Con Report – In Your Write Mind 2016

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The Seton Hill Campus. Image courtesy of setonhill.edu.

I can’t believe I haven’t already waxed enthusiastic about Seton Hill on this blog, but let me take a brief moment to say: if you are an aspiring writer, or a published writer looking to up your game and make new connections, consider Seton Hill University.

The Writing Popular Fiction MFA program is a big investment in terms of time and money, so if you aren’t sure if you want to take the leap, every June the alumni of the program host a writing workshop called In Your Write Mind. We bring in agents, editors, and guest authors to give workshops and be on panels, as well as accepting pitches from attendees. Alums of the WPF program and current instructors in the program also present workshops, and next year they are planning to schedule an “unscheduled” day of writing sprints, pitch practice, critique workshops, and more.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely love the Seton Hill experience, and keep coming back for In Your Write Mind. There’s a reason that alums call SHU “Hogwarts for Writers.” But why might you want to give the workshop a try?

For one thing, it’s low-key. We come here to have a good time, and there’s no sense of a hectic pace or the need to be somewhere or do anything. If you want to hang out and talk shop with other writers, you’ll have lots of opportunities. But if you like go to go classes, the programming tracks focus on craft and networking, and there’s a good mix of information about writing a better book and being smart about the business side of the industry.

Here’s what I did this past weekend, to give you an idea of what the workshop is like:

FRIDAY

I had some childcare issues and so I wasn’t able to arrive early on Thursday. But I drove in on Friday morning and went straight to campus. I planned to move in to my dorm room* right away, but I immediately started talking to people and got pulled along for the first two workshops of the day.

I took Plotting the Mystery with Victoria Thompson, author of the Gaslight Mysteries, and The Zero Draft Approach to Novel Writing with Symantha Reagor (who runs the social media for the workshop) and my very own editor, the lovely Anna LaVoie. Plotting the Mystery reminded me of where I’d lost my focus when I wrote my cozy mystery about a kitchen witch, and the Zero Draft module gave me permission to write a crappy draft just to get the story on paper. A blank page can’t be revised!

In the afternoon, I pitched to all three agents and editors: Diana Pho from Tor, Kimberly Brower from the Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency, and Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I want to be a hybrid author, with books both traditionally published and self published. I got some requests and will be sending queries out next week. Cross your fingers!

I also went to a workshop about method writing (using the tenets of method acting to better understand your characters) and a panel on freelance editing (to support the best editor EVER).

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Yours truly, signing copies of Essential Magic!

That evening was the mass booksigning on campus. I idiotically forgot a handcart and had to lug a million-ton box of books from my car to the gymnasium, but I survived, and sold some books, so that was awesome. There were over 40 authors there signing books, and I got to be at the table next to my mentor, Maria V Snyder! I love her to death, and it was awesome to be between her and Andi Adams, who recently hosted me on her blog and will be featured here in a few weeks.

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The 40+ authors at the book signing. I’m way up on the top left, near Andi Adams, Kristin Dearborn, and Maria V Snyder!

SATURDAY

Saturday was the guest presenter day! First, I got to hear Kimberly Brower talk about the things that grab her – or turn her off! – in a query. Then Eric Ruben broke down some legal issues for writers and was very entertaining in the process. Everyone got to have lunch with guest author Daniel José Older, who has a magnetic personality and sold me on his books within five minutes of being in the same room. Then came another fantastic and fun panel with Eric about the future of the industry (takeaway – nobody knows!), and a presentation about Writing Across Difference by Diana Pho that was informative and eye-opening. The workshop sessions for the day closed out with an AMA-style panel with all four guests. They gave thought-provoking and often hilarious answers, and the whole room was filled with laughter. It was a blast!

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Our amazing guests! Daniel José Older, Eric Ruben, Diana Pho, and Kimberly Brower!

That night I went out to dinner with my editor and then we descended on a local restaurant for the yearly costume ball! That’s right – this workshop has a costumed event every year! This year’s theme was “Trope Your Genre” and we saw many interesting interpretations, including a billionaire romance hero, a ripped bodice, and a secret baby! Next year’s theme is “International Persons of Mystery” so start planning your spy-themed garb now!

Also at the party they raffled off baskets donated by workshop attendees. The proceeds go to a scholarship fund for the WPF program, and the baskets are always awesome. This year, I won one! I forgot to take a picture of it before I dismantled it, but it had a bunch of kitchen tools and recipe books. If you follow my other pseudonym, you know that I’m into cooking and baking and have written a cozy about a kitchen witch, so I was very excited to win.

I’ll be honest. Except for the fact that the booksigning was on Friday, Saturday was my favorite day of the workshop. The guests were amazing presenters, I learned things I had never known before, and I got to go to a fancy dress party!

SUNDAY

I may have chosen to sleep on Sunday morning instead of getting up early enough to go to the 9 am workshops. I’m sorry! By Sunday I was so exhausted that I needed the extra rest. Note to self: next year, do not schedule your book release for the same week as IYWM!

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Symantha Reagor teaches us about character flaws.

I did, however, go to two fabulous workshops later in the morning. The first was on strengthening character by exploiting flaws by Symantha Reagor, and the second was a scorching-hot workshop on erotic romance by the amazing Anna Zabo.

Every June we have a fancy lunch where the alums welcome the graduating students into the alumni association, and that is always good times. Then we have a business meeting, which sounds super boring, but isn’t because our committee rocks.

I didn’t want this year’s workshop to end, but it finally did, and I had to say goodbye until 2017. But many of us are going to World Fantasy in Columbus in October, so that’s only four months away. I can’t wait!

 

*One of the nice things about IYWM is that you have the option to stay in the dorms rather than booking a hotel. Now, they are definitely not glamorous. They’re your typical college dorms with very few amenities. But there’s a bed, WiFi, a shower, and electrical outlets for my devices, so it’s all good. And they are much, much cheaper than a hotel. So if you need to save a little cash – consider the dorms.

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