NJASL 2019

My last book event for 2019 is now behind me. It was the annual New Jersey Association of School Librarians conference, this year held in East Brunswick. I normally only go for one day of the event, but as it was relatively close to me, I decided to do both days.

I love hanging out with fellow authors and chatting with the many dedicated librarians who come to the conference. I always learn something and feel buoyed by being with people who love books as much as I do!

We share tables at this conference, and this year I had a different partner each day. On Monday I sat with Suzanne Morris, a debut picture book author, whose book A Trapezoid Is Not A Dinosaur! is both a book about shapes and an engaging story about trying to fit in and being accepted for who you are.

On Tuesday I sat with Laurie Morrison, middle grade author of Every Shiny Thing and her new book Up For Air. (As an aside, I have Morrisons in my recent ancestry, but I don’t think we are connected.) We spent the first few hours trying to figure out why we both thought the other one was familiar. Finally, the answer hit us—the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference! Laurie had stepped in to teach a seminar when another presenter had cancelled, and I had taken her 3-day seminar.

Although the days can feel long sometimes, my fellow authors always help fill the time. We discussed kids, business plans, publishing in general, editors, and school visits, among other topics. I never walk away empty-handed, as I have usually gleaned new ideas or information and have made some new contacts.

Thanks, NJASL for the opportunity to talk with your amazing librarian members! I will see you next year!

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2019: My Biggest Takeaway

This past weekend was the Philadelphia Writers Conference. I consider it my “home” conference, and I have been going for about 10 years.

Every year I think about what my biggest takeaway is from the conference. I learn so much every year, it’s hard to pick. This year, one thing echoed in almost every workshop: there is no one right way to write.

There are so many ways to write a book. Plotting vs. Pantsing. Linear vs. The Jigsaw Puzzle. Scientific vs. Intuition. Efficient vs. Meandering. And you know what? They are all valid. As long as you end up with a finished, polished product, it’s all good.

The thing I have found about the writing process is that it changes over time. It changes as your skills mature, and according to the needs of your book. For example, my multiple-POV, multiple-subplot YA scifi required more planning than my middle grade single-POV quest story.

Young authors often think there is only one correct way to write a book, and that the professional teaching the workshop is the holder of that Holy Grail. This is certainly not the case, and I was heartened to hear so many of the workshop leaders espouse the uniqueness of each person’s process.

A great thing about a multi-day conference is that we get to concentrate on the writing. We can dim or even turn out the lights of the outside world and immerse ourselves in the writing world. At the beginning of one of my classes, a bird got into the room. It flew around, disoriented, banging into the mirror, until one person got the smart idea to open the doors and turn out the lights in the room. As soon as we turned out the lights, the bird raced to the open doors and flew through to freedom.

Go into the light, my friends—and write your own way.

Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2018: My Biggest Takeaway

Complexity and Connection at the PWCThis year’s Philadelphia Writers’ Conference filled my head with new and exciting information, leaving me both exhausted and exhilarated. Now that I have had a few days to let all the swirling ideas settle, one of the main things that stuck with me is the complexity of our craft.

I’m not talking about plot complexity. Even the simplest story is complex in the way I mean. What I mean is how every element of your story impacts the others. In our character workshops, we also crossed into plot. In our plot workshop we also delved into character. Every word choice and point of view feeds into the elusive element of voice. Everything interconnects, playing off each other and driving the story in different ways.

That same complex interconnection often makes revision a mind-bending project. Change one thing about a character, that can change the plot. Change POV, and your voice skews. Change the language and that might suggest a change in structure. Every change, no matter how minor, flows downstream all the way to the end of the novel. Riding those rapids can exhaust you.

This complexity of story comes from the fact that stories reflect the complexity of life. This helps stories translate across different media. The same story can be told orally, in print, in graphic novels, or on a screen large or small. Although the formats differ, the story fabric can be cut and tailored to each one to convey the same meaning and soul as the original story. The interwoven complexity of story gives it both strength and malleability.

Given the complex nature of writing and all its elements, is it any wonder that the craft of writing is so hard? The work of weaving a tale can take an emotional, psychological, and even physical toll on writers. To combat this, we need connectivity of our own—a network of friends and supporters who understand and can help lift us over the obstacles we encounter. This is one of the values of conferences like the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. There we meet and connect with other writers and form bonds that last.

Thank you, PWC, for 70 years of helping writers connect so we can weave our stories together.

My Biggest Takeaway: Philadelphia Writers’ Conference 2017

My biggest takeaway from PWC 2017At the Opening Speech at this year’s Philadelphia Writers Conference,  Yolanda Wisher, the Philadelphia Poet Laureate, coined the word “kinfluences”, meaning the family and friends whose stories influenced her life and informed her writing.

