February 21, 2009 held the 12th annual Bay to Ocean Writers’ Conference, put on by the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association. Having now gone, it’s easy to see why it’s sold out three years in a row. A more friendly and comfortable atmosphere you couldn’t hope to find anywhere. The food was light and delicious, the classrooms and auditorium had great acoustics and the technological infrastructure to make speaking there a fantastic experience.
My talk was scheduled in session five so I got to get to know the place and the people before I spoke.
Since I’d already had the pleasure of hearing Gregg Wilhelm speak on “Book Publishing Options,” I elected to split my time between Kate Blackwell‘s talk on “Narrative Voice” and The Magazine Publishers Panel. Kate did a remarkable job citing many examples of different voices and how to distinguish between them to a packed room. (I had to sit on the floor.) The Magazine Publishers Panel featured editors from Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Delmarva Quarterly, and Delaware Beach Life. They did a wonderful job letting writers know what they were looking for as well as how to approach them—and magazine editors in general— for publication.
I elected to sit in on Melanie Rigney‘s talk on “Getting and Editor’s Attention,” mostly for professional reasons. Her hour was a delightful list of 10 things you should never say to an editor or agent, as well as suggestions as to what to say instead. It was yet another enjoyable and professional talk packed with valuable information and spirited audience interaction.
On this session I was torn. I was looking forward to Austin Camacho‘s talk on “Creating Memorable Characters,” but I happened to meet Thomas B Sawyer and talk to him a bit. He was such a great guy and so packed with fun stories, I went to his talk on “Screen and TV Writing” instead. *Sorry Austin, but you’re also local so I’ll catch your talk next time.*
Tom delivered and gave a great talk on how fiction writers can use screenplay techniques to tighten and enhance their writing. It was a good shot in the arm for me. When I lived in Los Angeles, I went on a screenwriting kick for a couple of years and the discipline really did help me cut to the heart of my stories as well as help me think in pictures. Reading over some of my fiction written immediately after that time, I noticed that I had unconsciously done one of Tom’s other suggestions and that was to leave every segment or chapter with a hook to draw the reader past the commercial break…er…into the next chapter. Considering how wordy my current writing tends to be, I really needed this talk.
I had the pleasure of attending Leslie Walker‘s talk on “Writing for the Web.” Being a web developer as well as a writer, I don’t give writing for the web much thought. Leslie gave yet another entertaining and informative talk that even I picked up a few things from. Despite the complexity of her topic, everything she said was clear and easy to understand by everyone in the room.
Well, I might have liked to sit in on Jennifer Curtis’s talk on “Writing for Children” or seen Laura Strachan the Literary Agent, but I sucked it up and gave my talk instead. Despite the stiff competition (honestly, it takes someone special to attend a talk on “Marketing on the Internet” when you can have a chat with a literary agent) the room was pretty full. Everyone laughed at the proper places, asked questions, and seemed to be satisfied with the answers, so I’ll go out on a limb and say I pulled my weight. I had a marvelous time talking to them, the room was perfect for it and I lost my nervous shakes within five minutes of starting so I must have been comfortable.
The Bay to Ocean Writers Conference is a great little conference. I recommend it to anyone and I hope they invite me back.