Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Chessiecon 2014 – Had the Best Time!

The logo for "Chessiecon" - a pencil sketch of a fictitious seasmonster from the Chesapeake Bay.


I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone associated with Chessiecon, from organizers to volunteers to attendees. I had such a blast!

I had a table in the dealer’s room, too, this year–so I got to see a lot more folks “regularly” as they passed on through to peruse various wares. I had a great time chatting with everyone.

Total squee: all those folks who asked for Book 2 in the Charm City Darkness series. You guys made my day! (Note: It will be out soon! :))

I have one more public event this year, next weekend at the Bel Air Armory for their annual “Artists and Authors” day. It’s my old stomping grounds, so I hope to see a lot of folks I went to school with (hint, hint). Please stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Darkover Schedule

"Darkover 36" CaptionI’ll be in Timonium, MD Thanksgiving Weekend for the last-ever Darkover Convention.

I don’t expect to have a table, but I’ll be carrying paperback copies of my novel and short stories from my publisher for you to touch and feel (or buy). 🙂

Here’s my schedule:

4:00 – 5:00PM: Military SF – Why Should You Read It? – What does Military SF contribute to the SF genre? Is its contribution more than merely entertainment value? Are there stories or themes that Military SF tells better than other SF sub-genres? Discussion should include examples and recommendations.

7:00 – 8:00PM: “Show, don’t tell!” – This is an age-old piece of advice from writers. What the heck does it mean? Is it important for writers (including screenwriters and playwrights) to understand this advice? If so, why?

10:00 – 11:00am: Katherine Kurtz: The Deryni Effect – When Ballantine began its Adult Fantasy line, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni Rising was their first title by a modern Fantasy author. Authors and fans discuss why they think the Deryni series has been so popular and received such widespread acclaim.

12:00 – 1:00PM: Jaelle’s Memorial – Held in Atrium (Just Attending)

4:00 – 5:00PM: Autograph Session

5:00 PM – Broad Universe Reading with Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Margaret Carter, Meriah Crawford, Elektra Hammond, Erika Satifka, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Leona Wisoker, and Sarah Pinsker.

6:00 – 7:00PM: The “Woman with a Sword” Phenomenon – Take your pick: from Robert E. Howard’s “Red Sonya” (a 16th Century Russian warrior-woman) to Marvel’s “Red Sonja” (a swordswoman of the Hyborian Age); from C.L. Moore’s “Jirel of Joiry” (a wandering Fantasy swordswoman) to J.A. Pitts’s “Sara Beauhall” (a Urban Fantasy lesbian blacksmith) and Revolution’s “Charlie Matheson”. And it seems that dozens of new book covers feature pictures of sword-wielding, leather-clad women. Why the attraction? Is “the woman with a sword” motif a guaranteed “winning combination” for a writer or an artist?

12:00 – 1:00PM: Short Stories vs. Novels: Does Size Matter? -How does “word count” affect the writer’s craft? Writers discuss different strategies and goals when writing short vs. long fiction. Pinsker(M), Ackley-McPhail, Crist, Harmon, Sonnier.

I hope to see you there! Please drop by and say hello if you’re around.


The Con Needs Volunteers!

If you can help out, see this Darkover Volunteer Page. Every hour you volunteer, can earn you a dollar off the admission to next year’s First Annual Chessiecon.

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Darkover Schedule – Thanksgiving Weekend

Darkover 34 ConventionI received my Darkover Schedule for November!

I’m ‘totally psyched’ about being invited back. I attended for the first time last year, and met many (fascinating, literary, exciting, and interesting) people that I hope to connect with again.

The line-up is HUGE this year, and includes such greats as C.S. Friedman, Esther Friesner, Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Mark P. Donnelly, Katherine Kurtz, Melissa Scott, and more! I can’t wait.

Here’s my tentative schedule (Friday, November 25- Sunday, November 27):


  • 5 PM How Many Vampires Does It Take To…
    Literature about vampires is approaching its 300th anniversary in Western literature (and it’s even older in Asian literature). What makes these night-loving messy eaters so fascinating? If you had the chance to be immortal, would you pay this price? With Margaret Carter, Heather Rose Jones,Tim Liebe, Scott MacMillan; Don Sakers, Mod.
  • 8pmBroad Universe Rapid Fire Reading
    With Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Debra Killeen, and Vonnie Winslow-Crist. (If you want me to read from anything in particular, drop me a line!)


