Tag Archives: Pennwriters conference

Susan Speaks: I Love Mondays. Seriously.


Yes, I love Mondays! I have for a long time: it used to be that the house would empty out and I’d get my solitude to work in. But it’s summer vacation and that means the house is rarely empty during the work week right now. The kids are old enough, though, to let me work like they’re not around — although they are interesting people, so I like to see what they’re up to, who they are online with, what games they’re playing, what they’re making me for lunch (hey, that actually worked a time or two!).

In terms of work, because I don’t like to wrap a project over a weekend when I can avoid it, Mondays mean starting a fresh project. A new manuscript, a new set of characters (or some old friends), another chance to spend time shaking my head in admiration of my client’s genius.

Speaking of genius, I just discovered the utter brilliance of the creative minds behind one of my all-time favorite shows: the name of lead character John Crichton. Yeah, I’m behind the 8-ball on this one … or am I? Do you guys get the brilliance? I am blown away.

Know what else blows me away? I checked my Amazon numbers for the books, to discover that someone had paid money for a copy of Mannequin! As you know, for some reason, it’s free everywhere BUT Amazon. That winds up in Mannequin being my most returned book at Amazon–people are pretty clearly making it free their own way, instead of helping me out and reporting it to them as free elsewhere. So to see a copy sold and not returned always makes me happy.

After the Pennwriters Conference last May, I started writing again. I’ve jumped projects — I think I got started on a comfort project until I could get back into the discipline and mindset of writing, and now I’m working on something serious. Not sure when you’ll see it. Definitely not Rocktober 2015, and most likely not April 2016, either, unless I pick up the pace. Which I’d like to do, but evenings this summer have been spent running the kids around. Namely the son. And namely Ultimate frisbee, a game which I’ve grown to really appreciate.

It’s your turn to blow me away: I still have a few spots open in August, so jump on soon. I can’t believe there are still open dates! This is usually the start of my busy season, and I’m hoping that after the best first half of the year ever (except May, for some reason — and yes, the dreaded June is still included in that count!), things don’t slow down. I’m on a roll over here, but I need you to keep it going.


An Editor’s Life: Conference Textures


I do it every other year, and every other year, it’s completely different.

I’m talking about the Pennwriters Annual Conference. Every other year, it’s held in my backyard of Pittsburgh. I get to sleep at home, escape early from the chaos, and have some good decompression time. And I drive a lot. Half hour each way, but so totally worth it. Plus, driving down on Saturday, Octane was rocking hard and the music was blasting and it was a super way to start the day.

Anyone who’s been a repeat offender at Pennwriters (or any other convention, I’m sure) will agree with this: even when the faces are mostly the same, the conference experience never is. There’s always something new to explore, someone new who makes a difference.

Two years ago, I spent most of the conference sitting in a hallway, wrangling authors who were going to pitch agents and acquiring editors. I had a ball, don’t get me wrong, and not just because a number of my conference buddies amused me by telling me that they hadn’t realized I was even in attendance. And, as always, I learned a lot.

This year, it was totally different. I couldn’t deliver the SIX baskets I’d collected for the Chinese Auction until Friday morning, so as soon as I tossed kids out the door and onto the school bus, it was into the car to get the baskets set up.

I spent the morning doing that, helping my friend and subcontractor Mary get all the baskets together. We had another Susan helping us and it was friendly and companionable and comfortable. What a super way to ease into the event.

A month out, I’d planned to skip the two lunches the conference offered: one for only those who’ve achieved Published status and the other was for the unwashed masses. I hate class structure like that, and I think that in this age of transparency and a changed publishing model, the need for this structure is over. So I’d expected to have a quiet lunch by myself in the hotel restaurant.

But I mentioned that I was skipping the organized lunches and talks to a friend I meet with monthly. And suddenly, I had a lunch date.

Fast forward to the conference. I’m sitting in a chair, waiting for my friend, and … someone walks up. She’s going to have lunch by herself. Or… she was. She joins me.

A minute later, there’s still no sign of my friend. Good thing because Mary shows up with a buddy, one of the best storytellers I’ve ever met.

And lunch for one became five. It was not a quiet lunch. Not even close.

That’s how the weekend went. Good people around me at all times. Some were new faces. Some were old. Some were connections I’d made over ten years ago in an entirely different venue. But I never felt alone, never felt lonely or lost or ignored, even when I was sitting by myself.

I gave my first workshop. It needs some tweaking and probably broken into two different sessions altogether. But I’m also booked for next month to give it again. I was asked to do an online workshop and while I think that may not come to be — my credentials seemed to ultimately be disappointing, since I’m not an acquiring editor — at least I was asked.

Someone asked me where I see myself in five years. I’ve been thinking about that. I see myself doing more of this. More talks. More networking. More editing. More success.

That was the texture of this year’s conference. Last time, it was about helping others calm their nerves, about finding them time for expanded opportunities. This time, it felt like I’ve been waiting for it to feel.

My favorite line of the weekend? “I’ve been seeing this West of Mars everywhere, it feels like.”

YES. Hey, did I tell you I have editing dates open this summer?


Promo Season!


I mentioned already that I’m headed to the Pennwriters Conference this year. I wish I could attend more conferences, and I’d love to host all my writer friends and their readers for a fun-filled weekend, too.

But both of those ambitions are down the road, for when my kids are older and need me around less.

Right now, I have a promo opp that’s all about my author friends — and the conference attendees. It’s easy and it’ll cost only what you are willing to invest.

I am seeking books — print copies or else fancy-styled flashdrives* with your e-book(s) on them — for auction baskets. I’ll make a lovely little note about what books (and their authors) for the outside, and one (or more, depending on how many baskets I’m able to make) lucky winner will take home YOUR book.

Got a book you want to include? Drop me a note. Got an e-book? Drop me a note.

The idea here, folks, is to get your name out to a wider reading audience. I know… what’s the value of reaching writers and not readers? Well, because the smart writers among us are voracious readers. The smart writers among us are super networkers, not afraid to tell our friends to read such-and-such because it’s a great book, or a great example of this literary technique or this or that is handled really well and it’s a super example.

In other words: a good book in the right hands can create the sort of buzz we all want. People talking in positive ways about our books.

All it’ll cost you is the price of postage and your book. That’s not too much to ask for a chance to find a wider audience, is it?

I didn’t think so.

*Flashdrives in fun, custom shapes are a super promotional item.


Conference Season


Anyone who’s hung around these parts for any length of time knows I am a member of Pennwriters, and that I go to the conference in the odd-numbered years, when it is held in Pittsburgh.

This year, I’ll be presenting a workshop — but not on what you may think when you first see that I’m doing it. Susan the editor, Susan the writer … those personas are being shoved aside for a Sunday morning and instead, I’m going to be Susan the Reviewer. I’ll be using my experience as a longtime blogger and a professional book reviewer to run a workshop about reviews. I will have two outlines ready to go, and my audience will select between:

1. How to write a killer review, including how to evaluate the text and sound smart

2. Reviews for authors — how to get them, who to ask, the value of the paid review, the value of the one-star review, and what’s worse than that dreaded one-star review.

Frankly, I want to focus on the second topic. But it’ll be up to my audience.

So. If you’re interested, if you are burning to know if I truly am an Orange S on a Red Background, if you’re around, or if you’re looking for something to do Sunday morning before you hit the road for home, sign on up for the Pennwriters Conference. There’s lots more you’ll find besides just me. Acquiring editors. Agents. Other authors. And some of the friendliest, most supportive people around. This is the fun kind of networking, the kind that doesn’t hurt.

Come on out. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Orange S on the Red Background.

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