Behind the Scenes: Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple

Erin Fletcher is the Assistant Manager of Online Content and Research here at Measurement Incorporated and is very involved with helping to curate the content our users see in MI's writing sites. Erin is also a twice published author of two YA books - Where You'll Find Me and Pieces of You and Me. She recently attended the Writer's Digest Annual Conference in New York City. In this guest post, she shares her experience at the conference and how it relates both to her writing and her work with PEG Writing.

I love attending writing conferences. It's exciting to come together with other writers and share our experiences. While in New York, I found myself not only learning and growing as a writer, but also thinking about the writing sites and the students and teachers we work with. One of my favorite parts about my job at MI is the overlap between my writing life and my MI life, so I thought I would bring a little of that overlap back to you.

More than eight hundred writers flocked to midtown Manhattan for the conference on what might have been the hottest weekend of the summer. (Think North Carolina levels of heat and humidity, but with more concrete and less air conditioning.) I met people from Malaysia, Australia, the UK, and all over the US. Since writing  is such a solitary activity, it was almost as much fun meeting people who share a common passion as it was attending the conference itself.

The conference sessions were taught by various authors and publishing professionals, including keynote presentations from Kwame Alexander, David Baldacci, and Emily St. John Mandel.

There were sixty conference sessions to choose from, covering five different themes: Craft, Genre Studies, Getting Published, The Business of Being and Author, and Platform & Promotion. Session titles ranged from “You Haven’t Scene This Before: Creating Unique & Compelling Settings” to “The Writing Life: How to Survive and Succeed without Breaking your Heart or Losing your Mind” to “Three Ways to Build a Successful Author Platform.”

Perhaps my favorite session of the weekend was titled “Rework, Rewrite, and Rock Your Revisions” by author Gabriela Pereria. Gabriela related the process of revision to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Similar to the way humans can’t worry about psychological and self-fulfillment needs until basic needs are met, there is an order to the needs of revising a piece of writing. Gabriela suggested completing five “layers” of revisions, which corresponds with the three to five revisions we recommend based on PEG feedback.

At the base of the pyramid is revision for content or Development of Ideas. The next “layer” of revision is to organize those ideas from the beginning of the piece to the end. People can’t worry about friendships until they have food, water, and safety, and writers can’t revise for Organization until all of the ideas are on the page. The next most granular level of revision is Sentence Fluency, which focuses on revising at the paragraph and sentence levels. This is followed by Style and Word Choice, followed by Conventions at the top of the pyramid. This ordered, thoughtful revision is a successful tool for authors, and what we hope to see PEG products students doing as well!

The common theme throughout the keynotes, sessions, and weekend as a whole was the importance of and passion for writing. Everyone has information to share or a story to tell. While the focus within the PEG products may be on improving scores, it’s also important to remember the joy that writing can bring, whether it’s crafting a beautiful sentence, making a reader laugh, or hitting the New York Times Best Seller List.

By the time I left NYC and headed back to NC, I was rather sleep-deprived, but extremely inspired to work on my own writing and support our PEG product students and teachers as much as possible. It is my hope that the PEG products help students gain writing skills and confidence so they can become the keynote presenters at a Writer’s Digest Conference one day!