Philadelphia

Writing Wednesday: Why Writers’ Conferences are Worth Attending

black and white writer (Image)

Any writer out there will tell you that writing pretty much a solitary activity. We spend a lot of time alone with our computers and notebooks crafting our characters, building our fictional worlds and developing our plots, and, of course, revising things we’ve already written. Yet, while we mostly go it alone, we have to remember that no person (nor writer) is an island. We need a connection with other writers for critical feedback on our work, creative inspiration, encouragement to keep persevering through dreaded writer’s block, and so much more.

While studying as a communications/creative writing major DeSales University, I was spoiled with access to people who shared my passion for writing and that I could rely on to provide in-depth critiques on my work, as well a a slew of classes taught by amazing professors who had been published themselves. It was an environment that fueled my creative drive and pushed me to become a better writer. Now, that I’m in the real world, I don’t have that same easy access to a writing community, and it’s been hard to seek out a local one between working full-time, running this blog, personal obligations, and working on the beginning stages of my original fiction. The internet era and the rise of websites like Wattpad have made building a virtual network a lot easier. However, these virtual connections cannot always act as a substitute for the benefits reaped from face-to-face interaction.

This brings me to the necessity of writers’ conferences. Held across the country and even internationally and often lasting a few days, these events are designed to bring members of the writing community together to explore craft, network, and promote personal and professional growth. I have been attending the the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC) in Philadelphia, PA for the last few years. This staple of my summer season has become an invaluable part of my writing journey. It is the one weekend every year that I step away from the daily grind of life, and I fully dedicate to my craft and career as a writer.

Thought about checking out one of these events, but haven’t been sure if it’s right for you? Here is why you should pull the trigger and make this the year you attend a writer’s conference.

1. Learn from experts in the field

One of my favorite things about the conference I attend is that I get to attend three full days of workshops. For me, they fill the void I’ve had since I graduated college to learn and grow with instruction from talented professionals. The courses cover everything from specific genres, general plot and character development, and ways to self-promote yourself as a writer as well as your work, as well as tips for breaking into copywriting and freelancing. The classes are often taught by working writers and editors, who have made careers by pursuing their passion. They are a wealth of knowledge with answers to questions you may have about the writing industry and tips on how to find success with your work.

2. Get critiques on your work

We all have people who want to read what we’re working on, but how many of them actually provide honest, constructive critiques? (Saying they generally liked it doesn’t count.) Conferences are a great place to get critical feedback on current projects, bounce ideas for future projects and characters, and even help out your fellow writers with their projects. Some conferences even let you submit work ahead of time to be reviewed by your workshop leaders and attending editors and agents. For those feeling a little more adventurous, check out and see if your conference has any contests you can enter. You’ll have a chance to have your work reviewed and possibly win some prizes.

3. Network with others in the writing community

Let’s face it. Breaking into the writing industry is hard. Whether you want publish traditionally, self-publish, or break into the pulsing industry as a freelancer or editor, all you can do is send out your manuscript or resume out into the abyss and hope you get a response. Writers’ conferences give you the chance to get some one-on-one face time with the people in the industry. You have the opportunity to have your work looked at by published authors, editors, agents, and you get to pick their brains. Two years ago, I even got the chance to meet and speak with Pretty Little Liars author Sara Shepard. You’ll also get to interact with fellow writers and bloggers, and build valuable relationships with others in the writing community. Talk to everyone even if it makes you nervous. Be open to engaging with everyone in the room. You never know who you will meet or who you will hand your business card to.

4. It’s a chance to put your writing life first 

Of all the reasons out there to attend a conference, I personally feel that this the most important one. We all have obligations in our lives that can pull us away from our writing goals, like family duties and day jobs. Writers’ conferences give you the chance to take break from your daily life and focus completely on your writing. I always think of PWC as more of yearly retreat than a work conference. It is the one weekend every year that I devote nourishing my creative spirt and really delve into the exploration of my craft. This year, make that one weekend commitment to put your writing first. Hey, we all have at least one weekend a year free. Why not use it to renew your writer’s soul?

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Lots of Waiting, New Friends and the Pope: My Experience in “Popedelphia”

Pope Francis cardboard Pope Francis cutout at World Meeting of Families official store

When I told people I planned to go see Pope Francis on Saturday in Philadelphia, most of them thought I was crazy. After all, who in their right mind would want to put up with extreme crowds, security checkpoints, and crazy restrictions on transportation and navigation around the city? I’ll admit I even thought I was crazy for venturing down. However, as a Catholic and a resident of the Philly burbs, I knew this was one of those events that probably would only come around once in a lifetime. So, along with my parents, I headed off on Saturday morning to catch a train down into the adventure known as “Popedelphia.”

