Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ayleen Stellhorn, freelance writer and editor, Pennwriters Member, and 2010 Pennwriters Conference Coordinator. Ayleen works hard, balances multiple projects, and still greets everyone with a smile (you can even “see” her smile in her friendly emails).
You can contact Ayleen via email with questions about this year’s Pennwriters Conference at this address: conference2010[at]pennwriters[dot]com.
[Additional details are available at the end of this interview.]
JB: Greetings Ayleen! Thanks for joining us for an interview at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.
AS: Nice to be invited, Jade. Thank you.
JB: First, tell us a little about yourself. What do you write? When did you first join Pennwriters?
AS: I write newspaper and magazine articles mostly. My articles have appeared in the Hanover Evening Sun, the Chambersburg Public Opinion, and the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Right now I’m writing regularly for Lancaster Farming Journal and Adams Electric’s corporate magazine PennLines, and I just signed a contract to author a book featuring contemporary hooked rugs. I also do a lot of freelance editing for publishers of craft and hobby books. I’ve been a member of Pennwriters for about 10 years.
JB: I understand that this isn’t your first time volunteering as the Pennwriters Conference Coordinator. Could you tell us a little about your experiences, and what brings you back to organize the 2010 Conference in Lancaster, Pennsylvania?
AS: I coordinated the 2008 conference in Lancaster. We had an amazing turnout, and overall, everything went really well. Award-winning literary writer and Princeton University professor Joyce Carol Oates was our keynote speaker; Susan Meier, Mary Jo Rulnick, Brian Butko, and Valerie Malmont were a few of our workshop presenters; and a record 236 people attended. We had a lot of firsts that year, including the preconference intensive classes, an author as a Friday keynote, and the networking lunch. I decided to volunteer one more year because I wanted to do a couple things differently: the first was a new hotel and the second was a commercial fiction writer as a keynote. So in 2010, we’re at the Eden Resort in Lancaster and we have adventure-thriller writer James Rollins as our Friday night keynote.
JB: This year I’ll be joining everyone in Lancaster for my first writers’ conference ever. Can you tell a newbie like me what to expect? What would be the *top three* things a writer could do to make the most of the Pennwriters Conference experience?
AS: Top three things for a newbie… Let’s see…
Be prepared to be overwhelmed is one. A lot goes on in a very short time, and your brain will reach overload quickly. I’ve been to five conferences, and I always walk out of each workshop with my head spinning with ideas. Even if you think you’ll remember something, write it down anyways. Odds are you’ll get another great idea — or piece of advice or link to follow — at the next workshop, and that first idea will be long gone.
Be ready to talk is two. If you’re generally the person who sits back and listens to conversations flowing around you, make a conscious decision to not be that type of person at the conference. Introduce yourself to the folks sitting at your breakfast table; find out what the person sitting next to you in a workshop likes to write; join a group of people hanging out in the hospitality room or at the bar; volunteer for one of the little jobs like moderator or Penn Pal. And along those same lines, be prepared to answer the question, “What do you write?/What are you writing?” in one or two sentences. You’ll get asked that more times than you can count.
Latch on to the positive is three. Getting published in any form takes a lot of skill, but it also takes a lot of persistence: you need to be in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript. You’ll hear lots of gloom-and-doom statistics at a writers conference dealing with how many queries an agent receives and how few they accept, or how many rejection letters an author received before he or she got published, or how many writers write but quit before their manuscript is even completed. Don’t get discouraged. Focus on the encouraging personal stories and listen to the advice of the agents and editors we’ve invited.
JB: Event planning is a huge undertaking – especially for something like this. Can you tell us about some of the joys and trials of volunteering as the Conference Coordinator? What advice would you give to other volunteers who organize events for nonprofits?
AS: The joys far outweigh the trials. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t be back for my second shot at this! I love seeing a writer make a connection with an editor or agent. I love to sit at dinner and hear people talk about how their characters are running their lives. I love providing an opportunity for writers to learn and grow and just be writers in whatever genre, whether that’s nonfiction, thrillers, comics, magazines, poetry, corporate communications…. The trials (and they are sometimes devils) are in the details. Putting together a quality three-day program that will appeal to a broad range of writers is a real challenge. Lining up everything the editors, agents, and presenters need — from travel arrangements to special room set-ups — can fall through the cracks with one missed e-mail. And making sure all the little things are covered, like codes to book rooms online and full coffee pots 24/7, is sometimes overwhelming. My advice to other volunteers who organize events like ours would be to believe in what you’re doing, and be a list-maker!
JB: I know that readers can get the scoop if they follow Pennwriters on Twitter, join the Pennwriters Group on Facebook, or visit the Official Pennwriters website, but please tell us again: What are the highlights for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?
Keynote James Rollins, author of adventure thrillers, the movie novelization for the most recent Indiana Jones movie, and a new series of young adult thrillers. Watch his videos at www.jamesrollins.com to see why we think he’s going to be an excellent keynote.
Eight agents and editors: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Agency; Jenny Bent, The Bent Agency; Miriam Kriss, Irene Goodman Agency; Alex Glass, Trident Media; Janet Reid, Fine Print Literary; Barbara Lalicki, senior vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Children; David Pomerico, assistant editor at Del Rey Spectra; and Leis Pederson, associate editor at Berkley. They’ll be hearing pitches, teaching classes, and critiquing first pages.
Three days of workshops. The conference fee includes more than 40 to choose from, and all the instructors are published authors or industry professionals.
JB: We’ve held the Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster before. For visitors who’ve never been to Lancaster (or perhaps even Pennsylvania), what are some of the other local perks you might suggest they check out?
AS: Take an extra day to wander through Amish country. (The city is filled with tourist attractions, which give you a good overview of the culture, but there’s nothing like checking out the roadside stands and sharing the byways with buggies.) Go shopping at the outlets. Play golf at the Host. Eat at a smorgasbord. See a play at the Dutch apple. Check out Central Market. Visit Landis Valley Farm Museum.
JB: How can writers, editors, agents, publishers, book sellers, readers, etc. help to get the word out about the Pennwriters conference?
AS: I’d like to ask folks to simply drop our name and website into whatever social media they’re using. Mention us in your Facebook status, twitter about a favorite author who will be teaching, write about us in your blog, list the event info on your own website. I’ve also got fliers that you can hang up at local coffee shops, bookstores, libraries, etc. Every little bit will help. We’ve got an amazing program, and I want to share that with as many writers as possible.
JB: Where and how can writers register for the 2010 Pennwriters Conference?
AS: Online, go to www.pennwriters.com, click on Conference and then Register. If you prefer to send a check by mail, download and print a registration form at the Pennwriters website, or call or email me so I can send you one. Registration forms will also be printed in January-February 2010 issue of The Penn Writer newsletter. (Remember to book your room early. The Eden [1-866-801-6430] is a gorgeous facility but much smaller than the Host.)
JB: Finally, as a writer and journalist (and all-around awesome person), what words of wisdom or inspiration would like to share for writers and artists?
AS: Always end an interview with a question that strokes your source’s ego and makes her feel appreciated. 🙂 Nicely done, Jade.
Ayleen, we thank you again for joining us and sharing some behind-the-scenes insight. See you at the Pennwriters Conference in May 2010!
2010 Pennwriters Conference – The Writer’s Craft
When: May 14 – 16, 2010
(May 13, Preconference Seminars)
Where: Eden Resort, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
POC: Ayleen Stellhorn, Pennwriters 2010 Conference Coordinator
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LinkedIn: Join Pennwriters on LinkedIn