Moonlight and Magnolias

Barbara Vey -- October 13th, 2010
Debbie Kaufman

Debbie Kaufman

Today’s cub reporter is Debbie Kaufman who attended October’s Moonlight and Magnolias writing conference hosted by the Georgia Romance Writers in Atlanta, Georgia.  Debbie lives in Georgia with her husband of thirty-three years.  She is a mom to four children and grandmother of three.  Debbie is a published contributor in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Women and the newest volume, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotionals for Mothers.  Debbie is the 2010 Maggie winner for unpublished contemporary series romance, a 2010 finalist in the Maggie inspirational category, and a finalist in the 2010 Daphnes.  When not reading this blog, she can be found at home running carpools between bouts of writing.

Georgia Romance Writers consistently hosts an excellent writing conference, and this year was no

Allison Brennan, Sally Kilpatrick, and Michael Hauge

Allison Brennan, Sally Kilpatrick, and Michael Hauge

exception when Moonlight and Magnolia’s co-chairs, Anna Steffl and Sally Kilpatrick, put on the “Master Your Story, Master Your Destiny” themed event that opened October 1st.   NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan, Hollywood story consultant and bestselling author Michael Hauge, and psychologist and author Kelly L. Stone headlined this year’s program.  Truly, the only thing missing from this conference was the globe-trotting reporter, Barbara Vey, whose presence was sorely missed.
Friday opened on a practical note with a Pitch Workshop, where anxious attendees could polish their pitches with a published author before their editor and agent appointments.  This year I sat with multi-published author Quillia Rain as she helped me and three others craft our pitches.  Quillia was a real blessing, proving craft is the uniting factor among all writers and that genre differences are incidental.  By the end, we were fast friends and everyone at the table had a great pitch for immediate use.

In the afternoon, Keynote speaker Allison Brennan educated, entertained, and enlightened a group of eager listeners who came to hear her “No Plotters Allowed” workshop.  Allison, a high energy speaker, reminded us that masses of people plan to write a book, but we should be the ones who actually finished ours.  She helped us see that “plot happens,” whether it was planned or not, and gave us practical exercises to defeat writer’s block.  Allison, with her five young children, firmly trounced the idea that busy people don’t have time to write.

Debbie Kaufman, Jennifer McQuiston, Susan Sands, Tracy Solheim

Debbie Kaufman, Jennifer McQuiston, Susan Sands, Tracy Solheim

Meanwhile, throughout the day, anxious writers lined up to pitch the story of their heart to one of the six editors or agents that came to find the story of their dreams.  At day’s end, there was an industry panel with Editor Kathryn Lye of Harlequin, Editor Peter Senftleben of Kensington, Editor Michelle Bidespach of Grand Central, Agent Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency, Agent Jenny Bent of The Bent Agency, and Agent Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  After a long day of pitches, these brave souls fielded questions from the audience that ranged from how long should we expect to wait for an answer on a submission (3-6 months on a Harlequin) to what do you want to see in a query letter (two pitch paragraphs of the story like a back cover blurb for Kevan Lyon).  Two of my favorite quotes from this panel: Michelle Bidespach about the speed of responding to submissions said, “We feel bad, but it’s sort of like college.  You never catch up.”  Jenny Bent had us in stitches when she fielded a question about how much attention she gives to her authors.  With tongue firmly planted in cheek, she said, “I like to ignore authors.”

After dinner, there was another informative workshop led by Editor Peter Senftleben and Agent Kevan

Joan Kayse, Nancy Northcutt, Cassondra Murray

Joan Kayse, Nancy Northcutt, Cassondra Murray

Lyon on Perfecting the Partial.  It was followed by a purely fun scavenger hunt that had participants scouring the hotel for items such as a New Kids on the Block t-shirt or a garage remote held together with tape to get cool prizes.  Surprisingly, both items named were among those found.

Saturday was a departure from the traditional conference offerings of multiple workshop tracks.  Instead, there was an all-day workshop with Michael Hauge where he expounded on the six stages of plots and helped us all understand the essential elements of our stories.   However, before he got to the meat of his subject, Hauge referred to RWA members as the most connected group he knew, and stated that a bunch of us were probably already tweeting and posting to Facebook as his workshop started.  Allison Brennan quickly confirmed that she had indeed tweeted already and several other heads were nodding in sync, confirming that she was not alone.

Nicki Salcedo and Jeanette Cogdell

Nicki Salcedo and Jeanette Cogdell

Saturday night found a lot of anxious Maggie finalists on pins and needles for the awards to start, including yours truly.  As an added bonus and distraction before it began, a lot of us took advantage of the free photo booth provided by One Six Photography and posed in our finery or with props provided that included feather boas, wizards’ hats, and lots of silly bling.  Can’t wait to see some of those pictures online!

