On Friday and Saturday, September 6-7, Shepherd University will host the first-of-its-kind “From Manuscript to Marketplace” writers conference, designed to deliver success strategies and insider advice for writers at absolutely any stage.

Set to take place within the university’s Erma Ora Byrd Hall—with a Friday evening registration and opening keynote, followed by an all-day conference on Saturday—the event was conceived and developed by Shepherdstown author and film producer Alan Gibson after a trip to the Dublin Writer’s Conference.

“I had just finished The Dead of Winter [his first book]; I didn’t know what I was doing,” Gibson admitted. “I published the book, but I wanted to learn more. I discovered the Dublin Writer’s Conference in Ireland. The reviews for the conference were really good, so I thought it could be fun. I got invited to the VIP events beforehand through a connection at the conference, and got to meet the speakers and other folks—a bit of a head start.”

One of the components of the conference was a pitch session with a Hollywood producer, so Gibson signed up. “I actually met the producer at the VIP party and we had a lot in common. We got to be friends and he and his wife and I spent some time together there. I also met all these incredible authors who’d made success for themselves as well as others who hadn’t even started, or were thinking about it, but didn’t know what to do next.

“It’s a murky business, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. Who do you reach out to? How do you find an editor? A publisher? Or if you’re going to self-publish, how does that work?”

Manuscript to Marketplace Shepherd University Quality Channels

Gibson was inspired in Dublin to write another book, and he did. He then returned the following year—finding inspiration yet again. But this time, he’d made multiple industry connections.

“I met Wendy H. Jones, a crime writer and good friend, who’s given keynotes at this conference, and is super knowledgeable and energetic and really helps people figure out the process,” he explained. “She mentioned that she’d love to come over to the States and do a book signing. Then, Amy Collins [another connection, and president at New Shelves Books] said she’d do a book tour for her. I mentioned maybe we do a writer’s conference, and that’s how it started.”

Since then, for Gibson, it’s been about securing the venue and growing the list of speakers and panelists. “I pitched it to Betty Ellzey (Shepherd Department of English and Modern Languages Chair), and she loved the idea—and gave it her blessing. It isn’t for-profit; part of the reason is to certainly help writers far and wide understand the business, the process, even their own craft more, but as a part of the university, it’s also meant to help the students.”

To that end, Manuscript to Marketplace comprises two-tracks—one that focuses on resources, content, and the craft of writing, and then an accessibility component that allows for attendees to meet with speakers and panelists to maximize education and interaction.

“Something we want to convey here is that, despite all the services and apps and software out there designed to help authors, it’s a very complicated and often saturated experience,” noted Gibson. “You can waste a lot of money and time. This conference is unique in that we want to help people develop quality work, put it through quality channels, and cultivate sustainable success.”

— To register, and for all information on speakers and panelists (many of whom are local), click here. The early-bird rate is $139 ($169 after August 1).

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