Past interviews

Feb. 15, 2011


New Stuff at The Write Stuff 2011

Tammy Burke, GLVWG’s 2011 Write Stuff Conference Chair, has had business articles published in magazines on the northeast coast and won an award for best mid-length article in 2001. She is currently working on her first YA book “Uriah’s Window.”

Over drinks after The Write Stuff 2010 conference had just concluded, Tammy Burke, then Conference Co-chair, was already contemplating who she might invite to be the keynote speaker for the 2011 conference. She sighed and said she’d give herself a week off, as if she were being indulgent, before starting work on this year’s conference. Yes, it takes a year and a whole lot of work to plan a successful, well organized Write Stuff conference. Many wondered how she would repeat last year’s success with James Frey as keynote speaker and preconference presenter. Tammy enthusiastically took up the challenge and delivered by booking Donald Maass as keynote speaker and preconference workshop presenter, along with a second preconference workshop with Lisa Rector-Maass, in addition to a whole slate of great presentations by renowned writers and publishing professionals. With The Write Stuff 2011 conference weeks away, Tori Bond, GLVWG President Ex Officio interviewed Tammy Burke, Conference Chair, and Donna Brennan, Conference Co-chair, to find out what’s new this year, get advice on how to get the most out of the conference, and much more.

Tori Bond: Each year the Write Stuff conference seems to get better and better. What’s new this year?

Tammy Burke: Since our last year’s two day preconference workshop How to Plot Like the Pros by James N. Frey was so well received, we decided to include the preconference workshop again. However, this year it’s been expanded to include three workshops by two well-known presenters. Donald Maass, president of the Donald Maass Literary Agency and well known author and workshop leader will be teaching an 8 hour session Writing the Breakout Novel on Thursday, March 24, 2011 and 4 hour session Fire in Fiction on Friday morning, March 25, 2011. His wife, Lisa Rector-Maass, independent editor and owner of Third Draft NYC will be teaching a four hour Sagging Middle workshop on Friday afternoon, March 25, 2011. The price
we are able to offer these workshops for is exciting as well.

Tori: For anyone that has not registered yet, can you explain the difference between the pre-conference workshops and the conference? Does one have to sign-up for the conference in order to take one or both of the preconference workshops?

Tammy: Let me answer the second question first. No. One does not have to for the conference to sign up for the preconference workshop(s). You can choose to sign up for all three: the conference, the Donald Maass workshops, and the Lisa Rector workshop. Or you can pick and choose as you please among them. The only restriction is the cutoff date of March 12, 2011 or when our venue fills, whichever comes first.

As to the differences between the conference and the preconference workshops, the conference itself offers more variety and activities than the preconference workshops while the preconference workshop runs longer and offers a more in depth concentration of topic discussion and material by renowned workshop leaders.

For example, the conference opens Friday evening, March 25 with a choice of sessions, Tuning Your Pitch: The Essential Notes led by literary agents Blair Hewes and Katie Grimm OR Page Cuts, a limited enrollment session where the participants have the first page of their manuscript read by a moderator and critiqued by a panel of agents, editors and/or published authors. Afterwards, conferees can attend the reception party. Saturday has a great line-up with 11 wonderful presenters for 17 concurrent 50 minute sessions, a two hour workshop with New York Times Bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry and celebrated nonfiction writer, Janice Gable Bashman, keynote speech Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass, an opportunity to sign up for a 10 minute pitch session with one of our six agents or two editors, along with a Flash Fiction Contest, and Book Fair with giveaways and door prizes.

Tori: Will we see a return of Write Stuff Writers Café on Thursday night? Is there a topic of discussion planned yet?

Tammy: The Writers Café was well received last year and we will repeat it again this year. For those not familiar with the Writers Café, it is a gathering of writers that meet monthly to talk about various aspects of the craft and marketing of writing. We will be holding a Write Stuff version of the Writers Café on Thursday night at 7:30 – 9:30 PM. It is a great time to interact, network, share and learn with fellow writers.