  • 11amThe Literary Handyman: Q&A on the Craft and Business of Being a Writer.
    Hear about professional experience on both sides of the world of publishing. The audience presents questions about the topic and the panel fields them. With Danielle Ackley-McPhail.
  • 4pmAutograph session.
    (This is more for the big guys, but I’m on the roster anyway. 🙂 )


  • 11 amPromoting 101
    Workshop/panel discussion. Learn about when and how to promote for little to no expense. Covers creative marketing, reviews, press releases, author interviews, and more. With Danielle Ackley-McPhail and Elektra Hammond.
  • 1pm Animal Sidekicks
    Besides cats, wolves, horses and dragons what else is there and why? With Tim Liebe, Alanna Morland, Michelle Sonnier and Carl Cipra, Mod.
  • 2PMQuestions and Answers
    All authors. Come and ask questions of your favorite authors who are here this year. Jennifer Heise (Mod)

Darkover is held in Timonium, MD. If you’re in the area, I do hope you stop by.

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Eight Tips to Make Your Next Writers Conference Awesome

I stumbled across this article today from Penny C. Sansevieri, editor of The Book Marketing Expert newsletter.

Since I’ve talked many times before about writing conferences, and recently hosted interviews with conference planners and coordinators, I decided to share Penny’s wisdom.

If you missed the 3-part interview series on attending and planning writers’ conferences, you can catch up here:

Guest Post by Penny C. Sansevieri:

I love going to writers conferences, and it’s really awesome when I’m speaking there as well. But as wonderful as the networking is, if you don’t show up with a plan or a set of action items for the conference, you can get sucked up into the vibe of the event without being very productive. Here are some tips to help you maximize your event!

Goals: Before you go to a writers conference, be clear on your goals. If it’s just networking, that’s great, but if you want to get more than networking out of the event, make sure you establish your specific objectives in advance.

Start networking before the event starts: Now that you’ve gone through the conference website, it’s time to identify the folks you’d like to get to know better and start your networking early. Send them an email and tell them you are looking forward to seeing them at the event, or hearing them speak. Follow them on Twitter and begin to network with them there. Early networking is a great way to get in front of agents and publishers you might not otherwise have access to.

Make appointments early: The conference website should be your new best friend. Comb through it to find names of publishers and agents who are going to be there. Most conferences will offer you publisher or agent appointments so you can present your work, but if you want to coordinate a meeting with someone for any other reason dig through the website to find out who will be there and see if you can get on their calendar. I have shown up at conferences hoping to make appointments there and found that they’re not only difficult to schedule, but often confusing as well. Once you hit the conference floor the momentum of the event takes over, and any appointments that haven’t been confirmed prior to event generally won’t happen.

Take business cards: Make sure you bring a lot of business cards, running out at an event is never good.

Stay organized: I will generally bring some letter-sized envelopes with me to the event and then file cards by session or event so I can keep track of where I collected them. For example, let’s say I went to a big awards dinner and did some networking. If I file all of these in the “Awards dinner” envelope, I can add a personal element to the follow up email like “It was nice to meet you at the awards dinner, wasn’t Marci’s acceptance speech great?”

Easy follow-up: Ok, so you’ve had a great meeting with a publisher and they want to see a chapter of your book. Great! Now what? Take their card, flip it over and jot down a few important notes on the back such as: follow-up steps, short meeting details (“met for lunch”), and anything else you can fit onto the card such as any personal details they shared – like having a daughter who went to the same school as your kids or something like that.

Never eat alone: There’s a great networking book by the same name (Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, Crown Books) and the statement is true. At a writers conference be sure to grab a table packed with people and even better, don’t sit with the same folks over and over again. Mix it up and meet new people!

Action items: At the end of each conference day, I find it helpful to gather my notes and go through and highlight the important items from the day. I have often waited until I’m on the plane back home, or worse, the Monday following the conference and I generally can’t make heads or tails out of who I am supposed to follow up with at that point. Lesson: do it early while the information is still fresh.

And finally, our bonus tip:

Plan B: If you can’t afford to attend the writers conference that’s in your town here’s an idea for you. When a big conference rolls into town, an author friend of mine will sometimes hang out in the downstairs coffee shop or restaurant at the hotel where the event is being held and network with people there. You never know who you might meet.

