The History of Pennwriters
In 1986, fifteen aspiring romance novelists met published author Nancy Martin at a writer’s symposium at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. They formed a group called Romance Alive. Members supported each other at booksignings, formed critique groups, went to conferences together, and paid to bring in speakers. Membership grew quickly, and the name was changed to Pennwriters. The first conference, held at Pitt Main, was an enormous success, boasting around 200 attendees. But attendees weren’t all romance writers. Having pulled in writers from so many genres, the board rethought the group. After a membership vote, Pennwriters went multi-genre and incorporated.
The conference became a way for Pennwriters members to bond as they attended workshops and panels given by high-powered editors and agents, as well as authors dedicated to helping attendees improve their craft. With social events that included awards banquets, masquerade parties and mystery theater dinners, conference attendees had a chance to display their creativity, showcase investigative talents, learn about one another and form friendships.
Pennwriters also brought many talented editors, agents and authors to workshops and luncheons held throughout the state to educate and inform the members. An annual highlight was the agent luncheon held in Pittsburgh every December. The semi-formal event gave Pennwriters members an opportunity to not only hear industry news firsthand but also to rub elbows with writing industry professionals.
The contest that began in Pennwriters’ early years blossomed into a way for members to showcase their work and now culminates with an awards ceremony at the conference. In addition, the In Other Words contest, held during the conference, gives members the opportunity to post their work and have it judged by attendees who literally read the words posted on a wall in the hospitality suite.
The group’s small newsletter grew into a sophisticated multi-page offering. The success of the newsletter gave way to the creation of a booksellers newsletter, an opportunity for published writers to advertise their current releases to booksellers.
Ultimately, the group created a website. The website became a way to communicate with members, as well as a way to interact with editors, agents and potential members curious about the group and its members. The site has undergone a few “reconstructions” and currently contains extra features for member published authors and for promoting the annual conference.
Throughout the year, Pennwriters Presents gives members the opportunity to engage in Q&A with a guest speaker—often an agent, editor or multi-published author. Over the years, guests have included published authors, attorneys, corporate executives, editors and individuals from nearly every walk of life.
Pennwriters has an accomplished history and continues to serve members’ needs. Visit the other pages on our website to learn more about the organization and current happenings.