Writing the Future Conference 2010

The Writer’s Center hosted the Writing the Future conference on March 20, which I attended after a kind invitation from the center.  Sorry for the poor quality of my photos; I had no idea the lighting would be so somber — I would have brought my SLR otherwise.  Unfortunately, I missed most of the first panel thanks to the Metro system and its track delays all morning, which was not fun — sitting in dark tunnels for 20-30 minutes on end without any updates.  But, I digress.

The second discussion, which started at about 10:45AM, touched upon how technology is changing and how writers can take advantage of those changes and latest tools.  The panelists included Jay Ogilvy, Lee Gutkind, Richard Nash, Sandra Beasley, Lauren Cerand, Sarah Courteau, Jack Sallay, Dan Sarewitz, and Jeff Kleinman, with jobs as literary agents, writers, poets, publishers, and academics.  These panelists talked about how to improve match-making between writers and readers by creating communities in which they find one another, which would cut out legacy publishing —  a term used to describe traditional publishers like the Random Houses and Simon and Schusters.

The traditional thought about holding a mass market inventory of books to supply to readers is fading into the distance, which is why writers need to find new ways of reaching their audiences, either through social media or their own Websites.  Social media is making it easier to highlight small presses and lesser-known authors in a sea of millions of writers.  One mistake many writers and publishers make is that they view paper as something more than a vehicle through which to express their writing, ideas, and tell stories.

One of the major highlights of the panel was the information provided by Jack Sallay about his small start-up business, Vook that combines multimedia with the written word.  He discussed a wide range of multimedia combinations from music to video embedded with the written word.  Some of the videos are done with the help of filmmakers and authors, while others are cute videos of bunnies or other items and tied to books, like The Velveteen Rabbit.  Sallay noted that the project has been more successful than expected.

One surprise at the conference was the presence of the New York Times’ Nick Bilton, who writes for the Bits Blog and has written a new book, I Live in the Future & Here’s How it Works.  He discussed the wave of the future in technology and the creation of flexible screens that will eventually replace paper books and maybe even Kindles and other devices.

I think the main takeaway from the conference is that the publishing industry continues to be in transition, especially in terms of how readers are matched to writers and how those relationships are sustained.  Writers will need to understand their writing, what audience it is best suited for, and create a platform through which they can reach out to audiences and readers alike.  Writers will have to become business people and look out for the best ways to market themselves and their work by using the latest technology.

I’m going to leave you with a bit of video from the final panel on ethics in nonfiction and memoir, which got pretty active between audience questions and discussion among the panelists.  Also if you want to see the rest of the shoddy photos I took, go here.

FTC Disclosure: Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Conversations & Connections 2009 Recap

Well, it’s been more than one week since I attended the one-day writer’s conference–Conversations & Connections, in Washington, D.C. You can find my previous posts about the conference here and here. I do have a few photos to share with everyone as well.

They changed up a few things for this year’s conference, adding craft lectures for beginning writers on sentence structure, sex scenes, and combating writer’s block. There was an early snafu, but I think the organizers adapted well and filled in the vacant space left by Amy Hempel, the scheduled featured speaker.

Anna and I headed to the first panel on Juggling Point of View, which was populated with writers/teachers and authors. While I did learn quite a bit about the techniques to use in my stories and novel concerning how to choose a point of view that fits the story I am telling, most of the information I gleaned from the session came from just two of the panelists. C.M. Mayo (she is second from the right in the photo), author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, provided the most clear-cut information to the audience. She teaches workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md., so that may have given her an edge on the other panelists. (I’ll be hosting a tour for her book next month! And it was great to chat with her for a bit in person and tell her about my spot on her virtual tour.)