Conference follow-up: This is a biggie. Make sure you always follow up with everyone you connected with, especially if you committed to them that you would send them more information, sample chapters, whatever.

Keep the networking going: Relationships take time. Don’t expect miracles when you land at a writers conference. Sometimes great stuff will happen right away, and other times it’s a process. Don’t let the networking end when the function is over. You’re now networking with them online via Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps you have some follow-up to do. Keep on their radar screen and then be on the lookout for future events you can attend!

Writers conferences are a great way to get out there and network, meet your peers and meet agents, publishers, and marketing professionals who can help you publish or market your book. Here are a few for you to consider!

Romantic Times

Unicorn Writers Conference

Romance Writers of America

Book Expo America


Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques.

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences Part III

This is the last of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

Venessa Giunta Venessa Giunta is a senior editor for Loose Id, LLC, and edits fiction freelance. She wrote bad short stories and angsty poetry off and on through high school then took a very long hiatus. It was probably because of the poetry. When she turned thirty-five, she realized that what she really wanted to do was write.

After many short story rejections, it occurred to her that some sort of writing classes might be beneficial. She subsequently worked toward and was awarded her Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Venessa lives in the metro Atlanta area and is lucky enough to reside with her muse who masquerades as her husband. And she no longer writes poetry. It’s better for everyone that way.

Why should a person attend a conference/convention?

For the professional networking opportunities, primarily. Agents and editors (like most people) tend to connect better face-to-face than through an e-mailed query letter. However, the entire ability to convene with your fellow writers is not something to discount either. Even if no worthwhile connections are made with agents or editors, there’s really something to be said for being with people who “get” you to some extent.

How can you decide (before you put your money down) if a conference is right for you?

Do some research on the guests. Are they people you’d be interested in seeing/meeting/learning from? Does the con welcome the sorts of things you write? Weigh the possible benefit against the cost of attending. Sometimes the cost of travel, accommodations, registration and food do not make the conference beneficial even if there are agents or editors you’re interested in.

What can you get out of attending a writing conference?
Learning about the business of writing. Some conferences offer classes on how to pitch, or how to query an agent or editor. These things require a skill set that is entirely different from the skill set needed to write a book. And they’re things most writers need. Also, conferences afford an opportunity to network, not only with other writers, but with other publishing professionals too. And simply being in the company of your tribe — writers — should not be downplayed. Schmoozing with other writers is one of the best things to get your creativity pumping, to get your enthusiasm going. And those things get your butt in the chair.

Many Genres Book CoverIf you’re pitching at a conference, what do you need to do?

First, breathe. Pitching is intimidating. Remember that agents and editors really are looking for someone new to work with, otherwise, they wouldn’t be taking pitches. So they want you to do well. Prior to the conference, study everything you can about creating good pitches. Not just 30 second elevator pitches, but three minute pitches and five minute pitches. Practice and speak naturally. If you try to memorize something word for word it will sound like you tried to memorize something word for word, especially the longer pitches.

Research the agents and editors before you go to the conference, so you know what they represent, whether you would be a good fit, and whether they prefer a certain style of pitches. Some prefer more formal pitches, some prefer a conversation rather than an actual pitch. If you can’t find this information out though, don’t worry. Simply do your best. When it comes time to pitch, take a deep breath and remember that they really are just people and they’re looking for great stories.

What are some conference dos and don’ts?


  • be professional
  • have a good time
  • step out of your comfort zone and socialize if you are not a social person
  • attend several panels and classes
  • listen — both to industry pros and to other writers
  • be professional


  • be unprofessional
  • get hammered in the bar (a few drinks over the evening is fine — too much and you may not want to hear about your antics in the morning)
  • pitch your book to an agent/editor at inappropriate times (bathrooms, while they are teaching, etc) How do you know when is appropriate? You can ask. “May I tell you about my novel?”

What if you get there, and find it’s not right? How can you make lemonade from the lemon?

It really depends on what’s “not right.” At the least, you can recognize what sort of due diligence that should have been done beforehand. But I think that even if there’s something that is not a right fit about the conference, that doesn’t mean nothing worthwhile can come out. If you are doing pitch sessions, it’s an opportunity to practice your pitch and get feedback for improvement. Networking is a big reason to go to a conference and I can’t imagine any conference being so bad that no networking is possible. Sometimes, that’s all you get out of a conference, but you never know when that one person you had coffee with is going to pass your work on to his or her agent. And then the next thing you know, you’ve got an agent and a book deal. Sometimes it works that way.

