Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Catholic Writers' Conference Online a Hit!
Sorry this is late; I was cleaning up the chats from the Catholic Writers' Conference Online for the e-book. BTW-the e-book is for sale to anyone, so if you missed it, feel free to contact me to order a copy ($5 for PDF, $10 for CD).
What a terrific conference! Well beyond my expectations. First, we had 300 people register--half again the goal we'd set. We had two dozen presenters with about 40 workshops or chats in all covering everything from plotting out your story to working with your editor to marketing your book. Here were a few of my favorites:
Mark Shea kicked things off with a wonderful discussion on How Faith Connects Everything. I moderated this one, and it got a little out of hand from the moderating POV because opinions and ideas just flew. However, Mark summed it up this way: "It is our right and proper mission, not to spend all our time fussing about the arrangements of the sanctuary, but bringing Christ into the world. The last words of the Mass, properly translated, are "Go! You are sent" That's how I see my work as a writer."
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff's chats on plot and showing characterization had excellent advice and practical examples. The day after the conference, I whipped out a short story and the entire time, I kept "hearing" her remind me about what we'd learned.
"Writing with Faith and Without Bias" was another fun and practical chat. Woodeene Koenig-Bricker has a nice direct style and a fun way of putting things. "(When interviewing someone whose religious beliefs are radically different from mine) At times I've approached it as I would feeding time for the reptiles at the zoo. 'My my, that snake just ate a live rat. Well, isn't that interesting?' Not, "Oh gag, I could never eat a rat.'"
I could rave about all the chats, but let's move on to forums.
Forums didn't work as well as chats this time. I think we didn't give a good enough focus on how they could best be used, so some folks didn't know how to handle them. However, a few were excellent with a lot of participation and attendees getting some one-on-one coaching from a person experienced in the field.
I think Branding and Marketing was a big hit, especially considering that Audrey Shaffer slid into the schedule at the last minute. (Thanks, Audrey!) The Daily Devotional workshop with Patricia Punt was also very well-received. (I'm betting the DD magazines are going to love some of the submissions they receive in the coming months.)
I personally got a lot out of Michelle Buckman's The Right Details and Sylvia Dorham's Character and Dialog. I love forum workshops with writing exercises. It gives my brain a chance to twist them into my genre. (Sylvia asked us to do dialog between two characters we'd made--with them seeing a tornado. My characters were a computer hacker and his confessor for a cyberpunk story I want to write. Cyberpunk with a Tornado!" OO! And I just came up with the next scene! See why these workshops are so great?)
Then of course, there were the pitch sessions. You know how some writers conferences arrange for folks to spend 10 minutes with an editor to pitch their work? We re-created it in cyberspace! Terry Burns, agent, graciously critiqued query letters in his forum workshop and asked to see proposals on some.
Pauline Press's pitch session relied on us having two chat rooms--one where Sr. Maria Grace Dateno, Sr. Christina Wegendt and Diane Lynch would chat privately with the pitcher and one where folks hung out until it was their turn. So doesn't it figure that that was the ONE TIME the website went down, trapping us in the single chat room? While Ann made a desperate call to the host provider to get it straightened out, I opened up the chat room on the website and directed people there. People were already nervous, then to have to deal with tech errors and website hopping--plus a few had problems with the copy and paste function! One pitcher joked about resisting the urge to throw up on her keyboard. But for all that, it went amazing well, with most of the pitchers invited to send on the manuscript or proposal. Those that didn't get invited simply had books that didn't fit Pauline Books and Media's needs.
I think about 75 percent of the attendees were not used to the chat room/forum environment, and the website had such a problem with cookies that we had to wonder if it was on a diet. However, overall, the conference was a huge success and we're looking forward to doing it next year.
Thanks again to Ann Lewis for getting the website together and to Heidi Hess Saxton for recruiting such great presenters. The conference was co-sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild and Canticle Magazine.