've tried to find fresh approaches and new topics so that conferees both old and new will be stimulated. This is now my 10th Write Stuff conference and I have to admit, I'm going to have a devil of a time deciding which sessions to go to, which makes me glad conference recordings are available to our members!

T: I know that you strive to schedule workshops that have appeal for the widest range of writers. For example, can you talk about why a science fiction writer would be interested in attending the session, "How to Seduce Your Reader" given by romance writer Tracy MacNish?

K: GLVWG is made up of all kinds of writers and our presenters know that. Since we have three breakout rooms to play with, my approach has been to create a fiction track, a nonfiction track, and a business of publishing track so that specialists always have a session they might be drawn to. We do have genre writers heading the fiction sessions; you mentioned Tracy, who writes historical romance. Fiction writers who want to sell their books know that including a little sizzle goes a long way toward selling books. Tracy happens to have a specialty at this, and she can share techniques that can work in any kind of fiction. Our YA writer, Jordan Sonnenblick, creates great characters, so why not learn from the best? Bill Kent can break down the basics of writing action in a way someone who’s done it less may never have considered. When you go to a talk by someone who knows what they are talking about, someone who communicates effectively and with passion, you always take away something worthwhile. No matter the genre, good writing is good writing, and good storytelling is good storytelling.

T: What is your best tip for getting the most out of The Write Stuff conference?

K: The most obvious one is SIGN UP EARLY. You'll save yourself money through Early Bird discounts (discounts end Feb. 25), including Four Points Sheraton hotel rooms at an all-time low of $85/night, and you'll stand a good chance of getting your first choice for opportunities with limited enrollment.

Once you are on site at the conference, though, my advice is to play to your weaknesses. The conference is about opening yourself to new people and ideas and opportunities, after all. Many writers are introverts, so if talking to other writers scares you, use the conference to practice—again and again. Telling fellow writers about your project this year is great groundwork for pitching it to agents next year. If your specialty is creating an effective sense of time and place you might be drawn to Tracy's session on that topic—but maybe what you really need to hear is what a veteran like Molly Cochran has to say about actually finishing all those projects you've started. If you fear the way the internet is changing the publishing world yet still hope to succeed, make sure to attend David Wilk's session on the new rules and tools for writers. Stretch yourself in this way and you will see how quickly a little discomfort will translate into new inspiration.
Besides her responsibilities as Conference Chair, Kathryn Craft is also a developmental editor at, and writes literary women's fiction and memoir.  

Tori Bond is the President of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and writes humorous women’s fiction.  
More from Tori's interview, including responses from Co-Chair Tammy Burke, in our next post.


  1. Great interview!

    I'm really excited about coming to this year's conference - especially James Frey's 2-day workshop :)

  2. I am very much looking forward to the will be my first!!