At Philadelphia Writers' Conference, fellowship and craft

TV reporter Lu Ann Cahn will deliver the keynote address at the annual Philadelphia Writers Conference.
TV reporter Lu Ann Cahn will deliver the keynote address at the annual Philadelphia Writers Conference.
Posted: June 06, 2014

'I don't care how great of a writer you are," said best-selling Horsham writer Merry Farmer. "It's always good to brush up on your craft."

Farmer, 40, who has published 10 novels, including The Faithful Heart and Tales From Cold Springs, recharges her creative batteries every year at the Philadelphia Writers' Conference, a three-day event featuring workshops, roundtable discussions, and bull sessions for writers of all levels, newbie to best-seller, and all types.

Compose legal briefs or concoct press releases and want to improve your work? You are as welcome as any poet, novelist, or blogger.

The 66th annual Philadelphia Writers' Conference will be held Friday through Sunday at the Wyndham Hotel at Fourth and Arch Streets.

Conference organizers say they expect 180 conferees this year, in addition to 25 workshop instructors and speakers.

The conference is primarily for "aspiring writers, people who have written one or two stories or a book but don't know how to sell it, or are looking to improve it," said conference board member Larry Atkins. "But we're also here to help with networking, to have writers meet other writers. And we even have sessions where you can meet agents and editors."

Farmer attends each year for the fellowship: "It's an amazing experience just to hang out with writers in various stages in their career."

Other conferees go for instruction, including Tiernan Redwolfe, 48, from Hatfield.

"I'm a total newbie. I wrote a lot of stuff in high school and pretty much carried it around with me for 25 years," said Redwolfe, an aspiring writer of fantasy fiction. He's excited about attending Strength of Character, a workshop about character development with author and illustrator Judith Byron Schachner ( Skippyjon Jones).

Westville legal assistant Loretta Sisco, an avid blogger, said she's interested in learning how to parlay a blog into a book.

That will be one of the topics addressed by this year's keynote speaker, veteran NBC10 reporter Lu Ann Cahn, whose latest book, I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day, grew out of a daily blog.

"I've never been to the writers' conference, so I am really excited," she said. "I will be talking about life as a reporter, about how I learned to blog."

Cahn said she was a reluctant blogger and eschewed social media for years - that is, until her daughter persuaded her to expand her horizons. She spent a year experiencing one new thing a day and blogging about it.

"I'll talk about how that blog became a book and also about the lessons of I Dare Me . . . and how that might inspire someone do their own self-help memoir."

Workshops this year include Creating and Sustaining Conflict, with novelist Alma Katsu; Writing the Compelling Short Story, with fantasy writer Gregory Frost; Writing The Short Film, with screenwriter David Greenberg; and The Lyric Essay, with essayist Therese Halscheid.

But the conference also will include sessions about how to get work published, how to use social media to market your writing, and how to create audiobooks.

The curriculum also will include cartooning.

Cartoonist Terry LaBan, whose Edge City strip appears in The Inquirer, will discuss the history of comic books and how the graphic novel gained respect as a literary medium.

"There's been a sea change in how graphic novels are regarded now," said LaBan, whose brother is Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan. "When I was first involved with the comic-book industry, we dreamed of a world when this kind of work would be taken seriously and would be published by serious houses."

Crime novelist William Lashner ( The Barkeep) will lead a session about opening lines.

"I will talk about Moby Dick," he said. "It's such a masterpiece and has probably the greatest opening line in literature - 'Call me Ishmael.' "

Lashner, who grew up in Abington and attended Swarthmore College, said his books are rarely read on paper. Most are released on Kindle. E-publishing, he said, has irrevocably changed the publishing landscape.

"You need to be on the right side of the Kindle revolution," he said.

Philadelphia Writers' Conference

9:30 a.m. Friday through 9 p.m. Sunday at the Wyndham Hotel, Fourth and Arch Streets.

Tickets: Various packages. Information: 856-742-9185 or


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