evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

Willamette Writer's Conference - Part I

My intention had been to type up an account of the Willamette Writer's Conference and workshop notes immediately after that weekend, but somehow it didn't happen. So I'm working on them now, a bit at a time. I'll only post summaries of the workshops on LJ, but if you see any that you'd like the notes and handouts for, leave me a comment.


I decided to have breakfast at the hotel (I did pay for it, after all). The pre-conference emails had been warning that parking would be limited, so I took MAX to the Mt. Hood stop, and walked to the Embassy Suites (they said it was "a block" away, which is sort of true; it was an unbroken quarter mile of sidewalk. My back was still hurting. I walked slowly). In the first five minutes in the hotel, I crossed paths three times with a woman who looked vaguely familiar, so when we ran into each other again in the room for the first workshop, we introduced ourselves. Apparently S is a member of Willamette Writers, so I've probably seen her at the meetings now and then.

This was the third conference I've been to, and I find they're a lot more enjoyable when people you know are there. Sure, it's fun to chat with other attendees you meet while waiting for workshops or at lunch, but it's not the same. This year, I met up with a half-dozen people I knew from screenwriting class, and got to celebrate or commiserate on the results of their various pitching attempts.

I chatted several times with CW, who kept saying that I should pitch my screenplay (did I mention that she really liked it?). In June, I was trying to decide what pitching I wanted to do, nothing felt right. What felt best was to just register without scheduling meetings with agents or producers. I didn't know at the time that I'd be hurting, and concerned enough in the week before the conference about whether I'd even be up for attending. I'm actually glad I didn't add the extra stress of trying to pitch on top of that. Was the Universe looking out for me? Luck? Or am I just rationalizing? Either way, I'm okay with the way it played out.

At the end of the day, I was tired but in good spirits, and ready to head home to hook up with an ice pack. I was grateful that I took MAX; temperatures were in the 90's and and the train is air-conditioned. I don't think I would have enjoyed a drive home through rush-hour traffic sans A/C in a car that had sat in the sun for ten hours. That would have been a sucky ending to an otherwise great day.


NOT JUST TALK (GREAT DIALOG). Ann Warren Smith. Who doesn't want their dialog to sizzle? This session not only covered the technical basics of how dialog should appear on the page, but examined how to use it to advance the plot, reveal character and reflect sub-text. This was a great way to start the conference; useful information and inspiring. I don't feel like we covered much I hadn't ever heard before, but it's good to be reminded of the basics. With exercises. Notes & Handout.

CONFESSIONS OF A CONTEST JUDGE. Leslie Adkins. Increase your winning chances, make your contest entries stand out! This was interesting, with useful info on preparing entries and how to avoid fake contests and scams. Handout has online reference list for contests and scam alerts. Notes & Handout.

LUNCHEON SPEAKER - CRAIG ENGLISH. I feel a bit bad about this. He was fine; he talked about his experiences getting his work published, and was amusing (he seems like an introvert who had done enough teaching to be comfortable in front of a crowd). Unfortunately, I don't recall much of anything about his speech. I do remember that the chicken and pasta I had was very tasty. Sorry, Craig English!

WRITING A PAGE-TURNER. Marc Acito. People told Marc Acito that they couldn't put his book down, so he deconstructed his story, looking for the qualities that made it absorbing. This presentation is what he came up with. A lot of it seems to be information gathered from other material on writing, and a much of the entertainment of the session came from his personality and style, which probably doesn't carry into the notes. I'm glad I caught this workshop. Handout has how-to outline, bibliography and character analysis worksheet. Notes & Handout.

SISTER ACT. Cynthia Whitcomb & Laura Whitcomb. Breaking into the industry and other stories from Cynthia (70 TV/feature films sold) and Laura (author of "A Certain Slant of Light", Fall, 2005). One of the things I learned in Cynthia's screenwriting class is that I can happily listen to hours of her film industry stories, so this was a good way to wrap the day. They talked about how each of them got into their respective writing lives, how they work, and what it's been like. I can't say that I learned a lot, but it was entertaining. Laura Whitcomb will be at Powell's on Sept 26th, signing her book. No notes, no handout.

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