Fortune Cookies and WriterMamas

Summers in Florida are always a busy time. The flora is lush and grows a foot-and-a-half an hour, and when you throw in rain a few weeks in a row, becomes Amazonian in no time. My back yard is overgrown with cheap electronics and 99¢ e-books.

But seriously, not to mix metaphors, I’ve been swamped. One night in May, after a particularly hectic day, I ordered dinner from Panda Express — an Orange Chicken, if memory serves — ate about half, had my fill, an hour later was hungry again, ate the rest, cracked open my fortune cookie and posted a picture on Facebook:

Wait...not this one.
Wait…not this one.


Yeah...this one.
Yeah…this one.

Little did I know (cue Twilight Zone music) that ten days later, my favorite writing website would be opening up reservations for their first-ever conference, or to put it more precisely — UnConference — coming in November!

The Uncommon Conference

WU Logo by Kristy Condon

As the Mamas at Writer Unboxed, host of the ‘UnConference’, explain: “It’s part symposium. Part networking affair. Part workshop. Part retreat.”

Unlike other conferences, the event will not focus on the business of writing (i.e., finding agents, building platforms, writing queries), but will instead rely on interactive craft sessions led by gurus such as Donald Maass and Lisa Cron, as well as authors Brunonia Barry and Meg Rosoff. These workshops will stretch your mind, allow for interaction with peers and group leaders, and provide that all-elusive time to write. It’s a limited-seat event, with already about ¾ sold, and promises to be just what the doctor ordered.

Because for me, the writing aspect is pure gravy. I need the vacation! I can’t help but believe my mom had a hand in this from the Great Beyond. For one thing, the location, Salem, Massachusetts, is about an hour away from my brother. I’ll fly up the weekend before the UnConference, which happens to be her birthday weekend (is the Twilight Zone music still playing?) and celebrate her memory fondly with family.

Photo by James Walsh

The event will be held November 3-7 at the Hawthorne Hotel, the same hotel featured in Bewitched, one of my favorite shows back in the day. We’ll also tour The House of the Seven Gables, made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and take our chances with any frisky, cursed bed-warmers that may follow us back to our rooms. For those who remain into the weekend, which includes Yours Truly, the Salem Literary Festival will be in full-swing, promising additional writerly fun and camaraderie! Man, I’ve been counting the days.

When I registered back in May, it was a half-year away. Now, it’s less than three months. Where has the time gone? If you’d like to learn more about the UnConference and join me and the rest of the group — and a fine group it’s shaping up to be — follow this link to the event page.

Writers Helping Writer(Mama)s

Which brings me to an independent aspect of the UnConference. How’d you like to do a good deed today? As many of you are aware, writing doesn’t pay the bills for most of us, especially those who are new to the the craft. Add to that, the rising cost of raising children. If that weren’t enough, imagine doing it as a single mother. Are you following me?

There is a handful of lovely, talented women from the Writer Unboxed community in exactly the situation I explained above: single mothers raising young children on a next-to-nothing income. Writing into the wee hours. Reading and learning and doing the things we all must do, yet without the support most of us take for granted. We are a close-knit community, relying on each other to pull us through the difficulties. They’d love to attend the conference, but are barely squeezing by as it is, and will also need childcare.

That’s where you can help, and in the process, get the warm fuzzies and a bundle of goodies!

Stepping outside the box in the style of the ‘UnConference’ they wish to attend, it’s a fundraiser that’s not a fundraiser. How can I call it a fundraiser when you get so much in return?

If you’re hesitant, let me entice you with a peek at what you’ll get:

The Successful Author’s Toolkit

  • Lori Wilde’s Got High Concept?
  • Mary Buckham’s Writing Active Setting boxed set
  • Cathy Yardley’s Rock Your Writing complete set

With additional works and services by:

  • Sean Platt and Johnny Truant
  • Dan Blank
  • Tim Grahl
  • CJ Lyons and Joanna Penn
  • Shelly Souza
  • Donald Maass

$200 worth of merchandise at 50% off, with all proceeds going to WriterMamas. Help send a single mother to the UnConference. For more information, click the button below.

Buy Now

If you’re not a writer, don’t want the books, or simply wish to donate a different amount, click the button below. The WriterMamas appreciate any assistance you can provide.


Another way to help is by spreading the word. Press the Twitter, Facebook, Google+ buttons below and share, or if you’re a WordPress user, reblog the article. This is more than writers helping writer(mama)s, but friends helping friends, people helping people.

Anything you can do, however large or small, is greatly appreciated!






ML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.

An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.

He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed


13 thoughts on “Fortune Cookies and WriterMamas

  1. Timely fortune! (Panda Express is awesome.) The retreat sounds great and cool there is a way you can help others go who might not have a chance.
    Glad you really didn’t get that first fortune!

    1. Morgana,

      So good to see you, as always! Doesn’t it sound like a blast? I. Can’t. Wait. Wish you were going. Fall in New England, such a perfect time of year. Hopefully, the leaves will still be in flux.

      I loved that first one, too. Heheheheheh.

  2. Wow, Mike, that conference sounds perfect, and wonderful! I’m so glad you signed up for it. You’re coming up to MY corner of the US, you know,, just in time for New England winter. Bring very warm clothes – your Florida-bred self is going to freeze! (That’s just me teasing you for being smart and living somewhere warm. Sigh.) Oh, sadly, the leaves won’t be in flux 😦 Sorry – truly sorry. It’s spectacular up here when they are. They’ll be gone by then. Peak is usually mid-October. BUT you still get to come up and visit historic, fun, weird, unique Salem, AND go to an amazing conference!! If you have any spare time, you should check out the Witch museum 🙂

    1. LIZ! You must meet me there! You MUST! You live in Vermont, right? Just a hop, skip, and a jump away. It would be so nice, and I’ll even treat you to lunch. Saturday is the Salem Literary Festival. Great time to meet.

      I tell you, I’m psyched about this. And I think the Witch Museum is on the agenda. It really would be great to meet you IRL. Think about it… 😀

    1. This UnConference is chock-full of pluses. Meeting all of you IRL is almost the best part of the deal. And yes, the stars were definitely in alignment. I think the tides even got bigger.

  3. Bless your heart, Michael! Thank you so much for sharing the UnCon event, and the MamaWriters cause. Laughed aloud at “That’s not chicken.” WU is going to rock that historic hotel. Can’t wait to meet everyone. 😀

  4. That sounds like a wonderful conference. I hope you have fun!

    I got a good fortune cookie reading once. I have it taped to my door here at work. “If your work isn’t done, blame the computer.” Appropriate, since I’m a computer programmer…

  5. I’m so excited for you! You had better post all about it when you get back. 🙂

    WriterMamas. What a worthy charity! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I would love to do a writer retreat, but unfortunately, even married writer mommas are broke! (It’s a fall, back to school, college tuition paying sort of affliction!) I did make it to Atlanta this year for a conference and it was so worth it. It’s money well spent! Let us know how it goes.

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