As writers, Anna and I were very interested in the Writer’s Block craft lecture and what techniques we could learn and use to keep ourselves in the writing groove. What I found most intriguing is that one of the exercises, which is based upon a parlor game, is something we have done at parties with friends. It was amusing to hear someone teach this in a craft lecture. The concept is simple. You start with one sentence and as the paper makes its way around the room (or in our case most of the time, as the laptop makes it across the room), each person adds their own sentence based upon the previous sentence. The trick is you can’t look too far back and you don’t know what comes next. Other techniques included borrowing phrases, words, and whole sentences from some of your own favorite works and mashing them up into your own paragraph; this wasn’t as effective for me. And the age-old, use these 3-4 words in your own story and you will write for 5 minutes or so. It’s interesting to see how people use the same four words in a story. I have to say that these exercises warmed up my writing brain, and I was ready to go…but unfortunately, there was more conference to be had!

We went to lunch at Bertucci’s because again we could not locate Chipotle….though we did find the Portuguese Embassy! Then we headed back to the conference for speed dating with editors, and I got some great advice from an editor at The Potomac Review about my novel and where it should lead off. I didn’t get to use Anna’s pass because we bumped into an old colleague and poet, Gregg Mosson. Naturally, I had him sign his book, which was one of the free book choices at this year’s conference, and we chatted about what was going on in our lives. It was great to catch up and learn about his good fortunes.

After this interlude, it was off to the main room for the “featured speaker who wasn’t.” Instead, we got a real treat, listening to Gregg read his poems and Susan McCallum-Smith read from her short story book. It was a great addition to the lineup and I hope they think about replacing the featured speaker with this format instead.

It was equally great to hear the impromptu readers answer questions about their books, publishing experience, and goals.

Dave Housley from Barrelhouse magazine led the readings and the question-and-answer session that followed. I think everyone in the audience could tell that he was none too happy that the featured speaker cancelled the morning of the event.

The final session of the day, other than the end of conference Book Fair, was on Writing Sex Scenes. This was the best of the sessions for me. I learned a great deal about when sex plays a role in a story and when it is simply in there for no reason other than the writer was carried away. It was great to see the difference between a coming of age sex scene and one that is based upon relationships–the instructors were really fantastic at showing what nuances in the scene expressed something about the emotions of the characters.

As I’m sure you all realized by my last Mailbox Monday, I did indeed by something at the book fair. I couldn’t resist Reb Livingston’s poetry book. Overall, we had a great time and are looking forward to next year’s conference and BEA, if we can get there.

Speaking of BEA, anyone live nearby? Anna and I are not that familiar with NYC, so we’d appreciate some advice, looks like the cheapest will be for us to fly into Long Island Airport…Any thoughts? Drop me an email.

***Giveaway Reminder***

Don’t forget to enter The Traitor’s Wife giveaway, here and here.

I’m Off to Conversations & Connections

Anna and I are headed to Conversations and Connections tomorrow, so I will not be online tomorrow until late in the evening.

The writer’s conference is sold out again this year, and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us.

I’ll be back to post my poem for the poem-a-day challenge and let you in on all the goodies.

Have a great Saturday everyone.

Writing Goal Week #13

The last writing goal was to write some newer poems for Marked issue of Blossombones or some new poems for any reason. Not feeling very inspired these days with all the bad economic news, the closure of newspapers across the country, and other personal events. However, the best month of the year is coming, and I feel the tide turning.

Writing Goal Week #13

The distractions continued this week, but I have a new motivator beginning in the middle of this week. I will be joining the Poem-A-Day Challenge on Poetic Asides to provide me with additional incentive to get some poetic verse written, especially since April is National Poetry Month. Check out the list of judges for the PAD Challenge, and you’ll notice a familiar name; I interviewed Mary Biddinger, here.


I couldn’t get away with not mentioning National Poetry Month, which starts April 1.

The American Academy of Poets has some great information on the festivities, including how to get kids interested in poetry and poetry readings. You can even download a copy of the poster image “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe,” which I think is a fantastic creation.