Our moderator, Bart Palamaro, plans on opening the discussion to topics that the attendees wish to discuss. It’s very likely that the conversation will turn to pitches so if you have a pitch you’d like to try out, please bring it along.

Tori: Also last year, the hotel provided a buffet dinner on Friday night, making it possible for conferees to get a quick meal between the end of the workshop and the beginning of Friday night’s activities. Will the hotel provide this again this year? What is the cost and what time will the buffet be available?

Tammy: There is limited time between the end of the preconference workshop and the beginning of the conference which made the buffet dinner at the hotel on Friday night a hit last year. I personally enjoyed last year’s buffet myself. The buffet will be open from 5 – 6:30 pm on Friday, March 25, 2011. The cost will be $16.96 (includes tax and gratuity). Additionally, the hotel offers sandwiches and other quick foods at the front desk for those looking for another option.

Tori: I’ve heard rumor of an activity or social event being planned for conferees that will be at the hotel Wednesday evening, March 23rd. Can you confirm the rumor? What’s being planned?

Tammy: My co-chair, Donna Brennan, and I spoke with the hotel catering manager about doing an informal happy hour Wednesday evening. What we discovered is the hotel runs a happy hour Monday through Friday 5 to 7 with discounted prices on selected appetizers and drinks. We’ve decided to take advantage of the happy hour and invite all those wishing to come out and interact with their fellow conferees before everything kicks off. Please come and join us.

Also as an FYI, Friday night after the conference reception ends, the hotel bar will remain open and there will be a DJ and music.

Tori : What advice would you give to someone new to the Write Stuff conference? For instance, make sure you check out… or don’t be shy about… What’s the best tip you can give to conferees about getting the most out of the conference?

Tammy: Our conference is well know for the quality and the fact that YOU can talk to the presenters, the agents, and editors at the reception party, maybe in line at Saturday lunch, at the book fair, possibly during the scheduled breaks, etc. And with saying that, my first tip is to make the most of the opportunities presented. Not only is this a great environment to learn but also to network. I would recommend preparing a 30 to 60 second elevator speech on what you write (for when you get asked), a handful of business cards (for when you want to trade contact info with someone), and the willingness to get out there and talk with other conferees and presenters.

I also would recommend looking over the schedule and deciding which sessions most appeal to you ahead of time. I know I’m going to have difficulty decided which ones I’m attending. They all look so good. Please be aware that some of the choices have limited enrollment. For example, the Interviewing workshop by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Bashman is now currently full with a waiting list being filled.

And for individuals electing to schedule a pitch appointment with one of our agents or editors, please check out our Tip page. We also have a great Flash Fiction contest. If you’re interested in entering, the rules are here and even if you choose not to enter the contest, please make it a point to vote for your favorite entry.

Tori Bond, GLVWG President Ex Officio, writes women’s fiction and humor, has won
honorable mention in the 76th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition and is currently
pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Rosemont College.

(to be continued on Friday, February 18, 2011 )

New Stuff at The Write Stuff 2011 – Part 2

Tammy Burke, GLVWG’s 2011 Write Stuff Conference Chair, has had business articles published in magazines on the northeast coast and won an award for best mid-length article in 2001. She is currently working on her first YA book Uriah’s Window.
Donna Brennan, GLVWG’s 2011 Conference Co-chair, was a technical writer in the corporate world for over ten years. Four years ago she decided to get serious about her writing career and went in search of a local writers group and writers conferences. She has been a member of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group for four years and is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She has completed one novel and is working on a second. She also has begun writing and submitting short articles for family magazines.
Tori Bond, GLVWG President Ex Officio, writes women’s fiction and humor, has won honorable mention in the 76th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition and is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Rosemont College.

Tori Bond’s interview with Conference Chair, Tammy Burke

Tori: The Write Stuff conference is in its 18th year. What do you think is the secret to the Write Stuff success? How many years have you been attending the conference and what is your favorite part?