My biggest takeaway from the Philadelphia Writers Conference this year was my own reconnection with people in my writing family. “Kinnections”, if you will allow me to play off Ms. Wisher’s word.

The conference itself was a forum for connecting with people in real life who I usually only see online. Mary Mooney, Doreen McGettigan, and Kelly Deeny crossed my path this year. So did Uriah Young, who I met at his first Philadelphia Writers Conference a few years ago. At that time he was a newbie with a story to tell, this year he’s on the Philadelphia Writers Conference board.

The biggest blast from my past was Jonathan Maberry‘s visit to Doylestown. I met him more than a decade ago, and he has been a large influence on my writing career. He moved to California a few years back, so it was good to see him.

Keith Strunk is another writer friend of long standing. He was part of a group project that stands as a major turning point in my writing life, and also in my personal life, as I got married during the project. Connecting with him both at Jonathan’s book signing and at the Philadelphia Writers Conference was great fun.

Perhaps my biggest career-related reconnection at this year’s Philadelphia Writers Conference was with Denise Camacho, head of Intrigue Publishing. We first met three years ago at the 2014 Philadelphia Writers Conference.  At that conference, I pitched a novel to her at the pitch session. Not only was she interested in that novel, but she was very excited about a novel that I had literally just begun. This year, that novel is essentially finished, and she is still excited about it, so I will send it to her after I get final edits back from my editor.

So my biggest takeaway from this year’s Philadelphia Writers Conference were my “kinnections”–relationships built on previous years’ attendance, relationships cemented or expanded by shared experiences. Some people ask why I go to the same conference year after year. There are numerous reasons, of course, but the ongoing connections I build and strengthen every year are a part of it.

Writing can be solitary,  but publishing is a communal effort. For me, the Philadelphia Writers Conference is a large part of finding the publishing community to help me succeed.




A Writing Weekend: Philadelphia Writers Conference and BooksNJ

PWC - part of my writing weekendMy writing weekend kicks off on Friday, when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Philadelphia Writers Conference, my home away from home. I’m looking forward to the classes, the camaraderie, and the energy I always get from the conference.

I find it electrifying to be with so many other writers. Okay, so maybe the electricity doesn’t really start crackling until after the coffee stations open, but the energy ramps up as the day goes on. The confined spaces of the conference rooms trap inspiration and send it ricocheting until some of it inevitably hits me.

I will probably pitch at the conference (I usually do), but I haven’t decided yet. I have two manuscripts ready to go, so I certainly have something to talk about. Oddly enough, I have found that I pitch better if I don’t think about it too much beforehand. That seems counter-intuitive for an anxiety-beset introvert, but it works—provided I know my story well enough to speak fluidly about it (which I do). I think it’s because if I don’t admit to myself that I am going to pitch, it tricks my anxiety into staying calm until it’s too late to paralyze me with fear.

While I love the Philadelphia Writers Conference, I will miss Day 3 because I have a book event. On Sunday, I will be in Paramus, NJ, for the BooksNJ festival. This is my first time at this event, so it is a new adventure for me. I am even on a panel—Worlds Beyond Reality: Fantasy and Science Fiction with fellow authors J.R. Bale, Kristina Garlick, and Stephen S. Power, moderated by Laurie Meeske. It should be fun—just pray for sun, please!

I have quite the busy 3-day writing weekend ahead, chock full of adventure and fun. As is tradition, I will be reporting on the Philadelphia Writers Conference each night on the Author Chronicles blog, although I will not have a post for Sunday’s session. And come back here next week when I’ll tell you about my BooksNJ experience.


The Best of The Goose’s Quill 2016

As 2016 winds to a close, I take a look back and see what Goose’s Quill posts resonated with my readers the most. I often get surprised! Here are the top 20 of the year:

  1. Productivity and Expectations
  1. A Clean-Out Vacation
  1. Summer Slump: Is it September Yet?
  1. Gans Family Reunion 2016: Blood is Thicker than Water
  1. Beta Readers: A Vital Part of the Process
  1. Trans-Siberian Orchestra
  1. The Best of the Goose’s Quill 2015
  1. Research and Citations: Save Time, Get it Right from the Start
  1. The Dread Synopsis
  1. Book Launch! But What to Read?
  1. Critique Groups: A Resource Worth Having
  1. Book Fair Magic: Casting a Reading Spell
  1. Evolution of a Speaker: From Wrecked to Relaxed
  1. A Successful, Grateful Book Launch for The Witch of Zal
  1. My First Author Panel: The Student Becomes the Teacher
  1. Learning to Excel: Spreadsheets and Writing
  1. How To Cope With Book Launch Anxiety
  1. My Biggest Takeaway: 2016 Philadelphia Writer’s Conference
  1. Musings on Grief and Comfort

And my #1 read post of 2016:

  1. The Witch of Zal Book Trailer

Thank you everyone for reading The Goose’s Quill! Have a safe and Happy New Year, and I will see you in 2017!

