Florida Writers Association Conference 2018

This was my first Florida Writers Association Conference as faculty. They put me to work. I led workshops on Crafting Memorable Dialogue for the adult attendees and then for the youth attendees.

Florida writers conference

The Florida Youth Writers conference ran concurrently with the adult workshops.

Oh, and FWA President Alison Nissen also interviewed me for a podcast. Yep, I was busy. The conference had 600 people.

The powers that be also assigned me to serve on a panel discussion titled “Bring it on Home to Me–Nailing the Ending.” Going into the conference I considered the free room and tuition as the biggest perks. Then I learned the identities of the other authors on the panel. Excuse the fan squeal.

THE PANELFlorida writers conference panel

Author Samuel Staley

Sam Staley, our moderator, is an award-winning author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles. At the conference, he also taught workshops on “Show Don’t Tell: Learning to Love and Trust Your Readers” and “Deepening Story and Character with Foreign Language.” Sam kept the panel talking with a series of questions. He also kept order when multiple questions rolled in from the writers in the audience.

Florida Writers conference faculty

Author Linda Fairstein

Linda Fairstein is the 2018 National Guest of Honor. She won the Nero Wolfe Award for Excellence in Crime Writing in 2008, and in 2010 received the Silver Bullet Award of the International Thriller Writers. Her 20th book in the Alexandra Cooper series comes out in 2019. Published in crime fiction and true crime, she writes with knowledge and authority. She served in the office of the New York County District Attorney, where she was chief of the country’s pioneering Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for twenty-six years. In that position, she supervised the investigation and trial of cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and homicides arising out of those crimes. Producer Dick Wolf based the long-running TV show Law & Order: SVU on her unit and the character of ADA Alex Cabot.

She also taught a workshop titled “Turning Your Professional Experience into Fiction.” In addition to her crime writing, she launched a children’s series called the Devlin Quick Mysteries.

Florida Writers conference faculty

Author John Capouya

John Capouya was the non-fiction author on the panel. He teaches journalism and nonfiction narrative at The University of Tampa, including their Creative Writing MFA program. Previously, he was an editor at Newsweek and SmartMoney magazines, New York Newsday, and the New York Times. His book Gorgeous George is in film development. His third book, Florida Soul – From Ray Charles to KC and the Sunshine Band, came out in 2017. The day after our panel, he taught an insightful workshop called “The End.” He presented eight ending techniques and how to close the circle of meaning in a story.

Florida Writers Assn conf faculty

Author John Wilkerson

John Wilkerson authors science fiction thrillers with a side order of campiness. At the conference, he taught a workshop titled “Emotional Mechanics of a Fight Scene.” Having thirty plus years of martial arts training pretty much makes him an expert on this topic. He also served as a moderator on the panel discussion of “Who’s Laughing Now? Being Funny is Serious Business.”

Our panel discussion on endings got spirited. The attendees asked questions that sparked polite debate on what makes an ending satisfying. We discussed genre considerations for endings. Romance demands HEA or Happily-ever-after. American readers prefer justice to prevail in crime novels. Literary stories can go either way. We discussed endings of books that disappointed us as readers.

I remember reading Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. In the original story, mermaids turned into sea foam when they died. One mermaid wanted a soul so she wouldn’t turn into sea foam. This little mermaid earned a soul by saving the life of a human. Then she died. Her soul went to heaven. Her death WAS the happy ending. Well, then Disney came along and changed the story and the ending to fit a romance. Oh, well.

One gentleman asked if the bleak ending of his coming-of-age book about a young man’s search for his father would work. The panel agreed that the ending, even a tragic one, works when it suits the trajectory of the story.


The awards banquet ran Saturday night. The dessert and the genie in a bottle theme made the event even more festive. The gentleman who asked about a sad ending was Gary Robert Pinnell. He collected 3rd place award for his unpublished historical fiction “A Most Invisible Boy.”

So there. Even the judges agreed.

Florida Writers Association awards banquetI also taught a workshop on writing for magazines and paid blogs. The magazine writing workshop was at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday. Surprisingly, it was packed. Working at a writer’s conference has been thrilling and exhausting. I’m off on vacation in the Smokey Mountains with Handsome. And a few great books.

Boca Raton Book Signing

authors at book signing in Boca Raton

Boca Raton event with Author Donna Kelly

Book signings can be hit or miss events. The I Heart Books Event sponsored by the Florida Writers Association took place in Boca Raton on Sunday, May 21. Fifty authors of various genres set up tables of books and giveaway items at the Lakeside Terrace. Nestled between the Hilton and a lovely pond, the venue was gorgeous. The weather was perfect. Author Donna Kelly came along for moral support and to act as cashier. She gamely learned how to operate the credit card reader attached to my iPad.

During the lull between setup and the VIP lunch with readers, I received an email. North of the Killing Hand was a finalist in the National Indie Excellence Awards in the suspense category. Yeah! Happy dance.

authors at Boca Raton book signing

Authors and VIP Readers luncheon in Boca Raton

I’m calling the Boca Raton book signing a hit. No, I didn’t sell out the box of trade paperbacks of either book. I probably didn’t recoup the expenses of hotel, travel, food, or time. What made this event a hit was the professionalism, camaraderie, and advice shared by the more experienced authors. From Author Mary Lois Sanders–bring book awards to display with the books. *Banging head on table* My book awards sit at home in a drawer. From Author Susan Thatcher: display your books and their themes with color, props, and whatever else will attract readers to pause at the table. Her table invited people to stop. From Author Jim Meyer: buy clear plastic book stands to display the proof copies of each book. My books sat in plain ugly stacks like they were second-hand offerings. Jim said that by using the proof copies, readers can handle them, and page through them instead of new copies. From Author Suzan Johnson: be friendly and engage readers when they pause at the table. As a children’s book author, she greeted the children first, then the parents who paused at her table. She answered questions from children

Boca Raton book signing table

with warmth and grace. This lady understands her readers!

Like Author John Hope, who brought his son Luke along, I brought along someone whose companionship made the time fly. Like many others, I had giveaway items. Window-shopping readers could pick up a key chain (whistle, compass, light) labeled with my website and a paper listing information on my books. Perhaps there will be an uptick in eBook sales from this event. Time will tell. Many authors set up banners to mark their table space. About ten had freestanding, taller-than-me banners. I had two tabletop banners showing cover art.

authors at book signing in Boca Raton

Author Suzan Johnson at the I Heart Book Event in Boca Raton

Authors adorned their tables with lights, electric candles, stuffed animals, baskets of candy, glitter, logo-emblazoned tablecloths, pens, stickers, sign-up lists, and books to suit their genres and themes. From pre-school reading to paranormal erotica, the variety of reading material staggered the mind. If I had not already purchased books from some of the authors at the FWA conference last October, I probably would have brought more books home than my own leftovers. My to-be-read pile already threatens to topple a bookshelf…ah, well.

Thank you, Boca Raton readers, for your support! Happy reading!