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

When the cost outweighs the benefits. Especially right now, with the struggling economy, it’s very important not to overspend for a conference. If the guests and programming of a conference don’t excite you, then it’s probably not worth the money. Look for conferences that are close to home. If you’re in a metro area, chances are there’s at least one conference in your back yard. Work out what is within your budget to spend and stay in that budget. Decide whether the offerings of the conference are worth exceeding that budget if it’s more costly (i..e – your dream agent is only attending one conference this year and this is IT!).

Coordinating Conferences

What’s it like being a conference/convention coordinator?

It can be hectic and stressful at times, but it is more fun than anything, to me. I love writers and the environment created when a big group of us get together and so I feel privileged to be able to help in providing an opportunity to do that every year.

What are top 3 knowledge/top 3 skills for coordinators?

I think negotiation, compromise and the ability to work with others are probably the things most necessary when putting on a conference. Once a con gets to be larger than just a few friends getting together, no one person can do everything, so being able to work with others is very important. Compromise is an aspect that comes in with working with other people and also in most aspects of organization. Sometimes the guests you want aren’t available, or won’t do something you’d really like to offer attendees. Sometimes the facilities can’t accommodate something, so a work-around is necessary. Like any organized event, compromise is necessary sometimes to get things done. And negotiation is important from dealing with hotels/venues to securing good guests to getting good deals on PR items.

What’s the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you?

Actually, I think the best thing that’s come out for me is that I’ve learned that agents and editors aren’t as intimidating as I had them all made out to be in my head. At least, the one’s I’ve met. That has really made me realize that a good portion of my stress as a writer had to do with being wary — perhaps afraid? — of the gatekeepers.

Are you paid as a coordinator?

I’m not paid, per se, though I get admittance to the workshop for free. I really do it for the love. And the opportunity to schmooze. 🙂

What’s exciting about running a conference?
I think when it’s all come together and everyone, from attendees to guests, give glowing praise about how great it was — this is the most exciting thing. Aside from that, seeing the year’s worth of planning all coming together is very rewarding as well. As far as the not-exciting bits, some of the organizational stuff can be tedious, but that goes for just about anything. The exciting far outweighs the non-exciting.

Many thanks to Venessa Giunta for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. Venessa will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Order information for Many Genres, One Craft.

Other Parts of this Interview Series:

Part 1: author K.J. Howe
Part 2: author Lucy A. Snyder

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences, Part II

This is the second of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

Lucy A. Snyder Lucy A. Snyder is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novels Spellbent and Shotgun Sorceress and the collections Sparks and Shadows, Chimeric Machines, and Installing Linux on a Dead Badger. Her writing has also appeared in several magazines.

She has a B.S. in biology, an M.A. in journalism and graduated from the 1995 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. Since 2005, she’s directed the Context Writing Workshops. She currently is a Seton Hill MFA mentor. Lucy was born in South Carolina, grew up in Texas, and now lives in Ohio, with her husband and occasional co-author Gary A. Braunbeck. For more information, please visit

What’s it like being a conference/convention coordinator?

It’s a busy but highly rewarding volunteer job. I coordinate the writing workshops track for Context, a convention in Columbus, Ohio that will be taking place the weekend of August 26-28 ( It’s steady work across the entire year that gets busier in the months leading up to the convention. Right now we’re getting very busy with convention planning and preparations. It’s always great to see your efforts pay off in a well-attended convention where you can see people having fun, making new connections, and learning new skills.

Book cover of Switchblade Goddess by Lucy A. SnyderWhat are the key skills for your role?

To be a writing workshop coordinator you need good organizational skills (scheduling and keeping track of course signups is a big part of what you’ll do), persistence (things won’t always go right the first time), and good problem-solving skills. And of course communication skills are critical. Knowledge-wise, you need to be able to reach out to good instructors, and you need to know how to be able to evaluate potential instructors.

What’s the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you? What about for someone else? Was it luck or planning that made it happen?

For me, the best things that have come out of conferences and conventions have been book deals, or preliminary discussions with editors that resulted in book deals. Luck always plays a distressingly large role in publishing, but in each situation I had done a lot of pre-conference planning (in terms of who I wanted to meet and what I was going to present to them) that I think vastly improved my chances of success.

Why should a person attend a conference/convention?

