What I Learned from Bestselling Author Mary Buckham


My RWA chapter hosted its annual conference a couple of weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio. Putting my school studies on hold for that weekend, I decided to make the trip up. It turns out that the conference was actually a day-long workshop, featuring author Mary Buckham.

Before attending the workshop, I’d had never heard of Mary Buckham. Call it ignorance, or just call it I’m still learning about writing world and everyone within it. I quickly learned that she is a USA Today bestselling author. She mainly writes high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories, resulting from her years of travel and curiosity about different cultures. She also writes books on how to get published, as well as crafting great stories – which was the focus of her presentation.

Mary touched on three important things during her presentation, which any writer could benefit from:

  1. Body Language – a great way to convey emotion without words, and all characters in a story should use this; so should writers when they want to convey emotion to the readers. Mary discussed the origins of body language and the different ways it can be used show emotions in a scene.

“As writers you can lead a reader into a deeper understanding of a scene, or a character, if you understand how you can, and cannot, use body signals to say what you mean.” – Mary Buckham.

2. Writing Active Hooks  – every story needs to have hooks. Something to draw the reader in. A situation that raises questions, which will make the reader keep turning the pages. Mary showed the audience different scenarios in which hooks can be generated, such as humor and overpowering emotion. Each of the categories featured specific examples from bestselling authors. The most important piece I learned from this is a hook must be present within the first three pages of a story, or else it will be rejected by an editor.

3. Character Development – we went much deeper into this since character development is so subjective. Mary had everyone work in groups where we had to list four adjectives that describe our characters. We exchanged our lists with other groups, where we then listed the opposite of list of character descriptions. Pretty clever idea, Mary! She wrapped up this part stating that characters need to be fully developed in order for readers to care about them.

After the workshop, I had dinner with Mary, as well as several attendees. We talked about my stories, and she offered suggestions on how to approach potential publishers. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Mary Buckham, and benefited from her presentation. It was certainly worth the two-hour drive and sacrificing my weekend. I just only hope I will see her again at some point in the future. Click on the link above to visit her official website.

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7 thoughts on “What I Learned from Bestselling Author Mary Buckham

  1. Using body language effectively is something I still struggle to improve, even after 12 books. I recently found a resource that’s helping me, so far at least: The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you get a chance, take a look.

  2. marybuckham

    Thank you Frank for not only spending a whole day improving your craft but for sharing what you learned. Writing only looks effortless on the page. Committing to making it that way for your readers is vital to a career in this field and you’re off to a great start!!

  3. It was great learning more from Mary and it was fun meeting you and sitting at your table Frank!

  4. Interesting post, Frank. Thanks for sharing!

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