Getting down into the city was pretty simple. My train line was a straight shot from departure to destination, and we were able to snag a spot in the station parking lot instead of having to park a distance away at the local mall. (Shout out to the amazing officer who let us know about the open spots!) Surprisingly, the lot and the train were pretty empty with next to no chaos during boarding or the ride. Even, when we reached our destination, things were pretty calm and the crowd was relatively thin for what I had been expecting at the event. After making stop at the World Meeting of Families official store and taking a few snapshots with a life-size cardboard cutout of Pope Francis, we made our journey through the Center City streets towards the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Checkpoint Little girls being interviewed while they wait at the security checkpoint

Once we got through the main security checkpoint that allowed visitors to access the zone that didn’t require tickets, we were thrust right into the heart of the action. I took in the festival-like atmosphere as we made our way down through Love Park. The streets were lined with food trucks, souvenir stands, and people from all walks of life hoping to catch a glimpse of the Pope. Even the guy know as Philly Jesus was in attendance. (I’ll admit I was fascinated to see him in person. I didn’t even know he was still around.) The city even set up jumbotrons at various corners so those who were unable to get into the ticketed events or near the open events could still be a part of the action. We reached our destination as the mass at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul was ending. Word came that Pope Francis would be coming down the street, so we all gathered at the barrier to catch a glimpse of him. While I waited, I chatted with some girls around my age of how how cute we thought the Secret Service guys were as we stood on the steps of one of the high-rise apartment buildings.

However, it ended up being a false report.

Jumbotron Jumbotron by Love Park

We me up with some family friends and killed time at an Irish bar for a couple hours. (Yay, for real bathrooms and a place to sit!) We had heard from fellow crowd members that there were rumors Pope Francis would be making an appearance again, so we made our way to back to the barricade a little after 3:00 for the possible parade at 4:00. We lucked out and snagged a spot right up against the barricade, but, once again, this was a false alarm. As we stood around waiting for the official parade at 7:00, we struck up a conversation with a family of women who were in town for the event. They spanned the country with one from Nashville, one from Chicago, one from New York, one from Philadelphia, and two from Indianapolis. The trip was a Christmas gift for their mother who was well into her seventies. She and one of her daughter’s mother-in-laws (also around the same age) were absolute troopers refusing to leave their prime spots to even sit down. It was so much fun seeing these two women in their seventies so excited to see the Pope. When we learned they hadn’t been able to secure any passes to later events, we gave them ours, which earned us a big hug, promises of prayers and some happy tears from their mother. We even took a big group picture with them.

Basilica Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul  

Then, the real waiting began.

A couple hours into our seemingly never-ending wait, everyone in the crowd seemed to be going a little stir crazy. (There was a jumbotron at are location, but it was facing the opposite direction from where we were standing.) However, we found ways to pass the time. One group started a call-and-response cheer in Spanish with another Some people started cheering for the trash guys as they drove by, and, soon, everyone was cheering for anyone who went by like cops on horseback, a group of EMTs  and a busload of cardinals. The biggest highlight for myself and most of the crowd during this stretch of time was seeing the empty Popemobile drive by. (We even caught a few glimpses of roof top snipers.)

Finally, after hours of waiting, Pope Francis finally came. He was preceded by several black Suburbans and highway patrol cops, his Popemobile all lit up and glowing in the night. I have to admit watching him whiz by was pretty incredible. Even though I was cold and sore, I found myself completely caught up in the moment as we snapped pictures and took videos (Due to scheduling conflicts, he flew by in order to get to the events at the Art Museum.)

Popemobile Pope Francis!

And just like that, it was over.

The rest of the night was spent fight through crowds to get back to our train station followed by an over an hour wait for our train trading stories with some workers from SEPTA. One of them proudly wore a Pope blessed rosary around his neck, a gift from a Hawaiian passenger he had assisted earlier in the day.

Overall, the day was very exciting, I’m blessed to have been able to have been a part of it. I want to express my gratitude to all the volunteers, law enforcement officials, and SEPTA workers who made the event happen. Everyone was so kind and helpful, which made everything go much more smoothly and made the long periods of waiting more tolerable. Every question and request for assistance was met with a smile. Even thought the hours were long, both event workers and attendees remained in high spirits. It was amazing to see people of all ages from all walks of life come to together to celebrate their faith and the Church and to be in the presence of Pope Francis. This truly was one of those vents in my life I will always remember.

September Reading List Day Seventeen: “Faking It” by Cora Carmack

Faking it (Image)

Some love stories start off based on attraction while others start off as a matter of convince. Cora Carmack’s Faking It definitely falls into the latter category. When rocker chick Max gets a surprise Thanksgiving visit from her conservative parents, she knows her less than stellar on-again/off-again boyfriend just isn’t going to cut it, so she enlists the help of a preppy stranger she spies in a coffee shop. A poor grad student nursing a broken heart, Cade can’t help but go along with Max’s plan and agrees to pose as her boyfriend for the next twenty-four hours.However, while the pair, aka Angry Girl and Golden Boy, planned to part ways after the holiday, invitation for Christmas and several chance encounters throughout the city have this unlikely duo discovering they might not just be faking their attraction to each other. They find themselves wanting to break down the walls of their past in order to embark on a future together. Sweet, endearing, and full witty humor, Faking It will have you believing that love really does come from the most unexpected places.

What are your thoughts on today’s selection? Share your thoughts below! Also tweet your favorite books to @WriteForBoots and I’ll retweet them!