Pennwriters 2013 Conference

May has been a busy month for me with the NESCBWI conference in Springfield, MA at the beginning of the month (read about it here) and the Pennwriters conference in Pittsburgh this past weekend. They are both FABULOUS conferences and if you’re looking to go to one, you should check them out. (Also, NOSCBWI in Cleveland in September is amazing! Read about it here.)

IMG_2596 IMG_4186  NOSCBWI 2012                         NESCBWI 2013

Pennwriters 2011 was the first writing conference I ever attended and I’ll always be grateful because it sent me off on my writing road. When I think about what I’ve learned since then, I’m amazed.


I didn’t know many people who would be there this time (no massive twitter group like NESCBWI) except my super-duper-bestie and writer friend, Adrienne. But if you know me, you won’t be surprised to hear that by the end of the conference, I’d collected plenty of new writer friends. :) Hi Joy, Charli, Ronna, & Cathy! *waves* (Click on names throughout the post for twitter handles/blogs.)

This conference has so many opportunities for writers to learn, grow, and fine-tune their writing. There were a ton of great sessions and speeches, with presenters like the one and only Donald Maass, author Jonathan Maberry, guru Chuck Sambuchino, and the super-talented Heidi Ruby Miller. I learned SO much.

And if you’re looking to get your work in front of agents and editors, there are free pitch sessions, read & critique nights, and WIP sessions.

IMG_4273Keynote by Bobbi Carducci

There is such a friendly atmosphere at this Pennwriters event, with plenty of opportunities for writers to chat with other writers, speakers, agents, and editors and no matter where we were throughout the weekend, that’s what we were doing. At Friday’s dinner (which included Donald Maass’ inspiring keynote speech), author extraordinaire Jonathan Maberry sat next to us and entertained the table with his stories. At Saturday’s lunch (with an incredible speech from author Bobbi Carducci), agent Jordy Albert dined with us and then we had the great fortune to have Chuck Sambuchino join us. Not only is he super knowledgeable, but he’s also quite fun. We chatted with Becky Vinter outside (and heard her beautiful London accent), met Suzie Townsend at a read & critique session (such great notes!), got to hear Eddie Schneider speak at an agent panel, met author Bobbi Carducci at our area meeting, and learned so much from the very smart and enthusiastic Agent Uwe Stender
at the luau. (Yes, I know I don’t need to capitalize agent, but this way it’s like he’s a secret agent for a top government agency- you know, just for fun.) 

PennwritersAdrienne, me, Uwe, and Claudia 

We had already met Sandy, another writer from Buffalo, and then at our area meeting (which is everyone outside of PA), we met the super-sweet Claudia who is moving to Buffalo in August. And just like that we decided to start our own Buffalo Pennwriters group. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when Claudia told us later that she called her husband and told him, “I already have friends in Buffalo!”

The weekend was amazing and what I find really incredible, is that even on top of all the great sessions and keynotes, it was the things we didn’t plan ahead for that were the most special. The new friendships we made, chatting with agents and presenters, meeting one of the sweetest couples ever, forming a new writer’s group, and of course, being inspired to write.

THANK YOU to Jess Williams and all the volunteers who made this such an awesome weekend.

IMG_4277Book signing

I’ve heard people ask if writer’s conferences are worth it. For me, ABSOLUTELY. But, they are what you make of them. If you go ready to learn and take advantage of all the opportunities they offer, you’ll come home so much farther along on the writing path in just a couple days.

A writer’s conference is like living in Writer’s Town for a few days. And being surrounded by like-minded people for the purpose of becoming better writers is something you just have to experience for yourself.

If you didn’t already start saving for a conference after my last post, get out that piggy bank. :)


  1. Thanks for the nice mention. (But my name is spelled Sambuchino with an H :-)

  2. Sounds like it was another great conference! I've gotten the chance to hear Donald Maass and Chuck Sambuchino at the Writer's Digest conference and they're both great!

  3. I love conference round-ups. Thanks for sharing.


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