The Maggie awards ceremony was the highlight for a lot of keyed-up finalists.  The ceremony started with dinner and was followed by Allison Brennan giving a lively, on-point keynote address.  Pam Mantovani, Maggie Chair, kept things moving and jumped right in to announce the awards.  I’ve got to say that having my name called as winner for unpublished contemporary series was a huge thrill.  Somehow I managed to deliver what others told me was a sweet speech, but I hardly remember it over the emotional blur that came with winning.  You can see all of the Maggie Winners here.

After the awards, a lively crowd engaged in the dance party that always marks the end of the Maggies.  Lively dancing loosened even the tightest of  inhibitions as writers took the floor and showcased their moves.  It was a not-to-be-missed event.  I mean, where else do you get to dance with a man in a kilt?

Sunday morning capped off the conference with a great workshop by Kelly L. Stone that taught us to “Free Your Creative Mind.”  Kelly expounded on the role of the subconscious mind in the creative process, and helped us examine ourselves for those emotional issues that hold us back from achieving success.  For those of you who missed it, Kelly’s strategies for dealing with writer’s block and resistance, such as dealing with the feeling/behavior cycle, can be found in her last two releases, Time To Write and Living Write: The Secret to Bringing Your Craft Into Your Daily Life.

Bottom line: Great conference, practical workshops, and a lot of happy attendees who couldn’t stop talking about how friendly and well-organized the entire experience was for them.

75 thoughts on “Moonlight and Magnolias

  1. Dianna Love

    What a great job of Cub Reporting, Debbie. Congrats to everyone who finales and won a Maggie – double congrats to you for two finals and a WIN! Sounds like the conference was terrific – wish I could have made it. Congrats to M&M’s outstanding conference committee for another super event in Atlanta.

  2. Kimberly Lang

    That man in a kilt is mine! No, seriously, he is mine. My hubby, that is.

    I think it takes a brave man to wear a kilt in a room full of romance readers/writers… He couldn’t believe the number of people who wanted to take his picture!

    It was a great conference, even if I didn’t bring home a Maggie… ~sigh~

  3. Berta Platas

    The M&M committee is a hard-working, imaginative group of ladies, and the leadership and smarts provided by Sally Kilpatrick and Anna Steffl was what brought it all together!
    It was fun to catch up on the industry, connect with friends, and learn a lot. Michael Hauge and Allison Brennan were terrific speakers. Congratulations on your win, Debbie. When they ticked down the honorable mentions and got to the third, then the second place award, your face was a picture of amazement, and your husband was grinning at you, waiting to see your face when your name was called. What a great moment!

  4. Debbie Kaufman

    Thanks for the congrats on my win, ladies. I am over the moon with not only the win but the final in inspirational as well. It was a great conference this year. The only thing missing was some of you!

    Hank: I still carry that M & M conference bag from you!

    Berta: He is my biggest supporter!

    Kimberly: Your husband was a good sport. And where better to be seen in a kilt?

  5. Sally Kilpatrick

    Great job of reporting on the conference, Debbie! And super congrats on your Maggie win, too. It was a great conference, and we’re already working on 2011. Can anyone say Eloisa James, Karen White, and Leigh Michaels? Barbara, we’ll be looking for you, too…

  6. Darcy Crowder

    Ditto! Great job of reporting Debbie, and a huge congratulations on winning the Maggie and those finals!! It’s beyond exciting when we get to see one of our own standing up there. I had a fabulous time and can’t wait until next year….Eloisa, Karen White and Leigh Michaels! Another sure-fired hit. :)

  7. Sia Huff

    Wonderful recount of M&M, Debbie. I was thrilled for you to win the Maggie. Anna & Sally did an awesome job coordinating. I look forward to next year. Now thanks to you, so do a bunch of people who’ve never been.

  8. Allison Brennan

    Hi Debbie! Thank you for the terrific summary, if reminded me of how much fun I had at the conference! And I was so thrilled for your win (and getting to sit at your table!) I’m trying to work it out to go to the Decatur Book Festival next year because I have an 8.30 release, so if I do I will let you know!


  9. Jeanette Cogdell

    Great job on summing up the conference Debbie. I had a really good time and the workshops were thought provoking and very enlightening. Can’t wait til next year. Congrats again on your Maggie win.

