My First Writer’s Conference

I have been meaning to write this post for awhile now. You know how it is though, minutes become hours, hours become days and days become weeks.

I attended my first writer’s conference on August 4th; The Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference.

I was excited to attend this conference headed by Marlene Bagnull and to meet my new friend, Bonnie Calhoun. She autographed a copy for me of her best selling book, Cooking the Books.

Bonnie Calhoun also heads the Northeast Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers of which I am a member.

Here is a picture of Bonnie (right) and another author and member, Donna (left).

Bonnie was kind enough to help me with my two author appointments.  I selected best selling authors Mike Dellosso and Robert Liparulo.  I was really looking forward to meeting and asking them both questions.

As a new writer, I’m always curious to find out how best selling authors succeed in their craft, etc… So here was my opportunity.

First up is Mike Dellosso. He authored best seller’s such as Frantic, Scream, Darlington Woods, The Hunted and more.

I really liked Mike Dellosso’s vibe. He was laid back and a great listener. He asked me what I wanted to talk about. I basically told him it was my first time interviewing an author. I told him a little bit about myself. Then I started asking him some questions.

In the conversation, he mentioned he has a full time job as a physical therapist. I was curious to find out how he managed to work full time, have a family and write best selling books.

He said he gets up every morning, seven days a week to write at 4:00am. Oh.my.gosh. I thought my jaw was going to hit the floor. I remember asking him if he was serious. He said yes.

Can you imagine getting up every day, seven days a week to write?!  He totally earned my respect right there.

I only had fifteen minutes to speak with him, so I just went right for the gusto. I asked him what would be the one thing he would tell a new writer.

He leaned back in his chair a little, deep in thought and responds, “to write what you are passionate about.”

He also said to get up at 4:00am every day, seven days a week and write.  Just kidding.

Seriously, I can understand why his books are best seller’s, this man is no joke. I realized by speaking with him that if I want to succeed as a writer, I will have to put in the time, dedication and work.

Next up is Robert Liparulo.

Robert Liparulo is a master storyteller.  He authored best sellers such as:

  • Comes a Horseman (2005)
  • Germ (2006)
  • Deadfall (2007)
  • Deadlock (2009)
  • The 13th Tribe (2012)

He sent me my very own copy of The 13th Tribe.  He even autographed it for me.

Now, unfortunately, I didn’t get to meet this cool dude in person. He and I kept missing each other for some strange reason. However, I was able to correspond with him by email and ask him some questions.

He gave me permission to share this with you folks.

“I knew I was going to be a writer when I was in third grade. In fifth grade, I wrote an article that my teacher sent to a magazine, without telling them how old I was. A few months later, I got a check and a few copies of the magazine with my article in it. I was definitely hooked.

Then, when I was 12, I read I am Legend by Richard Matheson. For about half the book, the main character, Robert Neville, tries to get a sick dog inside his home. When he finally does, he spends the night nursing. Stroking the dog, he recalls the way things used to be. The last line of the chapter was: “In the morning the dog was dead.” Not only was the dog cool, its death was symbolic of the death of life as it had once been. I started crying, and I thought, “If words—only WORDS!—can make a pretty tough 12-year-old boy cry, I want to do that.” For years I went around telling people what I wanted to do when I grew up was make 12-year-old boys cry. (I’ve received a few emails from both boys and girls who said Frenzy, the sixth Dreamhouse Kings book made them cry—I had to laugh that I’d finally fulfilled that goal.)

Through my teen years, I wrote for Ranger Rick, Highlights for Children, and moved into adult magazines like Rolling Stone. Then, for many years, I wrote articles and columns for a slew of magazines and newspapers. I started interviewing celebrities, including authors. A few of them became friends, and when they found out my dream was to write novels, they nagging me about pursuing it. I finally started writing Comes a Horseman, mostly to stop their nagging. When it sold and I secured a few contracts to write others, I was able to quit my day job of writing articles and focus on novels.

Over the years, I’d written a few screenplays that sold (including the script to Ted Dekker’s Blessed Child, which sold to Gener8xion Films), none of which made it to the big screen. I have two contracts now to write screenplays, one based on my own book and one original, which I’m writing with Andrew Davis, the director of The Fugitive, The Guardian, and Holes. I consider myself a storyteller more than a novelist.

As a journalist and magazine writer, I was frustrated that I was spending my time in nonfiction. But when I started writing novels, I realized that the lessons I learned writing nonfiction were invaluable to my writing novels: how to interview and research, how to write concisely, how to hook a reader, how to meet deadlines, etc. I realized that any writing will hone your craft and could be applied to any other kind of writing. I no longer regret those years in the wilderness, writing nonfiction.

What I would tell a new writer is this: Write from your heart. Tell the story you want to tell in the way you want to tell it. The very best thing you are bringing to the table is your voice, your style, how you tell a story. Plots are a dime a dozen; what will bring readers back to you is your voice. If you love writing, it’ll come through. I always say, writing that doesn’t keep the writer up at night, won’t keep the reader up at night either. Passion will come through and be transferred to the reader. Lack of passion leads to passionless storytelling. Above all things, follow your heart.”

Wow! After reading that, how can you not get his books?  Seriously, if you haven’t read any of his books, you are missing out. He’s an extremely gifted writer.

Mind you, I tend not to read a lot of thrillers (basically because I’m the biggest chicken on earth. Just ask my husband, he’ll tell you). I have a very active and vivid imagination, so I basically live my books. I’m not exaggerating.  The same thing happens to me when I watch movies. My husband has to keep telling me it’s just a movie.

I just went one day to this conference and it rocked my world. But it came with a price.

All hell broke loose right before this conference. It was as if something was trying to prevent me from going. I didn’t understand it so much while it was happening, but I did afterwards.

My husband suddenly gets sick and goes to the emergency room. He takes medicine and decides he still wants to drive me there anyway (great husband huh?).

The next thing happens while I’m attending the conference. My husband texts  me to say the electricity went out in the hotel.  So, he decides to take a drive, however, there are no street lights working either. There was complete chaos everywhere for hours. Mind you, this is happening while I’m attending the conference.

All I can say is that it was a battle, but we both pressed through.  As a result, the Lord spoke in so many ways by using people.

One of the classes entitled, “Reaching the Hearts of  Your Readers”, really got to me. This class was taught by Ken Gire. I totally loved this class and his teaching style; it was deep, real and reflective. He was also kind and gave me one of his books, Shaped by the Cross which he autographed for me as well.

In conclusion, the conference ended with Tim Shoemaker giving the final address. I really enjoyed listening to his testimony.  He is a fun, lively and inspiring speaker.

There is so much more I gleaned from one day at this conference, but this post went longer than anticipated.

I really enjoyed my first writer’s conference and I hope to go again next year, Lord willing.

  • Bonnie S. Calhoun

    LOL…I’m glad you had such a great time! And hope you can come for longer next year!

    • Lord willing, I hope to be there next year. I had a blessed time indeed. 🙂

  • Tim Shoemaker

    Great post, Pilar! I know Mike–and I admire him on many levels. I don’t know Robert, but would like to just based on the interview you posted. Great stuff!

    • Oh thank you so much for reading my post and commenting. I really appreciate it.