Check out the list of events the academy has embarked upon since 1998. There is a list of events for 2009 on the main page as well, including Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day on April 30, 2009, the Free Verse Photo Project, and the National Poetry Map, where you can look up your state and get a list of events, journals, and other poetic tools near you. Check it out, become active this month!

Here’s what’s going on for National Poetry Month here at Savvy Verse & Wit:

1. There will be a swath of contemporary poetry book reviews this month, though I do have some fiction tour dates already scheduled for the month, so it won’t be all poetry.

2. I will provide you updates on my PAD Challenge progress and other poetry events happening in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia area.

3. The poet interviews should continue this month as well in conjunction with 32 Poems. I urge you to subscribe to the magazine if you have enjoyed the poetry posted with this project and the interviews.

4. There will be updates about the upcoming Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference in Washington, D.C. on April 11 and of course, the recap.

Our first Poetry related event, and its not even April:

Writer’s Center, Bethesda, MD, Event, Sunday, March 29 at 2PM:

Poets Richard Blanco, author of “Directions to the Beach of the Dead” and “City of a Hundred Fires,” and Jehanne Dubrow, author of “The Hardship Post”

I interviewed Jehanne Dubrow recently, here.

Conversations and Connections Writer’s Conference, D.C.

Remember that great recap post from last year’s Conversations & Connections writer’s conference in Washington, D.C.?

Well, you can expect another one this year. Anna and I have registered for this year’s conference, which is going to have many of the great features it had last year.

Where is it located?

Johns Hopkins University Advanced Writing Program campus
1717 Massachusetts Avenue, NW,
Washington, D.C. (Near DuPont Circle)

When do I need to be there?

April 11, 2009; Registration starts at 8:30 AM

Why do I need to be there?

Not only will you be exposed to some great writing advice from some of the authors and poets you love, but there will be time to buy books at the book fair, show your work to literary journal editors to solicit their advice, and network with great bloggers, like Anna and myself, and others in the industry. This may be the first time I get to meet Deborah Ager of 32 Poems in person; she and I have been working on poet interviews over the last several months.

What’s the line up?

Craft lectures are available as choices for each of the three sessions from writing sex scenes to fighting writer’s block with experimental prompts.

The three sessions also have a number of panel discussions to choose from, including juggling multiple points of view in a novel, creative nonfiction, and the inner workings of an agency.

Don’t forget speed dating with literary journal editors where they will provide feedback on your written work.

And of course, there is the featured speaker, Amy Hempel.
Check out the list of speakers, here.

What’s the cost? $55, which gives you a one-year subscription to a literary magazine, the conference sessions, featured speaker, one speed dating session with an editor, and one book.

April 5th Writer’s Conference Recap

Conversations & Connections was held at the Johns Hopkins campus in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 2008, and it was the second annual conference for writers, experienced and not.

The morning came too early for me after the reading down in Rockville, Md., the night before because it was at night, and I get up early for work. Let’s just say I was exhausted on Friday night, but still stayed up to check out what poems I should bring to the conference for the speed-dating session with an editor of a literary journal. Anyway, the sleep did not come easily because of nerves or my brain going over how the day would play out, etc. I’m not really sure. When the alarm finally went off, I shot out of bed and into the shower. And we–Anna and I–got ready in a flash to be dropped off at the Metro and head into D.C.

We were not going to make the 8:30 AM opening registration, but I wasn’t worried that we would miss anything. Registration went smoothly this time around, particularly since we ran right smack into Julie Wakeman-Lynn of the Potomac Review. She showed us the way into the basement. The coffee in the lounge area smelled burnt, so I decided to snag a bottle of water, which is funny considering somehow we ended up dehydrated.

The opening statements were very short and to the point and we ran up the only flight of stairs in the entire building to the first floor from the basement to our first Breakout Session with Amy Holman. I heard her speak to a group last year about a similar topic though related to poetry. This session was better organized and helped show the writers in the room how to seek out the best literary journals for their work, whether it be poetry, fiction, or non-fiction. The separate notebook idea where you keep lists of your favorite authors and examine the publications where they appear helps. I think what I took away from the session more than anything was that I need to start checking journals and seeing what is consistent in their choices. Why are certain poems chosen, and what do those poems in each issue have in common with one another.

