One of the things that has been instrumental in my writer’s journey has been attending writers’ conferences. There is no faster, easier—and more fun—way to gain access to the publishing world. Over the past four years, I have attended at least 12 writers conferences—all within driving distance! Some were cheap, some were expensive, but all were memorable and educational.
Just this past weekend (March 4th, 2017), I had the joy of attending one of my all-time favorite conferences—the Jambalaya Writers Conference at the Terrebone Parish Library in Houma, Louisiana. I first discovered this when I had written my first book and was trying desperately to learn more about the secrets of querying, agents, and editors. Through extensive internet research I learned that writers conferences were a great way to break into the industry—at the very least, learn more about it. So, after more googling writers’ conferences close to me, I discovered the Jambalaya Writers Conference. I immediately registered, went, fell in love, and have been going every year since!
Here are a few panels that I attended this year:
What it Takes to be an Author: Before, During and After Acquisitions
By Johnnie Bernhard
Ms. Bernhard did an excellent job on coaching beginning writers on how to research agents, what a query is and how to write one, how to write a synopsis, and talk about the importance of an author platform.
Getting Graphic: Art as a Form of Storytelling
By Roland Paris
Being a total superhero nerd, I truly enjoyed this panel. Roland Paris is an inker for Marvel Comics. He walked us through the process of how comic books were produced. It’s actually a lot like an assembly line. First, the writers develop the script, then the script is sent to the penciler who then produces thumbnail sketches and the actual panels, then the inker sets to work on fine-tuning the pencils, then the colorer, then finally the type-setter. It was truly fascinating to see how stories were told in a completely different medium!
For the Thrill of it
By Ashley Elston
Complete with adorable and clever gifs, Mrs. Elston gave a funny, interesting presentation on writing suspense and thrillers. Using movies and books as examples of different techniques to create suspense, she showed us what makes a good thriller. Then she dived into her own writing, her own publishing experience, and opened it up to questions.
10 Ways to Ignite your Creative Fire—And Keep it Burning (keynote)
By Lisa Unger
The Jambalaya Writers Conference always does an excellent job in finding really talented, successful authors to give keynote presentations—but more than anything, they these authors really know how to light a fire in a writer’s spirit. Lisa Unger gave a stirring speech about nurturing your creative spirit, honing your craft, pursuing your passion.
X Marks the Plot
Q&A panel with Michael Allem Zell, Nick Mainieri, Jeff Lindsay, M.O. Walsh
A fun, quirky panel made up of dapper gentlemen, this session really allowed these amazingly talented authors to get into the nitty-gritty details of the importance of plot. They also gave great insight to the writers journey by telling us their own writing and creative process when it come to developing plot.
The Writer’s Voice
By Monique Patterson
As an editor at St. Martin’s Press, Monique Patterson knows good voice when she reads it. During her session, she talked about what voice is, the importance of having it, and how to find it. I’ll fill you in on how to find it—it’s really no secret….you write! The best part about this was you got to ask questions and get insight from a New York big-pub editor!
First Page American Idol
Critique Panel with Lisa Unger, Jeff Lindsay, Monique Patterson, Marti Dumas, Farrah Rochon
At the start of the conference, attendees are encouraged to submit one page with the chance to be read at the American Idol panel at the end of the day where presenters (comprised of authors and editors) critique your first page—totally anonymously! You get feedback on your page by these talented industry professionals—how cool is that?
As you can see, it was a jam-packed day! I learned so much and met so many awesome fellow writers. I even exchanged emails and twitter handles with a few and I hope to stay in touch with them as beta readers, CPs, or just supportive friends.