#WDC17 – Thoughts and Roundup

Another Writer’s Digest Conference has come and gone. This was my fourth straight, and I, as always, had a blast. Reading that, you may be itching to ask: “Hey Ron, did you see the eclipse?” If you did, I’d answer: “Why are you thinking that right now? Have I bored you to distraction in two lines? Focus!”

I kid. Everybody’s been talking about the damn eclipse. It’s okay. At least people didn’t look at it through their fidget spinners. I hope.

If you’re not thinking about the eclipse, you may be wondering how the conference went.

It was awesome, for all the reasons I listed for past WDC cons here, here, and here. In addition, there were some extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moments, too. That’s where we’ll spend our time.

In no particular order…

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #1

If I haven’t shouted it loud enough, take note: Tabitha Lord is a badass. We met as baby writers at WDC 14, wet behind the ears, just writing all the things we wanted to write. Since then it’s been my inexpressible pleasure to watch her grow as a professional writer, taking control of her stories and career like a boss. She was part of three sessions this year (two panels, one of which she moderated, and a solo session), and at the closing keynote received her Writer Digest 2016 Self Published Novel of the Year Grand Prize award. I couldn’t be happier for her. Check out her books here.

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moments #2

This one is HELLA self-serving, and has nothing to do with writing. You’ve been warned.

Before the panel on world building, Tabitha was talking to Chuck Wendig and gestured in my direction for some reason–probably because I’d been taking pictures and tweeting like a fanboy. Chuck (yes, I’m going to call him Chuck because we’re (not really) bros now) looked and me and asked: “Did you submit a picture for a contest on Terrible Minds?” Filled with inner panic, I responded “I don’t remember, that was a long time ago.” (which it was) and then made a lame-y lameface doppelganger joke. Seriously, I’m still *facepalm*-ing over that one. Cringe City, USA. Anyway, everything goes back to normal and the panel starts. Flash forward two hours and I see on twitter that my bro Chuck tweeted and old pic of me @ me with “Isn’t this you?”

How. In. The. Blue. Hell. Did. He. Remember. That!?

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #3

Talking with independent writers is fun. They’re people doing stuff their own way, taking advantage of tools and options writers have never before had available to them. Ben Sobieck and Rob Dircks participated in the self-publishing panel, and I got to hang out with them some. Ben is a Wattpad rockstar, and Rob’s first book has over 300 reviews on Amazon and has sold more than 10K copies, which is tremendous for any novel, let alone one for which the writer did everything himself. Cool guys, both smart and eager to share what they’ve learned.

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #4

Round Table Companies had a table where you could secretly share something about yourself, and one of their crew would put that up on their chalkboard. It was part of raising awareness for their game, ‘Vulnerability is Sexy’, and added some much-needed newness to the vendor area. I got to play the game with my dear friend Amy and some new friends, and it was everything RTC promised. You draw a card from one of three piles, and then do what the card says. This can range from something fun and silly, like high-fiving everyone at the table, to revealing something deep about yourself. It’s all about sharing and opening up in a fun, safe, bonding way. Very cool idea. I was able to snag a copy of the game from the cool folks at the booth. Friends, if you want to play, let me know. (disclaimer: I’ve always been an open book, so come willing to experience all my weird-ness 🙂 )

Extra-awesome-chocolate-lava-cake-with-chocolate-syrup-and-whipped-cream moment #5

You’re seeing the people-centric theme here, yes? Writing conferences are wonderful for writing tips, learning how to query agents (Barbara Poelle was great), pitching practice, marketing strategies, publishing industry secrets, etc., but the most profound experiences come from the people. As usual, I met several friendly new writers, all eager to soak up as much as they could and apply that to their writing; all making writing friends in and out of their categories/genres; all looking to be inspired. That’s what keeps me going back–reconnecting with people I feel like I’ve been friends with forever, and building new friendships.

The days of the isolated writer are over, people. That’s a great thing.

Blah blah wonderful people blah blah. What about the writing stuff, right?

There’s always a theme that emerges at these conventions; some kind of trend I see crossing between sessions. I don’t think it’s some Machiavellian plot devised in the war room at Writer’s Digest, it just kind of happens. This year, it was writing honestly.

Lisa Scottoline talked about writing stories based on her experiences.

Steven James talked about writing ‘worthy stories’.

Richard Russo talked about “Fuck it” writing.

David Levithan talked about how editors see through a writer being dishonest.

There were other examples, but you get the idea.

It seems like a simple idea, but is quite profound. No matter what story you’re telling, regardless of your tea-sipping dragons, pacifist ninjas, cannibalistic were-goldfish, etc., tell it from your heart. Don’t cut corners, don’t make characters do things that aren’t loyal to them just to move the plot, and don’t write something you don’t believe in because you think it’ll sell. Agents and editors see right through that, and so do readers. Fantastic message.

Okay, that’s enough, I think. There was a secondary theme I saw, but if I write about that, I’ll make it another post because it carries beyond writing conventions.

Another great event. I highly recommend, if you can float it, you get yourself to this show next year.


Thanks for reading,



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