The second session, “The Long Haul: Writing the Novel,” was in another building across the street so we had to get out and across the street quickly. We made the session in plenty of time and listened to novelists–Fred Leebron, Michael Kimball, and Carolyn Parkhurst. This session did not have anything eye-opening for me.

The lunch break was to be shared with the speed dating sessions, so Anna and I decided to head out to lunch for the first hour because everyone appeared to be headed to speed dating for the first hour. We had our minds set on Chinese food, but could not find the place on the listing we got in the registration packet. We didn’t dare struggle to locate the Chipotle given the confusion we experienced in Dupont Circle. We settled on Bertucci’s and you will have to check out Anna’s description for the food. I want to tell you how wonderful the ice tea and the cappuccino was for me. The caffeine hit the right spot for me. I haven’t had a good cappuccino in forever.

Speed dating went better than I expected. If anything it validated for me that I can tell when things are not working in my poems. I just have to be more confident in my abilities and fix the spots I know are wrong. The editorial staff of the Potomac Review must be well versed in analysis. I loved the ideas I received and the advice. Perhaps I will submit the poem I brought when it is finished. I haven’t decided.

After speed dating, Anna and I met up with our former co-worker and friend, Gregg Mosson of Poems Against War. We are currently working with him on a review project that will showcase poets and essayists. I will keep you all posted on that once we launch it. We are still planning it out at this point and have to get some things in order first, but it should be a great new addition to my repertoire.

The final session, “The Disciplined Writer,” again did not enlighten me too much. The stories of struggle were entertaining for the most part, but there really wasn’t any practical advice. I think that the general I don’t use an outline or I don’t plan out the novel before I start is very helpful because I think many writers are that way. I would have preferred to hear about what routines they tried to keep motivated and which worked and didn’t and why they didn’t or did work. I think the most I will remember from it in the future is the stories told about Joyce Carol Oates and how she locked the door quickly behind her guests and ran up to her writing room to begin work after a rather long dinner party. Another great anecdote was that Oates tells writers that they do not want to be like her because she has no life but writing. I don’t know about you, but I think I would enjoy being prolific like Oates, who is not prolific in the way some of those other writers are, like James Patterson and John Grisham.

We left the conference chatty and giddy about the prospects we have for our writing now, so I think both of us will be on our way to becoming more productive. Wish us luck.

***Just a Reminder***

The first round of my National Poetry Month contest ends tomorrow. Please submit your poem entry (whether your own or one from a favorite poet) by the end of April 15th here. Thanks to all the participants.

Pre-Conference Reading

OK, so while I thought the pre-conference reading would be poets, there was not one. The readers were fiction writers.

Mary Gaitskill, author of Veronica, was introduced by the editor of Potomac Review, Julie Wakeman-Linn, and she read from Veronica, which is a very poetic work. I have never read her work, but it is certainly descriptive, poetic, and uses imagery to get to the heart of the matter. I’m not too sure she is my cup of tea, to use a cliche.

She then introduced Dave Housley, an editor of Barrelhouse Review and author of Ryan Seacrest Is Famous, who read “Combat Photographer.” It was a great short story about a combat photographer attempting to re-enter society to find a steadier job with benefits because his wife is pregnant and she wants him to be more stable and not off to war.

The next reader, Nathan Leslie, read from his collection, Madre. “The Towel” was a great story about young families and the adjustments they go through; the main character Norman and his wife have very different views of parenthood. The descriptions of the various stroller models are hilarious. I just had to select the book of short stories for my free conference book. I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories.