The Goose's Quill logo




My Biggest Takeaway: 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

DSCN9802Usually my biggest takeaway from the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference is something I learned about craft or a network connection I made or a revelation about myself. To that end, I was mulling a post about structure, causality, and emotion, but I decided not to write that for today (you may see it in the future, though). Why didn’t I write that post? Because that topic is not the one that my mind is still replaying almost a week later.

What is on my mind this year is not an answer—it is a question. Or rather, 3 questions.

Cecily Kellogg gave Kerry Gans her biggest takeaway this year

Cecily Kellogg

In the very first class on Day Two, Cecily Kellogg gave a wonderful workshop on building a digital author brand. She gave us a whole lot of fantastic information, and in amongst the multiple slides of her presentation was one with 3 questions: “What makes you special? Why would people want to connect with you? What unique thing can you offer?”

Now, it was first thing in the morning. Most people’s coffee hadn’t kicked in. I don’t drink coffee, so I was at an even further disadvantage. But those questions stopped the room cold. The concepts embodied in those questions were the topics I heard most people talking about after the workshop was over.

1) What makes you special?

Now, writers are often stereotyped as having low self-esteem—and there’s a reason for that. Most of us, while perhaps not having LOW self-esteem, also do not think we’re anything special. I know I feel eminently average. I think we all consider our lives uninteresting, because to us it’s everyday life. The daily grind. We don’t consider that others may find parts of our lives fascinating. What makes me special? I have no clue.

2) Why would people want to connect with you?

I am certain Cecily meant this in the “what can you do for me if I follow you” sense. In other words, what can I do for the customer. What value do I bring. Well, I don’t really have an answer to that, either, from a tangible perspective. As a person, I know I’m a trouble-shooter , and I’m good at connecting people to information they want.  I am a listener and good at reading people. Are those saleable points in an author? How do I turn that into a tangible, marketable trait? I don’t know.

3) What unique thing can you offer?

I chose to interpret this as “what is unique about your writing”—in other words, from a product point of view rather than a personal point of view. Without shifting the focus to the product (and, yes, your writing is a product), this question would be the same as #1, and I don’t think Cecily meant it to be redundant.

In spite of changing the focus, I think my answer is a lot like #1. My writing is good, but not Nobel worthy (yet!). I hope to empower kids to be proud of who they are, and to accept others for who they are, even when that is different from themselves. I hope to encourage them to think for themselves and stand up for what they believe. I hope a lot of things, but I don’t think that my hopes differ very much from the multitude of children’s writers out there.

So, you can see I have no immediate answers to these questions. However, these are extremely important questions to answer, in order to build the most effective digital brand and the most comfortable author persona. What’s a clueless author to do?

One person in class suggested that we ask people who know us well (and will answer honestly) these questions about us and our work. We all know that the way we perceive ourselves is vastly different from the way others see us—even others who know us intimately. So I suppose, while I keep mulling over these questions myself, this is the way I will start my research.

So I guess my biggest takeaway this year was learning what I don’t know–and now setting out to find it.

What about you? Can you answer those questions about yourself and your work?




Anticipating the 2016 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference

Author Kerry Gans excited about the Philadelphia Writers' ConferenceAt this time tomorrow, I will be at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference (PWC), immersing myself in craft, business, and writerly inspiration.

The three-day event always gets my creativity moving, and I always come away with something valuable. Whether it’s conquering pitching fears, discerning weaknesses in my writing, reviving my creativity, making business connections, or learning how to organically raise the stakes in my novels, I always walk away with something that more than pays for the price of admission.

This weekend looms large in my mind. The calendar in my head has a neon “PWC” sign flashing over these three days, as if nothing outside the conference happens. As if I will not need to eat or sleep or battle traffic. Like my duties as wife and mother will vanish (which they pretty much will, since awesome husband will be dealing with wonderful child while I’m away from home).

There’s something about preparing for the conference that seems herculean to me. The packing looms large, even though in reality it will take 20 minutes. How much does one need for 3 days, right? The travel to and from the conference each day stretches like eternity before me, but it will be all right (Friday is usually the worst day). But I think the reason this weekend always feels like heavy lifting to me is because it’s three straight days of near-constant interaction with people. For an introvert like me, that is a daunting and draining proposition. So I think mentally I am shoring myself up for the task.

Herculean task or not, I am looking forward to this year’s PWC—my 6th in a row. And why wouldn’t I be eager for it? Good things happen to me every year at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference.

I can’t wait to see what I will take away this year.

The New To-Do List

First, I want to take a moment to recognize the tragedies in Beirut, Paris, and Nigeria. The loss of life is horrific, and the grief is universal no matter what continent you are on. The terrorists wish to inspire fear and hatred and chaos. I choose not to let my fear turn to hate. I choose to stand with the grieving and raise my voice with those speaking for peace. The terrorists fear our unity and seek to splinter us. United we stand.

