MAFWI 2015 PART 2 – Why It’s Okay to Sit Out a Session

During the first full weekend in August I attended the 2015 Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writing Institute conference at Hagerstown Community College featuring Keynote Speaker Tess Gerritsen. It was a fabulous choice of first-ever writing conference and I’m so glad I went. You can read more about it in last week’s blog post titled MAFWI 2015 PART 1 – Why Attend Writing Conferences.

On the second day of the conference, the schedule was:

  • Keynote Speaker – Tess Gerritsen, “I’ve Got a Great Idea for a Book…Or Do I?”
    Maybe you think you have the perfect premise for a novel. But is it, really? How do you recognize when you’ve got an idea that will translate into a killer plot? Join international bestselling author Tess Gerritsen as she shares her experience and insights.
  • Morning Breakout Sessions– Why Every Writer Should Collaborate– The Importance and Purpose of Dialogue
    Social Media Basics: How to Get a Grip on Your Social Media Campaigns
    Writing Emergency Room Scenarios
  • Lunch
    Lunch was a buffet-style meal of salad ingredients including grilled chicken, a wide range of non-alcoholic drink choices, and a few dessert items, like watermelon and cookies
  • Panel Discussion
    The Details of the Dream: Worldbuilding for Writers of Fiction, Fantasy, and Everything in Between
  • Afternoon Breakout Sessions
    – Jumping into the Self-Publishing Pool
    – The Prince and the Pauper: The Real Deal Behind an Ideal Publisher-Author Relationship
    – Why Character Consequence and Reaction are Necessary for Conflict and Tension
    – Deviant Diagnosis: Creating Characters with Psychological Conditions
    -So You Want to Write a Thriller
  • Dinner
  • Open Mic
As with any event, there were parts I loved and also parts I did not like at all. Let’s get the negative out of the way first.
Even though I understand the reason for it, the morning keynote building (which had the auditorium) and the lunch session building (which had the cafeteria) were spread out across campus. The emergency room themed session was also in the lunch building, due to having a room with some of the medical equipment being discussed.
The walk sucked. It was partly my fault. I’m not athletic. It was a hot day out. I wore a dark-colored shirt. Going toward the lunch building, I took my time and plenty of breaks. All in all it took about half an hour. (Did I mention plenty of breaks?)
On the way back it was all uphill. I left ahead of my friends but they quickly caught and passed me. Fortunately one of them offered to give me a ride in their vehicle, or I might still be making that walk right now.
Everything I Loved about Day Two
There may not be enough room in this article for me to list everything I loved.
  • Tess Gerritsen is not only a gifted author, but also a gifted speaker. I could have listened to her the entire day.
  • Because I skipped the morning breakout session and found a seat in the empty cafeteria just over an hour early, I was able to chat with both Jim Rada and Robert Bidinotto. This was a real boon, as it led to me switching breakout sessions for the following morning. (More on that in next week’s article!)
  • During the in-between times the conference staff offered plenty of bottled water, granola bars, and other snacks. The bottled water was a real plus, and I for one really appreciated it.
  • The afternoon breakout session with Nik Korpon regarding analyzing characters who suffer from (and revel in) various psychological conditions. We talked about fictional characters in a wide range of media types, from Norman Bates to Walter White.
Get Your Work Out There Any Way You Can
Wrapping up the end of the evening was the Open Mic event. I surprised the other members of my group (and myself) by volunteering to read a short story. It was something I submitted to Morning Rain Publishing‘s contest, the 2014 Freaky Flash Award. Because the story, titled The Funeral Home is No Place For a Child, won first place, I thought I probably couldn’t go wrong.
The entire time I stood in front of my peers of writers, it was a struggle. I could hear my voice shaking. Was I talking too fast? Were my words comprehensible? Where others had printed copies or a laptop handy, I’d copied and pasted the story from MRP’s website into an email on my laptop minutes before the start of the event and then read it via the minuscule screen on my phone.
And then I was finished. With a big sigh of relief, I returned to my seat just glad it was over, never to be spoken of again. Except it was. A few people came up to me after the open mic and said how much they really enjoyed they story – especially the twist at the end. The next morning, even more attendees — and even a couple of the presenters — stopped to compliment me on the story.
And I’ll wrap up my MAFWI 2015 review next week, rounding out my thoughts about the final day.

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