Tammy: My first Write Stuff Conference was in 2009. I remember how impressed I was with it and how hard I fell completely under its charm. I’ve enjoyed being the co-chair in 2010 and it’s thrilling being the conference chair this year. I like every part of the conference particularly the variety of sessions and I learned a lot last year in James N. Frey’s two day preconference workshop but if I had to name my absolute favorite part of the conference, it has to be the networking aspect. I can’t speak for everyone else but I know my family’s eyes tend to glaze over if I talk about writing too much. I find it very gratifying to be around other individuals who understand the “writing bug”.

As to the Write Stuff’s success, I would point to a few key things. One of the most integral reasons is because of the people who work it. No event runs smoothly without the aid of its people and we have a fabulous bunch of volunteers in addition to attracting quality presenters, agents and editors. Other individuals who help the conference with its success are the hotel’s catering manager and staff. They consistently step up to the plate as we increase the quality of our conference. The conference size and setup give conferees more opportunities to network with other writing professionals and we consistently offer a nice variety of topics. I may be biased, but I believe we have one of the best conferences in the northeast.

Tori: What should conferees prepare or bring with them to the pre-conference workshop and/or conference?

Tammy: Besides what I’ve mentioned earlier, I would say for the preconference workshop(s), attendees should bring either their completed manuscript or their work in progress and something to take notes with. Of course for the conference, I would also recommend bringing something to take notes with.

Another thing I’d like to mention, Saturday’s hot lunch is the “Tour of Italy” and if you have dietary restrictions such as tomato and/or gluten allergies you may contact the hotel at 610-266-1000 in order to have your needs accommodated.

Tori: Networking is touted as an important aspect of the conference. What opportunities exist at the Write Stuff for networking with other writers, presenters, agents and editors?

Tammy: As I mentioned earlier, the Write Stuff is set up with various opportunities for conferees to speak with other writers, presenters, agents and editors. Some examples include the Wednesday night informal Happy Hour, the Thursday night Writers Café, the Friday night reception party, scheduled breaks on Saturday, and the bookfair. At my first Write Stuff conference I ended up sitting with one of the editors at the Friday night reception party and was able to have a lengthy conversation. I also spoke to some of the agents as well. So yes, networking opportunities abound along with learning and sharing information.
Hope to see you in March!

Right Here, Write Now. Writers’ Groups in the Lehigh Valley


By Sara Hodon

Have you ever thought about sitting down and actually writing the novel you’ve been toying with for years? Or earning extra money as a freelance writer? If you’ve been itching to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) but aren’t sure where to start, there are a number of groups in the Lehigh Valley that can help you hone your craft and work toward reaching your writing goals.

The Bethlehem Writers Group (BWG), Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group (GLVWG) and Pocono-Lehigh Valley Romance Writers (PLRW) are just a few of the active writing organizations in the Lehigh Valley. Whether you’re looking for some guidance or feedback as you attempt to pen the Great American Novel or simply want to brainstorm and share ideas with other literary types, these groups may have just what you’re looking for.

Bethlehem Writers Group

Founded in 2006, the Bethlehem Writers Group’s members are a mix of both fiction and nonfiction writers in a wide range of genres, including paranormal mystery, humor, children’s writing and inspirational. The group initially met at Barnes and Noble on Route 33 when the then-store manager asked a bookseller to lead a writers group at the store. When that location became unavailable, the group moved to the Moravian College library, where they still meet during the school year, and the Giant Marketplace Cafe in Coopersburg during the summer.