20151115_082754I attended my first conference as a published author this weekend. The NJ Association of School Librarians sponsorsan Authors’ and Illustrators’ Alley where you can display your wares and talk with the conferees. I’ll admit I was terribly nervous—my anxiety was running in high gear. But once I got there, it all went smoothly. Chatting with the librarians and teachers was fun, and I learned a great deal about presentation from my friend and table-mate Donna Galanti.


So now that is over and I turn my attention to the other things that need to be done now that THE WITCH OF ZAL is a real, live book. What sort of things are on this to-do list?

Updating my website: I need to get the cover on the front page, and add buy links, and some of the blurbs. I need to update my events page as well.

Book Trailer: I’ve sent the elements of the trailer to Keith Strunk, whose company will be putting it together for me. As a long-time professional editor, I actually did the trailer myself but my editing software is so old it does not support true High Definition, which is necessary.

Reviews: I have no reviews yet, but I do have a list of bloggers that I am ready to reach out to and ask for reviews. I have the emails mostly ready, I just need to add some final details (like the cover) and send them out.

School visit presentation: I need to sit down and concentrate in detail on what I want to say and cover in a school visit. I have a firm idea of the topic now (thanks again to Keith Strunk), but I need to think about the flow and the details I need to cover.

School visits: After that, I need to actually book some school visits. A big issue is payment—so many of the librarians at the conference said they simply have no budget for author visits. So, do I work for free and accept the book sales as payment enough? That’s a question each author needs to answer for themselves.

Interviews: I have at least one interviewer who has sent me questions, so I need to get those done.

Distribution: I have contacted the Doylestown Bookshop about handling pre-orders for my school events, and thankfully they have said they can handle that for me.

Taxes: I seem to have all the paperwork in order, but I am still unclear on how collecting sales tax works in states outside of my home state. So more research is needed.

Copyright: I need to register the copyright of my book within 3 months of publication. Some authors may say not to worry about it, but for $35 it’s worth having the extra protection. (Fees vary depending on how you register.)

Launch party: Now that THE WITCH OF ZAL is out, I need to celebrate! I’ll keep you apprised of developments there.

So, those are some of the things on my new to-do list. Oh, and write. Gotta keep doing that.

Anything I forgot that should be on my list?




The First of Many Firsts: Preparing for the NJASL Conference

On Sunday November 15th I will be attending my first ever conference as an author. The New Jersey Association of School Librarians has what they call Authors’ Alley where authors can get a table and speak to the many librarians who are there for the conference. I am so excited to be able to talk to so many librarians at once about my new book. However, I am also quite nervous. Luckily, friend and fellow author Donna Galanti will also be there—which will make the experience much more fun and less nerve-wracking.

Preparing for a conference as an author is no easy thing. I need to have many pieces in place. Such as:


The first thing I need to do is order books to have with me at the conference to sell or to show the librarians who are interested in the book. I did that today and they will be arriving sometime before the 15th. I can only imagine what it will feel like when I open my first box full of my own books and see all those wonderful covers looking up at me. 🙂


I would like to have bookmarks ready to give out to people who are interested in the book but may not wish to buy at this time. I also want to have flyers announcing my school visit topics and availability to give out. I’m thinking of getting new business cards to bring, if I have time to get the new card and if my pocketbook will stretch to that much expense. My old cards are certainly sufficient to allow people to get in touch with me on social media and my website. The only drawback is that the cards do not have the cover of my most recent book on them.


There are also business things that need to be taken care of prior to that and I have already completed those. I needed to get a federal tax ID number and register my business with the state of New Jersey so that I could collect sales tax on any books that I sell at the conference. I have also bought a Square credit card reader for my smartphone so people can pay me with a credit card. I tested it out and it works great!


I need some sort of display stand to put up a flyer on the table. I need to bring order forms in case there are people who wish to order the book later, so they can still get the special pricing I’m giving for the conference. I also need to remember to bring things such as my laptop a copy book for writing, and snacks and water so that I can make it through the day without fainting away.

I had hoped the have my book trailer available by this time but it simply will not be possible to get it done. However I do hope to have that finished by the end of the month. I had a lot of fun putting it together and I hope people will enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it!


Eventually all those items above will be checked off my list, and the only thing left to do will be to pack up the car and head out. Then my worry will be: Can I actually find the venue? Thankfully my smartphone has a GPS, so now I have a little bit more assurance that should I get lost I will actually be able to find my way to where I need to go.

With this conference I am officially launching my career as a published author. I’m on the path that I always dreamed about the time I was young. I cannot express to you how amazed I am that this dream is finally coming true.

Anyone have more tips for this conference newbie?

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