What REALLY Happens at Writers Conferences

I have no idea what goes on at all of them, but I can tell you what happened at the one I attended a few days ago with my writing friend, Patty.

Yeah, she LOOKS nice, but I gave her one job. ONE job – make sure I don’t get overly excited and drink too much wine the night before. I guess she couldn’t know that one glass is too much for some people.

The Harriette Austin Writers Conference is held in Athens, Georgia so we drove up the night before and stayed with Patty’s daughter. We wanted to be there bright and early on Friday morning so we wouldn’t miss anything. Friday is the day they hold workshops and we had four from which to choose –

Developing Character with Patrick LoBrutto (Been there/done that)

Everything You Need to Know about Getting an Agent  (Patty’s choice)

The Legal Aspects of Writing (Who needs that? I’m sure they’re all wonderful, trustworthy people)

How to Write Suspense Fiction(Why not?)

My class was taught by New York Times bestselling author – John Gilstrap

He gave us actual WORK to do. Like writing a thrilling scene involving either a woman walking into a dark house, or a 13-year-old boy exiting a bar and lighting a cigarette. While the rest of the class scribbled furiously for twenty minutes, I stared at my blank sheet of paper thinking, “Wha?” and “Why?”

I did manage to write some clichéd yuckiness about “the dark house daring her to come in” that I wouldn’t have read out loud if my life depended on it.

This was about the time I realized that writing a thriller may not be in my near future.

To save face, I explained to the man behind me that I’d had too much wine and wasn’t thinking clearly. And he explained that he was a Presbyterian minister writing a thriller ala Father Dowling. Awesome.

After a day of THAT, we had dinner and went to a reception where we got to mingle with other agents, writers, editors, etc. Patty was having a critique the next day and we ran into her evaluator. Who looked EXACTLY like Maxine. Minus the friendliness.

But we refused to let it damper our spirits. Especially when there were celebrities to meet.

Yes, that’s me with THE Harriette Austin. She was thrilled to meet us. No, really. I took that cold glass out of her hand because she was freezing, and Patty actually rubbed her hands to get them warm.

We are not above sucking up, obviously.

The next day I took classes on Branding and Social Media, The Three-Part Story Arc, and Inspirational Writing. Patty took a class about Historical Research and then had her evaluation where she charmed Maxine as I always knew she would.

We also enjoyed a Keynote Address from Mr. John Gilstrap.

He explained that the average advance for a first novel is $5,000 dollars but he was offered $250,000 for his and a two-book deal but his agent turned it DOWN because she knew they could do better. This is the point where I realized writing a thriller was TOTALLY in my near future.

Writers Conferences are very inspiring.

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