There are a whole lot of reasons to go to a convention. Many people go as much for fun as they do for business. It really depends on where you are in your writing career. If you’re unpublished, you might want to focus of conventions that offer a strong writing track and the chance to talk to small- and medium-press editors, who are often more receptive to new writers’ work. If you have been selling short stories and have just finished a novel, you might want to look for conventions that offer the opportunity to pitch to book editors and reputable literary agents. And if you’re a working writer, you’ll probably be looking for larger conventions that offer the best networking opportunities with editors and other writers as well as a chance to expose new readers to your work.

How can you decide (before you put your money down) if a conference is right for you?

Take a look at the guest/attendees lists — do you see the names of people you’d like to listen to or chat with? Take a look at the programming schedule, which might not be posted until a month or so before the conference. Do the panels and workshops and other events interest you? Now, look at the costs of attending the conference, not just the registration fees but also the hotel, air fare, etc. Can you afford this?

What if you get there, and find it’s not right? How can you make lemonade from the lemon?

Even a well-planned convention can end up with problems due to hotel errors, or high-profile guests may have to cancel at the last minute because of unexpected travel snags or illness. Because of this, it’s best to not pin all your hopes for a convention on a single guest attending or a single workshop, etc. Do your homework first and try to choose conventions that offer a wide range of events that will interest you.

Book cover of Spellbent by Lucy A. SnyderIf you arrive at a convention and at first it’s not what you expected, give it a chance. If you’re looking for the pro author guests and don’t see them, check the hotel bar — this is the prime hangout location for writers. If you came to meet other attendees and find the panels under-attended, check to see if there are going to be room parties later that people may be resting up for. Try to set aside your expectations and be open to what the convention has to offer.

But if it simply isn’t working for you, take a look around and see what other opportunities present themselves. If you’re in the middle of an unfamiliar but interesting city, take the opportunity to do some sight-seeing. You might be able to forge new friendships with other attendees who are similarly disenchanted with the conference.

Also, once the weekend is over, you might want to send a polite, non-judgmental email to the convention chairs to let them know about the things that didn’t work for you or created problems for you. Again, politeness is key here; the organizers are likely unpaid volunteers who worked as hard as they could to put on a good event. They’ll want to know what went wrong for you so they can do better next time, but they won’t be receptive to your message if it’s disrespectful or ends in high-handed demands. Many conventions will offer membership refunds if there’s been a genuine at-con disaster.

If you’re pitching at a conference, what do you need to do?

Make sure you know the rules of the pitch session going in, and make sure you’re following those rules. If you know who you’ll be pitching to, try to learn a little about the agent or editor and his or her tastes, and adjust your pitch accordingly. Practice your pitch on friends, and prepare pitches of different lengths. For instance, it’s always good to be able to describe your project in 30 seconds or less, but you’ll also want an intermediate and longer pitch that you can use depending on the circumstances. And it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up pitch prepared in case the agent or editor says “I don’t think that project will work for us, but do you have anything else?”

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

Conferences are wonderful, but if you’re behind on your novel deadline, don’t go, unless there’s a truly compelling reason. You should also reconsider your attendance if going to the conference will send you into debt, or deeper into it. And if you have the flu, please stay home; the virus that gave you an annoying cough could land someone else in the hospital.

If you decide you must cancel and you’re scheduled to participate as a panelist or on other programming, be certain to let the organizers know as soon as possible so they can adjust their scheduling accordingly. It’s simply the polite thing to do.

Many thanks to Lucy A. Snyder for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. Lucy will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Please visit next Monday for the third (and final) interview from Many Genres, One Craft. Part 1 with thriller-auther KJ Howe can be found here.

Order information for Many Genres, One Craft.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Many Genres, One Craft: Writing Conferences

This is the first of a 3-part interview series of authors from the book Many Genres, One Craft recently published by Headline Books. Many Genres, One Craft is an anthology of instructional articles for fiction writers looking for advice on how to improve their writing and better navigate the mass market for genre novels.

While the book encompasses many aspects of writing, this series of interviews is all about coordinating and attending writing conferences.

. . . . . . . . . .

