Writer’s Conference – Jump Right In!

When you go to a writer’s conference, the back corner of the room might feel safe but it won’t do you much good to hide there.

There is a lot to be said about participation trophies. For a writer though, there are no trophies without participation.

It’s Sunday morning at the Willamette Writer’s Conference. I’m beat. Even the best of us, those who have chastely avoided the lure of the Sheraton bar, remained hydrated and eaten well are tired.

Three days of extroversion leave me exhausted.

But even on a bedraggled Sunday morning, the script for success remains the same. Get in there. Get your writer hands dirty. Go to that class.

If you are given the opportunity to do so, participate.

I was never much of a joiner. I’ve changed some. Even now though, I’m a more likely wall flower and bar fly than I am a genuine jump in with both feet kind of guy. It is key though to see past what you may tell yourself that you “normally do” or continue the self-limiting talk you have rehearsed for ages.

You came out to the writer’s conference. Not enough. Jump in with both feet.

On Friday night I served as emcee for a hilarious event/ “Pitches Against Humanity” was one part game show and one part parlor game, and an overall riot. I have never emceed anything before. Ever. Yet, once I was given the microphone and the written on the fly rules… it was on. A new guy stepped out. People have been stopping me in the hall ever since to shared a bawdy laugh from the pitch game.

Make yourself known.

This morning, I took a filmmaking class “Getting It Done In Portland” taught by Martin Vavra. The energetic head of local Galaxy Sailor Productions had the task of teaching a bunch of drowsy faces the basics of making a movie?

How better to teach it than hand a bunch of conference goers a role and a camera.

Take a look at what we produced.


What’s the bottom line here?

You got in the car. You boarded a plane. You called out of work in the interest of attending a writer’s conference. You’ve gone pretty far. Keep going though. Learn to bet on yourself. Learn to take a few more risks.

*Special thanks to the actors in the above films: Nancy Long and Steve Bourne performed the gruesomely riveting interrogation from Seven, and Nathaniel Fox and Jack Cary re-enacted my favorite scene from Raising Arizona. 

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Use Of Setting – Ghostwriter Pro Tips

The use of setting can have a powerful emotional impact in your story. But mastering the use of setting to enhance certain elements of the plot can be a difficult process. As a professional ghostwriter, I regularly work with writers whose use of setting falls short of delivering the impact that renders critical moments unforgettable. So let’s take a look at same particularly good writing to expose a few secrets of how to achieve this.

An examination of the use of setting in the Netflix series “Master Of None” eventually leads to a look at Season 2’s penultimate episode. In “Amarsi Un Po” the season’s lone hour-long installments, Ansari and his writing team essentially flip the use of setting from previous episodes.

For the better part of Season 2, “Master of None” thrived using a series of mostly intimate settings. Restaurants. Night clubs and taxi cabs. Apartments. Streets. The show is in large part about a young man’s private interior moments and Ansari found creative ways to bring that to life in Dev’s everyday.

Season 2 tells the story of Dev’s growing love for Francesca and of her ever dwindling ability to believe she can continue on with her boyfriend. That love thing between them is growing out of control and in “Amarsi Un Po” Ansari and his writing team finally use some of the grand settings New York has to offer.

The first act culminates in one of Manhattan’s most recognizable locations, Washington Square Park. After a nice dinner, Dev and Francesca walk and talk, seemingly carefree. This is a seemingly ordinary scene we have seen before, only now it is taking place by the night time glow of the white stone Arch which stands at the park’s northern gateway. Although the conversation between Dev and Francesca is familiar, we get our first sense that something much bigger is in store.

At the episode’s middle point, Dev rescues Francesca from a day alone and escorts her to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York. Again, the two lovers are simply walking and talking, but now they find themselves amid wide open fields, weaving their way through massive abstract sculptures. Although no one has said as much, setting tells the story that things are quickly getting complicated between them.

Finally, Dev can take no more. He has to say something to Francesca and we get a sense that she is finally ready to listen. When her boyfriend ditches her (again) Dev comes to the rescue (again). This time they take a night time helicopter ride around Manhattan. They circle over the city, taking in a bird’s eye view of one of the grandest cityscapes on planet earth.

And of course, it’s in that helicopter that Dev confesses his feelings for her.

The lesson we take from “Amarsi Un Po” is that sometimes a writer simply must think big. While using grand settings such as these too often can weigh the story down, setting critical moments of large emotional impact in iconic places can enhance their impact.

Ansari could have set these conversations in similar places and still been successful. The writing in “Master of None” is that good. These three scenes are the most pivotal in the series though, and setting them in iconic locations with sweeping views takes those critical moments and makes them unforgettable.

CALL TO ACTION:

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Erick MertzUse Of Setting – Ghostwriter Pro Tips
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Tips For Writing Conference Networking

No Matter Your Writer Goals, Behavior Dictates Success

Willamette Writer's ConferenceLast weekend was the 50th Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, Oregon. I have attended this particular conference for going on eight years and I am consistently shocked by the way writers behave when they find themselves in confined spaces.

Some people get it. A majority do, actually. Others clearly don’t though. Four days in a hotel with your colleagues can be stressful even terror inducing. Don’t let it get to you.

Here are five tips to keep in mind before you attend your next conference.

Be Friendly

I’m always shocked at how the tried and true axiom “treat others the way you want to be treated” flies out the door in professional scenarios. It absolutely should not. These should be the moments this trait needs to come out to shine.

Talent is great. It’s enviable. People you meet have to want to work with you though. Are you acting like the kind of person who they’re going to want to call?

That impression begins the moment you walk into the conference room.

Don’t Be Over Polite

The flip side? Try and remain genuine. No one likes someone going over the top into phony. Holding doors and other obsequious behavior may get you into trouble.

Brand Yourself as Friendly & Helpful

While attending the Willamette Writer’s Conference I volunteer. Consequently, people associate me with some inner knowledge about the conference’s inner workings.

Even when my shifts are complete and I’m attending classes, people seek me out to ask questions. I don’t have to help but I do. Once again, it goes back to that age old axiom.

Don’t Get Star Struck

My father once said something very important to me when I was young and I keep it close to me now. Everyone you meet is just another person doing their job.

How I translate that in the conference scenario is, treat those agents and producers (and hotel staff pouring your drinks) like you would anyone else you encounter during your day.

That guy might be the perfect agent for your book but you know something? He’s probably thinking about the wife and dog he left at home. Or he’s just struggling to reach five o’clock.

Keep Your Mind Open

Remember your goal is connection. You may have your sights focused on signed with an agent or manager but you never know how that connection will happen.

It may not be during your assigned pitch session. Your long worked for break may come via someone you shared small talk with in a classroom.

Keep yourself open minded.

Subscribe to my blog today for more tips and pointers on the writer’s life.

Get in touch with me today for 20% off of your manuscript consultation. Just let me know how you found me in your first email!

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