By Eileen Haavik McIntire, President

The 2017 Maryland Writers’ Conference, “The Writing Roller Coaster,” blasted attendees with ideas and opportunities all day Saturday, March 25, in Annapolis, MD. Kudos to Jess Williams, conference coordinator.

Well-known authors Maria V. Snyder and Jeffery Deaver, the keynote speakers, followed the theme. Deaver is a former journalist, folksinger, attorney, and bestselling author. He has sold 50 million books worldwide. Snyder is a former meteorologist responsible for the New York Times best-selling “Study” series about a young woman who becomes a poison taster.

Maria entertained us with anecdotes of her life as a writer, and Jeffery listed 10 points on writing, concluding with several scathing reviews of the classics and authors endured by Kipling, Hemingway and others. Even the best can get bad reviews.

Writers hung outside the agents’ room, waiting for their turn to pitch their book. The agents, who traveled to Annapolis from New York and New Jersey, also took part in a panel to answer questions from writers. One tip: They all recommend using Publishersmarketplace.com as a source for industry news and resources. They also suggest the queryshark blog for help on writing queries. Jane Friedman’s blog (janefriedman.com) has good information on platforms. The agents also noted that querytracker.com is not always up to date, so check the agent’s website.

John Gilstrap, writer of such thrillers as Final Target, Friendly Fire, and a host of others, gave a two-part workshop on writing thrillers. He suggests reading Steven King’s book On Writing. Commercial fiction, he says, is about giving the reader a good ride with a tightly plotted story and characters the reader cares about. Put the character in plausible jeopardy, then ratchet up the tension until the reader screams for mercy.

I led a workshop on critique groups. It seems that these can sometimes go astray and become on one hand a brutal butchery of a fledgling writer’s effort or, on the other, so kind and gentle that the critique is worthless. The point of a critique group is to help all of us get published. We need the negative feedback to improve, but we also need the positive. What worked? What didn’t work? Critique groups that work well give its participants gentle shoves in the right direction while pointing out the positives.

These are just a few examples in a good day, even if I didn’t win the $200 bottle of Dom Perignon raffled off during the concluding reception and book signing event.DEAVERSPEECH

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