KJ Howe, is a two-time Daphne du Maurier winner, a four-time Golden Heart finalist, and a finalist in the American Title III Contest. She earned her Master’s in Writing Popular Fiction in 2007 and is now represented by the Evan Marshall Agency. International intrigue and pulse-pounding adventure are her passions. When she isn’t writing romantic thrillers, KJ is researching them by shark cage diving in South Africa, interacting with semi-habituated elephants in Botswana, or scuba diving in the Red Sea. You can visit her at

Kimberly J. Howe

KJ Howe

Why should someone attend a conference? How can you decide if a conference is right for you?

No matter where you are in your writing career, you can benefit from attending a conference. You can learn from the workshops, find critique partners, network with industry professionals, promote your books, find inspiration to get back to your writing, discover new writing tools, meet people with the same enthusiasm for books, and so much more.

I would recommend finding a conference that is in your genre, so you can make specific connections to editors, agents, and other writers in your chosen field. There are large conferences and small conferences. The small ones offer intimacy, but the large ones offer more choices and a larger number of superstars. I’d try both and see what feels right for you. Some authors find the large conferences a little intimidating, while others enjoy the hubbub and love having access to many big names.

What is the best thing that’s ever come out of a conference for you?

I was very fortunate that at one of my first conferences, I entered a writing contest and was lucky enough to win–and secured an agent as a result. Always throw your hat in the ring and enter contests at conferences. It can really pay off.

What if you get there, and find it isn’t right for you? How do you make lemons from lemonade?

I’ve been at a few conferences where I felt like a fish out of water, but I always try to make the most out of it. There is always something to be gained–from an incredible writing insight to meeting an instrumental person for your career. Keep your heart and mind open. You may be surprised what you discover.

What was the worst thing that’s ever happened to you at a conference?

Very good question. I was once introduced to a high-profile author. I was quite nervous to be thrown into the situation with no warning, and, needless to say, I wasn’t at my most eloquent. As a result, the author turned and walked away without a goodbye. The experience hurt, but I learned many lessons from it, most importantly, to treat people with respect no matter who they are because I’ve felt the impact of being snubbed.

What should you do to prepare for a conference — especially if you want to pitch your book?

I would recommend sitting down and writing out your goals for the conference. Are you there to network, learn craft, find an agent…try to figure out what would serve you best at this time in your career. Also, do your homework about who you would like to meet. You should have access to the workshop schedule ahead of time. Select your workshops based on subject matter and who is teaching. Be strategic and target your priorities.

There is a great article on pitching at the ThrillerFest website at Just go under the AgentFest heading–AgentFest is a pitching event where we have 60 agents eager to hear about your book. If you’re looking for an agent, you may want to consider joining us.

Many Genres Book CoverWhat are some conferences do’s and don’ts?

I would recommend treating a conference like a business event. Dress business casual, be polite and professional to everyone, and don’t imbibe too much alcohol. Most of all, have fun. Writing is a solitary activity, and it’s important to meet fellow enthusiasts.

When should a person consider NOT going to a conference?

Although I feel strongly that spending time at a conference is almost always worthwhile, there are times when you may decide not to attend–if you’re under a tight writing deadline, you may have to spend that week writing (although I know many writers who come to the conferences for certain events while spending tons of time in the room writing). Financial constraints can also play a role. It’s a very personal decision, and it’s important to weigh all those issues before signing up for a conference.

What’s it like being a conference coordinator? Do you get paid?

I have the distinct pleasure of working on the ThrillerFest team, a conference for thriller writers held in NYC every July. Because we are part of the International Thriller Writers, we have people coming from all over the world to participate in ThrillerFest. We’re fortunate to have countless industry professionals attend because we host the conference in NYC where editors and agents can walk down the street to join us.

Working as a conference coordinator is similar to being a juggler. There are so many aspects of running a conference, you need to keep all the balls in the air, hoping none drop. Some of the key tasks include: coordinating the logistics with the hotel staff, arranging for food and beverages, taking care of VIP guests, organizing volunteers to assist with programming, advertising the conference, securing sponsors…the list could go on and on, but let’s just say that many details need to be worked out to make sure the attendees experience a smooth, interesting, and well-organized event.

The position of Executive Director of ThrillerFest is a full-time position–and one of the best jobs in the world.

What are the top three skills for coordinators?

1) Strong organizational skills.
2) Positive interpersonal skills.
3) A detail-oriented approach.

What do you need to know to run a successful conference–and how would one go about getting involved?