  10. Anna Doll

    Hey, Debbie, great job at recapping what has to be the Regional Conference of the Year! Allison Brennan, Michael Hauge and Kelly L Stone did a fabulous job, everything went smoothly and what a great Maggie Award Ceremony! I can’t wait until next year. Barbara, we need to see you there!

  11. Lindi P


    It was a great conference!! Thanks for posting the fun photos. And congrats on your win! M&M is always great, and you did a fabulous job of relaying just how much fun it really is!! Allison Brennan, Michael Hauge and Kelly L. Stone all put on great workshops. I learned a lot. Thanks again for the recap.

  12. Qwillia


    For my first M&M it was amazing! Everyone was so great and the scavenger hunt was a blast! Congratulations on your win. And yes, your acceptance speech was sweet.

    I’m looking forward to next year and reuniting with all you wonderful ladies!


  13. Tina Vaughn

    Talk about a year of firsts… My first manuscript finaled in the Unpupped Maggies and M&M was the first conference I’ve ever attended. I had the best time and met the greatest people… memories and inspiration to last a lifetime.
    Thanks so much for the opportunity, the experience and this post, which was like a pinch on the arm… M&M wasn’t just a dream. It was real — and fabulous!

  14. Nick Gouras

    Somebody essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish amazing. Excellent job!

  15. Jere Venancio

    Mr. Carpenter, Welcome to the earth of Vintage Racing. This tale shows you’re what vintage racing is all about. Let us know if we could support you together with the persuite of your dreams. George J. Hovsepian (Vintage Sports Car Drivers Assn Chief Instructor) 616/916-2650.

  16. guide finance

    Undeniably consider that which you stated. Your favourite reason appeared to be at the internet the easiest factor to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get irked even as other people think about worries that they plainly don’t recognize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and outlined out the entire thing with no need side-effects , folks could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thanks!

  17. Reduce Thigh Fat

    My spouse and i’ve been so fortunate that Edward could finish up his survey since on the valuable suggestions he came across out in the weblog. It’s now and once more perplexing to just continually be releasing guides that a number of people could have been producing money from. And we also take into account we now have the writer to thank for that. Each of the explanations you made, the effortless internet site navigation, the friendships you might give support to engender – it is all extraordinary, and it’s definitely assisting our son and us imagine that the idea is entertaining, and that’s seriously significant. Thank you for every thing!


    Its like you read my mind! You appear to grasp so much approximately this, like you wrote the e-book in it or something. I feel that you simply can do with some % to pressure the message home a bit, however other than that, that is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

  19. Fertighaus Polen

    Many thanks for creating the effort to talk about this, I feel strongly about this and enjoy studying a great deal more on this topic. If feasible, as you gain knowledge, would you mind updating your weblog with a great deal more information? It’s very helpful for me.

  20. team building facilitators

    Awesome weblog you might have here but I was wondering in case you knew of any forums that cover exactly the same topics talked about here? I’d truly like to be a part of group where I can get suggestions from other experienced men and women that share the same interest. In case you have any recommendations, please let me know. Bless you!

  21. More Bonuses

    One thing I’d like to touch upon is that fat burning plan fast may be accomplished by the perfect diet and exercise. A person’s size not simply affects the look, but also the complete quality of life. Self-esteem, melancholy, health risks, and physical ability are disturbed in extra weight. It is possible to just make everything right whilst still having a gain. If this happens, a condition may be the primary cause. While a lot food and not enough work out are usually the culprit, common health conditions and popular prescriptions can greatly add to size. Many thanks for your post right here.

  22. Get More Information

    I found your weblog site on google and verify a couple of of your early posts. Proceed to keep up the very good operate. I simply extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Looking for forward to studying more from you in a while!…

  23. Discover More

    I would also like to add if you do not already have got an insurance policy or else you do not belong to any group insurance, you might well reap the benefits of seeking assistance from a health insurance agent. Self-employed or people with medical conditions generally seek the help of the health insurance brokerage. Thanks for your post.

  24. Continue

    I’ll right away snatch your rss as I can’t in finding your email subscription hyperlink or e-newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Kindly allow me recognize in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

  25. Going Here

    I have realized that over the course of building a relationship with real estate proprietors, you’ll be able to come to understand that, in every single real estate purchase, a commission amount is paid. Eventually, FSBO sellers really don’t “save” the commission rate. Rather, they fight to win the commission by doing an agent’s task. In completing this task, they spend their money as well as time to execute, as best they’re able to, the assignments of an adviser. Those duties include revealing the home by way of marketing, introducing the home to willing buyers, building a sense of buyer desperation in order to trigger an offer, organizing home inspections, managing qualification investigations with the bank, supervising maintenance, and aiding the closing of the deal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>