Member Carol Wright says that the camaraderie established by the members has many benefits. “Writing is a solitary activity, so it’s good for writers to belong to a group that can give helpful feedback on their work while sharing the ups and downs of the writer’s life. We have learned a lot about writing through our critiques of each others’ short and long-form work, including critiques of entire novels,” she says. “Many of us have been together for several years, and as we’ve become better writers, we have also become good friends.” Besides members’ individual projects, the BWG has collaborated on a few larger projects. They’ve published an anthology of holiday stories, A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales, launched Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, an online literary magazine, and created a Short Story Award competition. BWG meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, and Wright says the group always welcomes new members “who are interested in giving and accepting constructive writing critiques, and who are committed to becoming more accomplished writers.” A Long Form Group, whose mission is to provide extensive, in-depth critiques of each other’s book-length works, meets on the fourth Tuesday and is by invitation only. For more information visit

Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group

Whether you’re looking for some assistance on what to do with your completed manuscript, constructive feedback on a work in progress or simply the company of other writers, GLVWG can likely help. As one of the longest-standing writers groups in the Valley (formed in 1993), GLVWG has offered a wide range of programs to assist members with honing their craft as well as providing a forum for members to share their work.

Current GLVWG president Tammy Burke says that the group is open to writers in any genre at all levels of experience. “We attract people who have thought, ‘I want to write’ and have decided to give it a go, to published authors, and everyone in between,” she says. GLVWG holds regular meetings where members hear from a speaker offering tips or insight into some aspect of the art or craft of writing. “We’ve had topics on everything from Self-Publishing 101 to bringing in agents. We pretty much feature anything the membership would be interested in,” Burke says.

Every March GLVWG holds their Write Stuff Conference which attracts writers from all over the country. “We’ve had three consecutive sold-out conferences for the past three years,” Burke says. “The first year I joined, I co-chaired the conference, and our keynote speaker was James Frey, the author of How to Write a Damn Good Novel.” 2011’s keynote was literary agent Donald Maass, author of Writing the Breakout Novel; 2012’s keynote was lawyer-turned-author James Scott Bell. “We offer two days of workshops prior to the conference itself,” Burke explains. “During the conference we offer 19 consecutive sessions. There are about 4 different sessions going on, so you choose what you want to hear about.” Sessions have focused on everything from writing poetry to cool tools for writers. As an added draw, GLVWG brings agents and editors to the conference, and attendees can sign up to meet with an industry professional for a 5-minute “pitch session” in which they try to find representation for their work. “It’s an action-packed two days,” Burke says.

GLWVG also holds a Writers Cafe at the PBS-39 Studios at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. “It’s a pretty awesome program. The first hour is an open dialogue among the writers, usually about something craft-related. The second hour is an on-the-spot critique where writers can read up to 500 words of a work in progress and get some feedback,” Burke says.

GLWVG’s meetings are held on the fourth Saturday of the month (except for March, July, August, and December) at the Palmer Library. For more information visit

Pocono-Lehigh Valley Romance Writers

In 1997, a dozen budding romance authors teamed up to form the PLRW with some help from the Romance Writers of America, a national organization. Founding member Autumn Jordon says that although the group was formed with a particular niche in mind – romance – there is still a lot of diversity among their members. “Our members write everything from erotica to historical romance to romantic suspense,” she explains. A few non-romance writers in the membership provide an interesting balance.

Meetings are held monthly, followed by some informal critiquing. Besides hearing from fellow writers, Jordon says they have heard from speakers in other professions, as well. “We’ve had FBI agents, firemen, police officers, and a forensic psychologist,” she says. “Hearing from ‘real people’ helps us pick up on the details of those professions in our writing. It helps with authenticity,” she says. Jordon says their membership has fluctuated from the core 12 members to 35 members. On average, they draw 15-20 people at monthly meetings. Jordon says the critiquing is invaluable. “It’s very important, especially for a new writer. We’re a very supportive group, and brutally honest in our critique. We tell each writer to take what they want from our suggestions, but we give our honest opinions.”

Current president Kathy Kulig says that there’s never been a better time to write romance. “Romance is hot right now,” she says, adding that there were approximately 8,000 romance titles released a few years ago. For Kulig, writing romance means that everything works out happily at the end. “There’s enough negative in the world. I just like reading and writing romance because even with the characters’ struggles, you know you’re always going to get the happy ending.”

PLRW meets on the second Saturday of each month, except for July and December, at the Palmer Library. For more information visit

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