(Originally published in the September HWA Newsletter)
September 1, 2022 by HWAWeb
Willamette Writers is a community of writers based in the Pacific Northwest. Like many organizations, much of their offerings have gone online since the pandemic, and while we all miss in-person events, going online opens the door to writers from all over the world.
This year’s conference was a hybrid event with both in-person and online offerings that drew over 300 attendees. It also happened to be my first in-person conference, and I’m hooked. My anxiety has kept me from doing these things, but now I’m ready for StokerCon™ 2023. I need to see my Halloween people! But, back to the WW conference.
The in-person conference kicked off with a silent auction boasting signed Dean Koontz novels, wine baskets, and much more, along with a Writer’s Fair featuring many local and national organizations. These were open to the public and brought in a nice-sized crowd.
The conference hosted master classes, workshops, pitches, critiques, and panels with over fifty industry professionals. Keynotes from Laura Stanfill (publisher of Forest Avenue Press and author of Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary) and Mark Oshiro (author of Anger is a Gift and Each of Us a Desert) were interesting and inspiring, as were the delicious appetizers, desserts, and brunch. The fledgling juncos hopping around on the patio were adorable, too!
The highlight this year, for us horror folks, was a panel with Wendy Wagner (Editor-in-Chief of Nightmare Magazine and author of The Deer Kings), Kelly McWilliams (author of Agnes at the End of the World and Mirror Girls), moderated by Mark Teppo (Underland Press). The full-capacity attendance attested to the fact that our genre is going strong.
Here’s a few of the subjects discussed at the panel:
– The need for more middle-grade horror and the value of giving kids the opportunities to inhabit experiences that aren’t theirs to provide empathy, insight, and understanding of the world beyond them.
– The vibrancy of the small-press horror market. Wendy Wagner said, “Be a freak. Somewhere out there are a dozen people who want to read that.” Will do, Wendy!
– And, how marketing for horror at the agent/editor/publisher level and the bookstore level are different. A book can be as “upmarket, buzz-ready, contemporary classic, genre-buster” as it likes, but, if it has monsters, it goes on the horror shelf, because horror fans show up for the monsters, whereas everyone else wants buzz words but are freaked out by monsters.
I had an amazing conference experience, and loved making new writer friends, as well as connecting with those I’d only known online. Next year, we’ll have an HWA booth at that writer’s fair!