Harvesting the Writer’s Conference

The Willamette Writer’s Conference celebrated the wild ride of publishing this year.

I spent the last three days indulging myself in writerly business at the Willamette Writer’s Conference. This event offered workshops in Fiction, Non-Fiction, Film & Script, and Indie Publishing and the diversity is really fun. Although I don’t write screenplays, I find the perspective of filmmakers to be really useful in seeing things from a visual point of view.

Hundreds of writers chatted each other up as the herd staggered through the halls like over-caffeinated zombies. Networking is only one great reason to attend a conference, there are endless opportunities to learn from everyone present. Find one and go. Try throwing a pitch during the agent sessions and sideswipe the published members of the crowd for a little manuscript development assistance. 

People go out of their way to be friendly and helpful. With very few exceptions this has been true of every conference I’ve attended. Don’t let people convince you these events aren’t worth attending until you’ve tried out a couple. There’s always room to improve your craft, meet some nice folks, and maybe even chat up someone you’ve admired from afar. And there are always a few oddballs, hopefully not you.

Even the agents/editors/publishing house people hobnob and relax. They want to say “yes!” when you tell them about your story, so don’t forget to share when they indicate an interest. There’s a reason they attend conferences but they’re just people after all, be sociable first and foremost. We’re all members of the same community and regardless of which part of the population you identify with, we’re all swimming in the great big publishing pond.

I sat through some amazing workshops.

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon

Some were good refreshers on writing craft. I especially enjoyed the sessions with Elizabeth Lyon on structure and editing. She’s written a number of great craft books over the years and offers editorial services, if you’re in the market. Becoming a better writer always appeals to me and hearing the same old thing from just the right voice occasionally makes fireworks spark in the grey matter.

No Roads Lead to Rome by Ron Gomperz

Other workshops were overwhelming with the sheer volume of content. Some made my brain hurt from the deluge of expert information the presenters poured out in only 90 minutes. The session on using the metrics and sequencing data on Amazon is going to require further investigation (it was fascinating!). Thanks to Ron Gomperz, who shared his own experiences in riding the Amazon wave, I’ve got a much better understanding of how to make their algorithms work better for me. If you like history and fun, check out his book No Roads Lead to Rome.

The workshop on SEO (search engine optimization) by John Ellis was fabulous. He offered the answers to so many questions about my website and blog. I love going to a workshop presented by an expert in a field who tailors everything we need to know to what we do: writing. He was generous enough to offer links to his presentation for all interested: presentation downloads. If you’re in the market to learn more about making your websites and blogs work better for you, think about John Ellis and Portland Internet Design. This very nice man is waiting to kick your statistics into overdrive.

There was great interest in Indie Publishing and several workshops about cover and book design, marketing and platform building, and even taking blog content and selling it as books.

Artemis Rising by Cheri Lasota

One of the most innovative and brilliant ideas was presented by Cheri Lasota, the author of Artemis Rising. She had these wonderful plastic cards (just like the giftcards you can buy for stores and restaurants), but these were for her e-book! What an excellent way to hand out free copies of your e-book to interested people…or keep a handful in your pocket and sell them when you’re out in public. Anywhere. Anytime. 

Get your own E-Book Cards!

If you’re interested in finding out more about this innovative approach to marketing, check out Greenerside Digital and see if E-Book Cards might work for your needs. If you visit Cheri’s website you’ll see a green box on her front page where you type in the download code and access the ebook directly. She’s even marketed these to local bookstores. Another cool thing is you get the book in three formats, so no matter what your reading device, you’re covered.

There was so much more…that I’ll have to update again later. I didn’t even get to the amazing forensics presentation which I attended that went a full 90 minutes past the end-time! More about that next time.

I’ve been MIA around ye olde blogge the last week. Sorry about that. This is the busiest time of my academic year and while the schedule is always a bit tight – the last few weeks have been extraordinarily nuts.

There are many wonderful writer’s conferences, which one is your favorite? What was the most useful workshop you’ve ever attended? Do you have a silly story to share? C’mon, we want to hear it!

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  1. #1 by Marcia on August 6, 2012 - 11:11 am

    I have never been to a conference, but I love hearing what everyone else learns! those eBook cards are a fantastic idea that I’m definitely going to look into! The SEO info is also something I need to learn more about. Ooo, sorry you missed the forensics, that would have been amazing I’ll bet! Thanks for sharing all of this, Leslie!

    • #2 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 6, 2012 - 2:08 pm

      You should find one to visit, Marcia! They really are a lot of fun and the more people you get to know, the more social they become. I really like the workshops and the chance to talk to people who are knowledgable in their fields. The SEO stuff is really confusing to me but you should really check out the details from John’s presentation. He clarified a lot and has really helpful ideas (and he was kind enough to send me the updated link to his materials (he just keeps on giving…)!

      I did actually make most of the forensics presentation but it’ll require a separate blog post. I love DNA. =)

  2. #3 by John Ellis on August 6, 2012 - 11:29 am

    Hi Leslie!

    Thanks so much for the mention. I had a great time presenting at the conference. So many talented writers! The audience was active and fun which is always awesome. I’m glad you came away with some useful info. It was hard keeping it to 1.5 hours! Happy to connect with you wherever preferred. You know where I am. 🙂

    I did put the Willamette Writers materials on the site. The content you linked to was for an older presentation for to the NABP. Here’s the link to the Willamette Writers material. WW conference material

    Thanks!

    John

    • #4 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 6, 2012 - 2:10 pm

      Hi John! Thanks for the updated link – I switched it out and hope it directs some folks your way. The writing community really wants to know about SEO but figuring out how to do it and making ourselves is frustrating. It’s so helpful to get expert information in a way that makes sense. There was so much information I found valuable and will be visiting you soon!

      Thanks again – and I’m sure there will be a great many more happy writers visiting your pages.

  3. #5 by Patricia Sands on August 6, 2012 - 12:42 pm

    Sounds fabulous! I’ve been to two local writers’ conferences and they were just as you describe. Totally awesome with so much information of value and great people to meet.
    The RWA in Atlanta next July is getting a lot of us WANAs
    v e r y interested (blame Tameri for whipping up the crowds) so perhaps even more of us will get to meet then!How much fun would that be?

    • #6 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 6, 2012 - 2:13 pm

      Fitting conferences into my schedule is always a challenge and the local ones make that a little easier. I’m fortunate that between Portland and Seattle I have some awesome options. I saw the posts about RWA and I’d love to try…I’m not sure I can manage that distant of a trip between my regular commuting stuff, but it would be awfully fun to meet everybody – especially all at once! Maybe I can manage to squeeze in a quickie overnight trip to Atlanta.

      Atlanta in July…I can feel the humidity already. Gack.

  4. #7 by Richard Krauss on August 6, 2012 - 9:49 pm

    Darn, if only I’d known you were there! This was first conference and I had a great time. Hallie Ephron was awesome!

    • #8 by Leslie Berry/ @LesannBerry on August 7, 2012 - 1:16 pm

      We were both in Elizabeth Lyon’s workshop but I left early for a pitch session. I didn’t recognize you until after she started talking. I really enjoy this conference because they offer such variety. Did you get a chance to talk to Hallie? She’s very approachable…and for the story idea you told me about, she’d be a great resource for a one-on-one manuscript development next year. If you get a chance to hear Bob Dugoni, he’s pretty awesome too. 🙂

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