Lalita Noronha is the author of Where Monsoons Cry, and she was the third reader. Her descriptions of Indian culture and life were phenomenal. I was torn between this book and Madre for my free conference book. Noronha has a performance-like presence when she reads her prose, and it transported me to India quickly–even though she only read a few pages. I think this book will be one of the next ones I pick up in the bookstore.

Another Arab-American author, Susan Muaddi-Darraj, read last and her book is The Inheritance of Exile. Anna picked this book as her free conference work. I can’t wait for her to read it and I can finish Madre; we’re going to switch off and trade, so we can each discuss them. She was another reader that I really enjoyed, who easily transported me into the world she created.

It was a good reading, and I got to check out Rockville’s revitalization, which is amazing with the new town center. It was a great walk, though a bit chilly. There also was a great Tapas restaurant on the corner near the VisArts Center. It smelled delicious and look reasonably priced. We’ll have to make a point to go there sometime.

You’ll just have to wait for the conference review later.

Please do not forget to enter the Poetry Book contest this month via the Welcome post, which has all the necessary rules and information.

April Writer’s Conference in Washington, D.C.

On April 5, 2008, I will again be at an all-day conference in Washington, D.C., Conversations and Connections. I cannot wait for another opportunity to network and learn from my peers. It will be great to among creative writers. This is the second, all-day conference in the region. Registration is $45 for an all-day conference.

I may even head out to the readings on April 4th in Rockville.

The first breakout session will have the following:

  • Crafting the Poem (panelists: Kim Roberts, Eric Pankey, Kim Jensen, Sean Conrey)
  • The Business of Getting Published (panelists: Nancy Naomi Carlson, Holly Sneeringer, Mark Drew)
  • Finding a Home for Your Brilliant Work: Amy Holman Workshop
  • Starting Your Own Independent Press (Ed Perlman)

The second breakout session will have the following:

  • The Long Haul: Writing the Novel (panelists: Michael Kimball, Fred Leebron, Carolyn Parkhurst)
  • How Can an MFA/MA Help Me? (panelists: Kenra Kopelke, Geoff Becker, David Everett)
  • Short Fiction: Process and Craft (panelists: Merrill Feitell, Lalita Norohna, Susan McCallum-Smith)
  • Writing Nonfiction (Eric Nuzum, Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson, Lucie Snodgrass, David A. Taylor)

The third breakout session will have the following:

  • The Disciplined Writer (panelists: Michelle Brafman, Jen Michalski, Kathy Volk Miller, Tim Wendel)
  • Poetic Forms (Ned Balbo)
  • The Novella: Form and Potential (Cyndi Reeves)
  • Web Markets and Marketing (panelists: Rachel Adams, Thom Didato, Reb Livingston)

I suggest anyone in the area sign up and join me. It will be a great time. And if you haven’t been to D.C. before, it will be a great time to come because the Cherry Blossoms are expected to be blooming.

I am so excited. It gives me something positive to look forward to, and I definitely need it. Maybe it will get my creative juices flowing more as well.

AWP Writer’s Conference 2008

It is that time again. The upcoming AWP Writer’s Conference will be held in New York City, NY, next year. I hope to go to the conference, since I have not been to a writer’s conference, other than the one-day conference in Bethesda, MD, at the Writer’s Center.

I’m excited about the New York City Conference because Yosef Komunyaka, Bruce Weigl, Joyce Carol Oates, Billy Collins, Frank McCourt, Robert Pinsky, Ha Jin, and John Irving, among others will be there. Poets and writers I just love. Listening to their wisdom and possibly meeting them would be a great bonus. Mostly, I just want to see what these conferences are like for myself and determine if they are even worth the money.

While everyone I have talked to says the AWP conference is good and bad, many do not regret going at least the one time they went. The brochure I received yesterday has information about possible discounts on hotel rates and airfare. I will have to call and see how discounted those rates actually are, considering I’m one of the more poor writers in the world. I also have to account for the AWP conference registration, which is quite hefty.

It would be great to go with a fellow writer to the conference, but all of us seem to be really poor at the moment.