My best advice if you’re interested in becoming involved in conference organization is to start by volunteering your time. Learn the ropes from the ground up, so you can see how it all works. That’s what I have done, and it’s been a wonderful learning experience. Also, as a conference organizer, it’s important to do every job at least once. That way, if someone is ill or can’t do his /her job, you can take over seamlessly.

What are some trends in conferences these days?

Conferences offer so much. For high profile authors, conferences can offer an opportunity to meet fans and promote their latest novel. Aspiring authors can network with established authors, learn from the various panels/workshops, and find inspiration from being around people with a similar love of literature. As far as trends go, there seems to be more fan-oriented conferences available, and many conferences offer courses on the craft of writing. For example, at ThrillerFest, we have an event called CraftFest where NYT Bestselling authors share their secrets to writing fiction. For more information, please visit and take a look under CraftFest.

What’s exciting about running a conference, and what’s not?

There’s nothing like the rush of seeing all your hard work pay off–when people thank you for the event and express their enthusiasm, it makes burning the candle at both ends well worth it.


Man Genres, One Craft can be purchased at


Many thanks to KJ Howe for answering a few questions about attending writing conferences and coordinating them. If you have others, please post in the comments. KJ will be happy to answer them!

More information about Many Genres, including author information and other interviews is available on the Many Genres blog.

Please visit next Monday for the second interview from Many Genres, One Craft.

9 May 2011 – Edit: Part II with Bram Stoker Award Winner Lucy A. Snyder can be found here.

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

My Book, Front and Center, at the RT Booklovers Convention!

It’s not a romance, but…my publisher thinks enough of Blood Soup to take it to the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention (held in LA, this year).

Here it is, front and center, on the table at the con.

I wonder how many romance readers I can pull over to fantasy?

Monday, April 4th, 2011

I Shouldn’t Try to Do 2 Cons in 10 Days…

…because it leaves an awful hole in the blog. When time is at a minimum, this is where I usually cut first.

So: I owe a few words about Day 2 of the Don Maass class at the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group Workshop in Allentown, PA last weekend, and a brief report about SynDCon in Rockville, MD this past weekend.

I’ll start by saying that if you get a chance to take a workshop with Don Maass: don’t pass it up. He’ll have you critically thinking about your manuscript within minutes…and by the end of an 8-hour session, you’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon.

His style is to tell to you choose a character or a situation in your book and then ask several questions designed to spur your muse to deliver a better product. When you’re done, you’re muse will want to hunt down Don and slap him – instead of your characters wanting to hunt you down for putting them in peril.

(And if you don’t understand that reference, you need to take a writing workshop with A. C. Crispin.)

Don gave a thought provoking address at lunch on Saturday, notably about the merging of genres in today’s market and the ease of e-publishing. One comment stuck with me: if you self-publish in today’s market, rather than go with a “traditional” publisher, you stand to make make more money in the short term, but you’ll fail to grow your audience base.

That’s something I hadn’t considered. It bears thinking about.

My favorite panel on Saturday was Jonathan Maberry’s Building a Writing Career. He offered several tips for making money in non-fiction while continuing to feed your fiction habit, and showed, as in his case, that if you keep at it, the jobs will come looking for you. Jonathan is a highly entertaining speaker, and he made what could have been a dry, boring seminar a delightful experience.

But there was much more than Don and Jonathan on Saturday: there were costume seminars, meetings with agents and editors, advice on your story’s opening, a writing contest, panels on marketing your work and more.

I highly recommend the GLVWG Workshop. I’m certain I’ll attend again.

SynDConSynDCon is a gaming convention held in Rockville, MD. This was the second year for it, and it attracted about 300 gamers. A few authors (Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Mike McPhail, Jean Marie Ward, Vonnie Winslow Christ and Diane Whiteside and I) were invited to host writing seminars this year as an added tract to the gaming agenda.

Diane and I had planned to host World Building 101 – a cross-over gamer’s-author’s workshop on how to create a fantasy world – but there were scheduling conflicts on Saturday and it didn’t work out. However, I spent a huge amount of time in the Dealer’s Room, and that’s always a plus.

(And this just means that Diane and I have plenty of time to gear up the seminar for next year. In the meantime, if you have any questions about mapping, climate, weapons, flora/fauna, peoples, etc., drop us a line and we’ll answer them here.)

Of course, we got to read from our work. That’s always exciting, particularly when you read to a rapt audience, as we did on Saturday. There were children in attendance, so I stuck with The Dragon’s Clause, rather than Blood Soup. (It doesn’t hurt that dragons are ever popular with gamers!) It was well received.

