Three Days in the Asylum (a writer’s resource)

Crazy comes in many forms and my personal brand of it centers around the hearing of voices and their impact on my creativity. Sometimes they speak incessantly. They’ll pop in at the most inconvenient times, often interrupting conversations or waking me from my sleep.  Frequently, much to my embarrassment, they jump into the shower with me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an entire cast of characters fighting to get in there before the water turns cold.  There seems to be something about hot water on my head that rouses them

“Bring us to life.  We’re ready to get on with things. How dare you keep us waiting!”

When that happens I have to get to work right away. The story is coming and there’s no stopping it. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. Then for some reason, perhaps some perceived slight on their part, they clam up and I can’t sleep because I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to finish the book.  A hot shower is still refreshing but it seems oddly lonely in there.  I need a creativity boost.

If I’m lucky these dry spells occur around the time I’m scheduled to attend a Pennwriters Conference.  Once there I know I’ll be surrounded by voices speaking the messages I need to hear.

This year’s Pennwriters Conference, held May 14 -16, 2010 in Lancaster, PA, was no exception.  There I had the privilege of having dinner with bestselling author, James Rollins, and hearing his keynote address in which he shared his struggle to find an agent and sell his first novel. He received 58 rejections for that book, one of them returned with a note saying, “This novel is unpublishable.”

“Ignore anyone who says you can’t do it. If I can be published anyone can be published,” he said.

I resolve that I will not be dissuaded. I will hire an agent and see my book in print. I will speak at a writers conference one day and tell aspiring writers that I listened to the voice of James Rollins.

I had lunch with Harper Collins Children’s Book Editor, Barbara Lalicki, who said my second children’s book has potential but is not ready to be published. It seems there are actually three stories in there all trying to be told all at once. I’ll listen to her voice and write one story at a time.   

I volunteered to lead the critique session for thriller writers and enjoyed the voices of many fascinating characters. Everyone in the room listened intently to the voices of the expert panel members as they offered advice and encouragement.

My three days in the asylum were both a cacophony of voices and a symphony of good advice. It was exhausting and energizing and altogether worth the time and expense.

I won’t mention every workshop I attended or every voice that touched the writer in me, but I do provide a list below of all the presenters  who shared their expertise this year in the hope of convincing you to join Pennwriters so you can benefit the next year. The event now being planned promises to be as exciting as the one just past.

Clearly being there was good for me. This morning I could hardly move in the shower it was so crowded. The entire group is clamoring to be heard and I have to start writing this stuff down before I lose it. 

 “All right you guys, hold on a second, I’ll be right there.”


Pennwriters 2010 Conference Presenters:

Anita Nolan, CJ Lyons, Donna Fletcher, Cyn Balog, Don Helin, Jack Hillman, Jenny Gardiner, Jonathan Maberry, Nate Hardy, Timons Esaias, Lisa Kastner, Loree Lough, Maria V. Snyder, Marta Perry, Nancy Bialy Daversa, Pam Jenoff, Ramona DeFelice Long, James Rollins, Elizabeth Kann

 Pennwriters is a not-for-profit organization with just over 400 published and aspiring writers. Pennwriters are assigned to one of seven areas depending on their mailing address. The group offers area events and has a strong internet presence, with e-mail groups, online classes, and social networks. Authors who meet set criteria are granted Published Author status. For more information about Pennwriters and its members, visit

James Rollins Keynote Address -Photo courtesy of Annette Dashofy

Networking Lunch - Photo courtesy of Annette Dashofy

Tim Esaias -Getting Conflict on the Page -Photo courtesy of Annette Dashofy


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One Response to “Three Days in the Asylum (a writer’s resource)”

  1. Sharon Says:

    I share your same affliction even though I was only able to spend one day at the conference. The workshops were informative and inspiring. The speakers and other special guests were open and approachable. It was well worth the lack of sleep. I am marking my calendar for next year already.

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