How the Writers Conference Went

The Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference was held July 20 through 22, 2012 at the Los Angeles Valley College. It was the first year for the conference, and generally speaking it went off pretty well.

I attended as a speaker, and as such had the priviledge of sitting in on sessions where I was not speaking. I thought it would be interesting to give a sample of what I was able to experience during the weekend.

The first session I attended was “Writing a Memoir That Others Want To Read”, given by Matt Pallamary and Maralys Wills. I’ve heard Maralys speak before, so there wasn’t much new for me. But the two of them did a good job interacting, and responding to the inquiries from the audience. I have a couple of memoir type projects in my files, so I found what the speakers had to say of interest, in particular the matter of giving focus to the story of the memoir.

After that, Dan Watanabe did a session called “Hollywood 101”. This was a fun one to sit in on, because Dan is an engaging speaker. What he had to say was, for me at least, not new. But for someone getting their feet wet, it was definitely informative. Daniel Nyiri did a session following Dan titled “Plays and Novels into Screenplays”. There were only a handful of people for this session, so it became far more conversational that a simple dispensing of information.

After that, I was on deck with Maxwell Alexander Drake for a session titled “Location, Location, Location.” It was about setting and world-building. Drake (as he prefers to be called) and I had met the week before in San Diego at Comic Con, and we hit it off. He does quite a lot of teaching of different topics for writing and was quite energetic in what he had to say. We covered both the general things a writer has to do to create a credible setting, whether present day, historical or one for a fantasy or science fiction tale. Afterward, I took up a station to try and convince attendees to buy copies of my own book, The Scribbler’s Guide to the Land of Myth.

Saturday brought a full day of programming, though I did not sit in on quite as much. First up was “Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy for Today’s Savvy Reader”, with panelists Deborah Pratt, Sherwood Smith, Maxwell Alexander Drake, Maury Garnholz, with Denise Dumars taking on Moderating duties. This ended up not being quite as satisfying as it might have been, but I think that was more a case of it being a largish panel.

“Why Manuscripts Arrive Dead on Arrival at Agents and Publishers” is a topic that has been covered in GLAWS panels at Loscon and at Special Speaker Events. The panelists were Denise Dumars, Steve Booth, Paul S. Levine, W. Terry Whalin, moderated by Tony Todaro. Again, the usual problems are from aspiring writers who fill their inquiry letters with obvious statements (“I’m looking for an agent” or “I have a manuscript I want to interest you in”) instead of getting to the point of interesting the agent or publisher in the work. I should note part of my reason for sitting in on this panel is that I recently signed with Paul Levine as my book agent. The panelists were quite lively and informative.

Dan Poynter gave the luncheon keynote address. He speaks on self-publishing and building an audience. He’d spoken at a GLAWS event last year, so I didn’t expect to hear anything new. After lunch, I again tried to sell a few copies of my book.

In the afternoon, my second speaking session came round. I shared the hour with my friend Eric Swelstad, and we spoke about the Hero’s Journey. We used the Vogler version of the Journey outline as our jumping off points. Our audience was very responsive and had engaging questions as well. It went very well, it seemed to me. More attempts at selling books followed.

The day ended with a panel on writing graphic novels that was also the July GLAWS Special Speaker Event. Panelists were Art Holcomb moderating, Barbara Randall Kesel, Jim Krueger, and Neo Edmond. They were quite an engaging group and answered questions for the audience. Barbara is something of a friend of mine, so I was interested in what she had to say. And of course, generally speaking, the topic is pertinent to the work I’m doing on Paper Movies.

Afterward, a number of people went to dinner together. Since by this time I had actually sold a few copies of my book, I treated myself to a very nice dinner of filet mignon.

Sunday began with another session with Dan Wantanabe. It was intended to be a pitch session, but Dan is very much a good storyteller, and so we listened to his “working in Hollywood” tales. Afterward, I went back to bookselling.

However, afterward in the afternoon, I substituted on a panel titled “Endings, the Good, the Bad, the Ugly”. We talked about shaping stories toward their endings. Knowing where your story is going is very important since it helps shape the elements you chose to move the tale forward. The questions from our small audience were quite good, as we had both fiction and non-fiction writers present. Afterward, a couple of the attendees expressed their appreciation for the panel, saying it had helped them considerably.

The conference ended with a “Literary Agents Roundtable”, with panelists Steven Fisch moderating over Paul S. Levine, Toni Lopopolo, Jeff Silberman, Steve Hutson, Dana Newman, and Peggy Patrick. They were quite a diverse group with differing opinions, particularly on matters of the growth of e-publishing and self-publishing and how that affects traditional publishing. Though the exchanges were lively, they were also very informative.

All in all, a most interesting weekend for writers. And it was an occasion for me to do more speaking about writing. I find that I enjoy doing it. And since I did sell a few copies of my book, over all, it worked out well enough for me.

About Sarah Beach

Now residing in Southern California, I was born in Michigan and moved to Texas when 16. After getting my Masters degree in English, I moved to Hollywood, because of the high demand for Medievalists (NOT!). I love writing all sorts of things, and occasionally also create some artwork.

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