As for the gaming aspects of the con: a definite “something for everyone” kind of place. There were board games and card games in addition to the expected Dungeons and Dragons and other role-playing games – which ran all hours of the day.

And if you had no experience regarding a particular game or gaming system: no worries! Exhibitions and learning games were hosted just as often as the tournament play. The best part: something for everyone at all age and experience levels.

Will I be back? Definitely. Next year I plan on gaming as well as ‘authoring’ at the con.

You can see a few author photos on my Facebook page.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

To Do/ To Bring When Attending Writing Conferences

Things are a bit crazy around here as I’ve bit the bullet and signed up for a writing class with mega-agent Don Maass on the 24th of this month.

Don is considered a top-tier agent, and he represents quite a few fantasy writers I love to read, so I’m pretty stoked about him teaching local enough (4-hour drive) to attend his seminar.

It’s a day-and-a-half workshop, to which I’m required to bring my completed manuscript. (No problem, as all my faithful readers will know that I’ve got one ready to send off to agents and have planned to do so this year.)

But I’m a bit angsty since three weeks doesn’t seem like enough time to get ready for the seminar, which is attached to the Write Stuff Conference hosted by the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group.

Luckily, I’m prepared. I have a routine I follow when I’m off to a conference. I’ve actually presented this material to writer’s groups, so if it sounds like I’m lecturing…it’s because I am. 🙂

Here’s what I recommend:

Before the Conference

  1. Think about your expectations. What do you want to get out of it? Knowing your expectations helps you plan what you’ll do while you’re there. Do you want to meet other local writers? Do you want to pitch your novel to an agent? Or do you want to learn about craft, careers and the industry? You don’t have to choose, you can do it all…but scheduling of panels may prohibit this. So, prioritize your goals and plan accordingly.
  2. Get an advanced copy of the conference schedule and look over your desired sessions.
    Highlight and number where you want to be, the time and the room numbers, or copy this information to your planner. This will save you time at the conference, allowing you to network, join impromptu sessions and, maybe, get some writing in, too.
  3. Will you be able to pitch your book to agents and editors? Do you want to do so? If so, research the available candidates. Will there be someone present who represents the genre you write? Prepare a pitch according to that agent’s specifics.
  4. Hit the social networks to see if any of your online acquaintances will be going, too. Tweet, blog and post to boards and arrange a meet-up.
  5. If you’re going somewhere non-local: research the area: what restaurants are available? Are there any local landmarks or monuments you could visit? What about hiking, skiing, or other sportly adventures? (You could make this trip all about the conference, but hey, if you’re going somewhere new, you might as well learn a little about the area. Consider it research for your next book.)
  6. Check your writing “gear.” Make sure everything you need is in the bag you’ll take along: laptops and cables, a thumbdrive, your favorite notebooks and pencils, gum, mints, etc. (Check even if you’re meticulous about putting everything in it’s place–you never know.) If you’re attending any writing sessions, add a thesaurus and/or dictionary and your current work-in-progress. If you’re meeting up with fellow writers, you could also take a finished work you could use in an impromptu writing session.
  7. Formulate a list of questions you’d like answered. These could be related to the panels you want to attend, about presenters at the conference, about writing craft, about pitching your book, publishing in general (or specific), about, well…anything. Write them down and carry them with you so that you won’t forget to ask.

What Should You Bring?

  1. Your printed list of questions.
  2. Any research material you accumulated about the conference or the location.
  3. Business cards.
  4. Something to take notes with: your laptop, a notebook and pen, etc. (I always carry both: there will be times when a laptop will be inconvenient.)
  5. If you’re pitching, bring whatever the agent or editor prefers (and in the style they prefer it in): your query letter, a synopsis, the first five pages of your novel, etc. It’s doubtful you’ll need your entire novel printed out: no agent is going to want to lug an entire manuscript (times 100, or how many writers he meets) back to his office. If an agent is interested, he’ll give you his card and tell you to mail it.)
  6. Bring any giveaway table items that you can leave in designated areas: (book marks, flyers, brochures for writing-related services or your local writers group, etc).
  7. Any personal items you can’t live without for a few days or which will make your hotel room your home away from home: MP3 Player, cell phone, teddy bear, photo of your spouse, etc.)

Next time: What to do at the conference.