I enjoy going to conventions. I like meeting new authors and readers, and sharing my books with others. I like going to panels and learning new things. But there’s one convention/workshop that I look forward to every year and would only miss for a family emergency.
That’s In Your Write Mind.
IYWM is sponsored by the alums of the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction MFA program. Alumni run the convention and make up most of the module presenters (although we are open to anyone with expertise!). Every year we bring in a panel of guest presenters as well (usually 2 agents, 1 editor, and 1 author), and that’s always a highlight of the event as they take pitches and do critiques in addition to their presentations. There are also several large events such as a mass booksigning and a costume ball that are not to be missed.
This year was particularly wonderful. Last year I had a single book out, and although I participated in the mass book signing, it’s a very different experience to sit at a big table alone with one book and some bookmarks than it is to have four different books, lots of signage and swag, and beautiful new covers.
But I should tell this in order.
The first day of IYWM is low-key. There are a few semi-structured events such as pitch practice and query critiques, but mostly we all just hang out and spend time with our favorite people that we haven’t seen for a year. I am a highly introverted person with mild social anxiety, and when I first came to the SHU WPF program there were many times when I felt like I was on the outside of things looking in. I never once had that experience this year unless I deliberately took myself away from the group for some down time. There was always someone I knew and someone who wanted to chat, whether about writing or publishing or random stuff like kids and pets. So that was fantastic. I was also too distracted to take many pictures, so this con report is text-heavy and image-light. Sorry!
I stayed in the dorms, which is semi-equivalent to staying in the convention hotel, except with paper-thin mattresses and inadequate pillows. But it was nice not to have to drive in from another location in the morning–until I had to go pick up our guests.
One of the awesome things about IYWM is the opportunity to volunteer to be a “minion” for the special guests. I had a mini-van, so I ended up being one of the primary sources of transportation for Kurestin Armada, Sandra Kasturi, and Diana Rowland. We had a blast, even when I managed to get us completely lost one day.
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. That first day, I met the other minions and Sandra and Diana at the guest hotel and we all went to dinner. Kurestin didn’t come in until later, so after dinner I went to pick her up and took her to one of the “genre dinners”–a meal hosted by current WPF members in a given genre. This one was for spec fic. We had a good time chatting with everyone, but the service left A LOT to be desired.
Friday morning started with a critique session. I haven’t been to one in years, but I got some good feedback on my short story for the summer science fiction romance anthology (Love Across the Universe), and then went back to the guest hotel to get Kurestin. We both went to an excellent module on advertising given by J.R. Baird, and then went our separate ways. Other presentations I saw that day include one on writing passion that doesn’t equal sex, and another on writing video game guides. I also gave a presentation on indie publishing.
Then I went to dinner with some truly awesome people and afterward headed to the Performing Arts Center to participate in the book signing.
As I mentioned earlier, I very much enjoyed the book signing this year. There were problems (it was our first year in a new location and it POURED rain all night), but I got to talk to lots of authors and readers, and I sold more books than I expected to sell, so for me it was a success.
Saturday was guest presentation day. The first class I went to was on story structure with Diana Rowland, where I got some great ideas to implement as I write book four in the Fay of Skye series. She also showed us some very cool photos of when she worked in the coroner’s office! After that, I went to John Bowers’ presentation on foreign and film rights and got some names of agencies that specialize and will work with indie authors.
Then it was time for the hilarious author lunch with Diana Rowland, who told us the story of her publishing life and was a hoot.
After lunch I went to Kurestin Armada’s class on the first five pages of a manuscript, and how they should break down in terms of plot, character, and worldbuilding. I realized I didn’t actually introduce the plot for my kitchen witch book until the very last sentence of the first scene. Problematic!!
The last presentation of the day was a panel with all four guests, talking about various aspects of the publishing industry. That was fun, too, and the guests (especially Sandra and Diana) had us all laughing.
After the guest panel, we took the guests out for dinner at Primanti Bros and I took us on the “scenic route” around Greensburg thanks to letting Google Maps direct us instead of just looking at where we were going and figuring out the best way to get there. It was a little stressful and embarrassing for me, but we all joked about it and the next time I see any of them, it will be an easy way to remember me!
That night was the costume ball. The theme was “International Persons of Mystery.” Usually I try to come up with a costume, but I’ve been working non-stop all spring and didn’t have time to put together anything interesting. So I wore my Death Star dress from Torrid and my combat boots and decided that was mysterious enough!
At the ball, I finally got the chance to talk with author Andi Adams, and we had a good time sharing publishing stories and talking shop about reviews and marketing.
Sunday was more of a low-key day. We minions made sure our guests got back to the airport/train station, and I managed to go to a panel about military life and one about naval warfare before the graduate luncheon, inviting new MFA grads to the alumni association. Then there was just the business meeting to attend and back into my car to head home.
I’m still recovering physically (I’m writing this on Wednesday 6/28–the workshop was 6/22-6/25), but I’m creatively recharged and emotionally content after a fulfilling few days with my writing family. Going through the SHU WPF program was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life (student loan debt aside!).
As I said on my personal Facebook page while I was at the workshop, I have worked hard to achieve the success I am experiencing now, and I will continue to do so. But I would not be where I am without Seton Hill and the WPF/IYWM network. If you have any way to get to Greensburg, PA next June, I highly recommend you purchase a membership and join us for next year’s workshop.