Skyline College was bustling with excitement last Saturday, March 7, 2009, as the 7th Annual WOW! Women on Writing Conference got under way. This conference for readers and writers is close to my heart and I have volunteered to help staff it as a WOW! Ambassador many times. I am always impressed by the caliber of speakers lined up. This year was no exception, from the award-winning author Julia Whitty, an environmental correspondent and fiction writer who won the 2008 PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Nonfiction for The Fragile Edge: Diving & Other Adventures in the South Pacific, gave the keynote at 9 a.m., to the many, many talented authors who shared their expertise and urged us to tap into our creativity throughout the day-long conference until the last session was completed at 4 p.m. Through these intimate settings and small groups, the breakout sessions allow discussions of thought provoking topics and hands-on writing exercises which often result in fascinating reading material.
My duties as a WOW! Ambassador included hosting a breakout session in the morning and in the afternoon. During the morning session, A Primer on Publishing, I introduced the speakers at the beginning of the session and picked up the evaluation forms at the end. This left me free to absorb the words of wisdom from the speakers along with the rest of the audience. Literary agent Amy Rennert of the Amy Rennert Agency, along with writer and editor Patrick Walsh, who is the author of 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might and was the founding editor of MacAdam/Cage Publishers, spoke to a very enthusiastic group about the challenges of navigating the highly competitive world of publishing. While Amy explained the role of a literary agent as an advocate for the writer, Pat encouraged authors not to wait to send a manuscript to an editor at an independent publishing house even if they don’t have an agent. However, they both emphasized that the manuscript should not be sent until it is absolutely ready and not a minute before.
I was especially excited to be a part of the afternoon session titled The Art of Memoir Writing. I assisted Maureen Murdock, author of the best-selling book, The Heroine’s Journey, as well as Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory. A book I’d devoured in almost one sitting several years ago and have returned to time and again as I struggle to find the balance of writing about my life without alienating everyone else in my life. Maureen shared generously many tips and tricks on how we all can learn to mine the rich veins of stories tucked away in the caverns of our memories and create reading as engaging and dialogue driven as any novel.
The conference has its roots firmly established in women’s history as it is always held the first Saturday in March, International Women’s Day. It is a collaborative affair with Skyline College faculty, staff and students, working along side members of the community who come together to celebrate women who write. As a woman who writes, I feel blessed to have been invited to this wonderful party. For more information, or to be put on the mailing list for next year, go to www.smccd.net/accounts/skywow/.