The Camaraderie of Conference

A week ago today, I began the first day of a 4-day pitch conference in NYC organized by the Algonkian Writers Conferences and attended by about 50 writers, male and female, ‘Gen-x’ers to retirees, separated into 3 groups by their genres.

My group, 17 women, ‘Gen-x’ers through retirees, American and Canadian, were writers of memoir and women’s fiction, a generous genre that Wikipedia defines as “women centered books that focus on women’s life experience, marketed to female readers.” As an umbrella term, “it includes many mainstream novels. There exists no comparable label in English for works of fiction that are marketed to males,” adds Wikipedia, but to address that requires a whole other post and the expression ‘vive la difference’ comes to mind.

RWA (Romance Writers of America) has a whole sector devoted to romance writers of women’s fiction. Its definition of the genre is “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationship with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.”

The women in our group—writers of memoir, literary fiction, and women’s fiction–have created works that would appeal to women’s emotions. Personal courage and growth, humor and pathos in the lives of the aging, a difficult parent-child relationship, the excesses of the rich and powerful, and a not-so-old-fashioned ghost story, these were examined in depth, along with dreams, hidden fears, and so much more.

Readers would learn lessons, hearts would be touched, suspense mixed with humor would enrich, oh, the stories we told.

Our group leader, the able and talented Susan Breen, former journalist, author of several short stories and the novel The Fiction Class, and teacher at the Gotham Writer’s Workshop in Manhattan, had her hands full with us as we worked to shed dense synopses and develop the perfect pitch to deliver to 4 editors over the course of the conference.

It was hard work and many of us rewrote again and again late into the night or in the early hours of the morning before coming to class, but in the end, many of us were rewarded with requests for pages from the editors.

We’ve already begun to seek ways to remain in touch regularly, and a more worthwhile relationship I can’t imagine. I hope to read several of these books when they’re published. You can be sure I’ll blog about them.