Sunday, May 6, 2012

Unicorn Writer's Conference 2012 Wrap-up

St. Clements Castle (taken from their website)
I can't believe it's already been a week since I attended my third Unicorn Writer's Conference in Portland, Connecticut. For two years this annual writer's heaven has been held at St. Clement's Castle, a truly unforgettable place. As a satisfied participant, this conference has every thing aspiring and published writers need all in one place. There were two guest speakers, fiction author Sandra Brown in the morning, and travel writer Patricia Schultze in the afternoon, numerous workshops on a wide array of topics, specific workshops on writing query letters and book summaries (synopsis), and opportunites to have a thirty minute one-on-one critique session with an agent, editor, or many of the day's guest speakers of your choice.

And did I mention the food? Breakfast goodies were so fresh and delicious, lunch was excellent, and the buffet at dinner was scrumptious. The desserts (fresh whipped creme, cheese cake, all yummy) were divine! As a frequent conference attendee, this is the one event I look forward to year after year. Why? Event founder, Jan Kardys, and her outstanding support group, always provide us with a "class act." A free gift bag with goodies, a gorgeous venue, the daylong extravaganza puts the emphasis on writing and honing one's craft.

As an aspiring YA writer, there are other genres I may want to expand to and at this conference there are so many opportunities to learn about the diverse world of writing and publishing. From marketing, platforms, distribution, contracts, to self-publishing, media training, screenplays, podcasts, to writing memoirs, mysteries, comedies and dialogue, as well as voice and pitching, there were sooo many workshops deciding which ones to go to proved troublesome.

Author Jana Oliver graciously holds my copies of her
three books right after she autographed them for me.
I found all of the workshops I went to educational. My favorite workshop had to be "Success in the Young Adult Market," which was presented by fantasy author Jana Oliver and her agent, Meredith Bernstein (she also reps YA behemoth, P.C. Cast). Since I read so much YA and was halfway through Soul Thief, the second title in Ms. Oliver's YA series, The Demon Trappers, listening to the author was a treat. Sixty minutes later and two Josh Whedon mentions, this attendee was in bliss.

I may be an adult but meeting the author afterwards and talking about her series while professing my love for her character, Beck (what a complex person), made me feel like a 'fangirl' of sorts. I think YA is such an exciting market to write for and there are so many talented writers tackling the genre, meeting those I admire from time-to-time is awesome. Thankfully, nowadays I'm able to garner my gumption together and openly admit my swooning for all things YA (something I didn't, or couldn't, easily do years before when YA wasn't so co-ol). Jana also signed my three books which I later gave to my youngest teen daughter as a gift (but had to take back the two I had not finished reading). Ah, more page time trying to figure out Beck...

Writing query letters and the dreaded synopsis are not my favorite tasks, yet after the day's two workshops aimed directly on these problem areas for so many writers, I realized what I had done wrong with my query (a huge thank you to agent Joelle Delbourgo for her help). Agent Nicholas Croce also pointed out my dystopian synopsis was well written, though a tad slick, and sounded like jacket copy.

The other highlights of the day were the two critiques I had with two highly esteemed literary agents. After a half hour of listening to excellent advice and suggestions, I will now approach my dystopian WIP with new eyes (and I already have after I decided to change the way I approach the second part of my novel). I was amazed and impressed at the level and depth of questions I received and the knowledge of both agents. After I finish my paranormal I now have somewhere to send the completed manuscript.

Even though I was not familiar with Sandra Brown's novels, she was a dynamic speaker. I loved her Texas twang and admired how easily she handled a ballroom full of people, putting them at ease while being humorous. She advised writers to "write from your gut instinct" and "not to follow the trends." When someone asked her what she looks for in other books, she simply stated "Tell me a good story." Which was what the entire day was about. Telling stories in strong, unique voices, with correct grammatical usage, and never forgetting to have some fun while doing so. Being a writer is cool when there are conference experiences to be had such as the one Unicorn provides consistently. I'm already looking forward to 2013.


  1. I'm so glad we were able to meet and chat. And happy to hear what Meredith and I had to say was of some value to you. Good luck with the story!