Post-Pennwriters Depression

This weekend in Pittsburgh, while serving cup #761 of conference coffee, I heard a jingly sound behind me. This sent my finely developed jewelry radar on red alert. Sure enough, when I turned around to check it out, behind me was an arm with four silver bangles on it. Attached to the arm was a Pennwriter.

“Oh, I love your bracelets!” I said and held out my arm to show her mine. When you are a bracelet junkie, this is the proper show-off protocol.

I wear three silver bracelets.  Always. I add others for variety, but these three are my constants. One I bought at the French Quarter when it first opened after Katrina; one is a treasured gift from a special friend; the third is a solace bracelet I treated myself to after bombing a public reading at the Pure Sea Glass Writers Conference in Rehoboth.

(How do you know you’ve bombed a reading? Maybe your gut says you were off your game, but the audience politely applauded, so you tell yourself it couldn’t have been that awful, right? But later, someone approaches you at the bar to say, “I was at your reading and I wanted to tell you, I really like your shoes”–that’s how you know. I fled the bar and ducked into a local artist’s gallery and soothed my wounded pride by buying myself a cute bracelet.)

Back to the Pennwriters Conference. After I gushed over hers and showed off mine, the woman started to remove one of her bangles. I watched in shock as she pulled it over her wrist and fingers and then handed it to me. Of course I protested (albeit weakly), but thirty seconds after I admired this stranger’s bracelets, she had given one to me.

That, friends, is what happens in a community of artists. For four days, the 200+ writers gathered in Pittsburgh gave to one another. Some gave advice on Facebook and LinkedIn; some lent a practice ear to pitches; some served M&Ms; some gave hugs or thumbs up as needed. The best part was, no one had to ask. The offerings were instinctive and sincere. This is what we do.

At my Mastering the Art of Self-Editing workshop on Thursday, I handed out plastic bracelets to the attendees and said they were editing bracelets. I explained that a writer works with a creative mind, but an editor must work with a critical eye. The bracelets were a mental aid, to remind them to shift gears from the creative to the critical.

I wear my three bracelets to remind me of important moments in my life. Now I have a fourth. How often in life do you admire something, and it is given to you, immediately, without expectation of anything given in return?

It was a small but beautiful moment that I will always remember. I am grateful to the lovely lady who handed me the bracelet off her arm in a gesture of camaraderie, but she was not the only person generous to me at Pennwriters.

I am grateful to the person who broke the awkward silence at the end of one of my sessions by asking a pity question.

I am grateful to the woman who brought up Rebecca as an example at my story arc workshop.

I am grateful to the writers who trusted me to read their openings.

I am grateful to the brave individuals who participated in the read and critique session.

I am grateful to every person who offered a personal origin story about how they became writers.

I am grateful to everyone who attended my workshops, chatted with me in the Hospitality Room and offered their experiences and friendship.

I am grateful to the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime for the Saturday dinner invite.

And I am grateful to Julie and Meredith for putting together a flawless conference.

I was sad to leave my friends–both old and new–in Pittsburgh, hence the title of this post. I came home with much more than I gave, and I am grateful for that, too.



PS – They were really cute shoes. 

19 thoughts on “Post-Pennwriters Depression

  1. Great blog, Ramona, and so true! Really glad that Pennwriters was a wonderful experience.

    Now get your butt back to Pittsburgh sometime soon!! xo


    1. Kathy, you will love this. On the flight home, a young guy boarded wearing a bright green Pittsburgh Marathon 2011 t-shirt. Someone asked if he’d run it; he said yes and gave his time. Everyone around applauded. It was too cute!


  2. What a nice post, Ramona. I too find writers to be the kindest, most generous of people. They are tolerant and understanding and know just when to sympathize and when to administer a swift kick to get you back in the game.


  3. It was great to see you this weekend. We really must do it again SOON. Except with more visiting. There was just too much to see and do. I would have loved to sit down and just TALK with you for more than ten seconds at a shot.


    1. Yes, Annette, I felt like we kept seeing one another coming and going, but never stopping. I have this fantasy about finding some cheap off season place to rent for a week. Just writing and talking.

      Le dream. Sigh.


  4. Hi, Ellis! (I met Ellis at a wonderful conference–Cape Fear, which is the perfect name for a mystery conference.

    Ramona, you bring good karma wherever you go. That’s why people give you bracelets. Some people are the Vortex of Evil at conferences, sucking the life out of the room, but others exude support and generosity and that’s you. Coming to the party, prepared to party– what makes a conference great!


  5. While I could not attend the conference this year, my heart was there with all of you. I like the little gifts you have at your seminars. I still have the cute little pen you gave us at the Sisters In Crime retreat. It is right beside me in my pen holder.

    Next year I vow to be at the conference. And the fact that you were all there and writing about inspiration has gotten me charged as well. I look forward to seeing you at next year’s Pennwriters’ conference which is easily one of the best around.


  6. Sherry, I am so sorry you weren’t there. It would have been lovely to see you again. I STILL have some of those little pens! I think I bought 600. I’m touched you’ve kept yours. I’ve given up on handing out the homemade Rice Krispie Treats–doctor’s orders, LOL!

    I will see your vow to attend next year and promise to do the same. I want to recruit some of my Delaware cohorts to go along as well. It is a GREAT conference that no one should miss.


  7. Heidi, the Pennwriters are huge, but amazingly close. Last year was my first conference after a long absence (I moved away), and I remembered so many people. It’s a wonderfully giving group.


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