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 Debbie is the 2010 Maggie winner for unpublished contemporary series romance, a 2010 finalist in the Maggie inspirational category, and a finalist in the 2010 Daphnes.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
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.
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
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.
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.