I took the next step this weekend. I invested in myself, and attended the Madison, Wisconsin Writers Institute Conference. I got lost in the city with its one-way streets, froze by Lake Mendota in 40 degree weather, and hammed it up with some really great writers. I love it here!
The conference was exactly what I needed. The breakout sessions alone gave me all the tips I needed to improve the book I’m working on. I found some holes in my story, but that’s good, because now I can work on them. As one attendee put it, “Well, they’ve given us all we need to know to write a successful book, now it’s up to us.” I tried my best to attend a variety of topics so I could improve my plotting skills, learn about non-fiction, learn about the publishing business today, and along with that how to write query letters and synopses. There was such a plethora of people I met and am excited to now know. What I loved about this conference is how many hands on exercises the speakers had us do. And from that point, it was up to us what we did with that material. I pushed myself to participate a lot and challenge myself. So I shared work a few times, I asked smart questions, and I even volunteered for an improv activity. Jess Witkins, Acting Extraordinaire… Anyway, I’m so glad I did. I met more people because they came up to me and told me they loved my voice, what I wrote, and apparently, I’m FABulous at improv. 😉
The speakers at the conference came from across the country and were able to speak to a variety of genres/writing styles. Lori Devoti is a paranormal romance writer who hosted a plotting party at the conference. It must have been her magic wand waving over me at the conference because I got paired in the best group for our plotting exercise. We had so much fun talking about our projects and all of us started marketing them for each other. Which reminds me, I’ve got a theme song to work on… Ok, back to Lori, she’s amazing! She talks fast, she’s shows you the basics, and then she puts you to work. Her workshop on character was also so helpful. If you’re struggling with any characters in your own works ask yourself these three questions: What do they love fearlessly? What haunts them? What do they think they cannot do? — Now, make them do it. See what I mean, she’s brilliant. So simple, and so sound. Thank you, Lori!
Josie Brown is a women’s lit fiction writer and HUGE advocate for social media. I felt good knowing that none of the terms the panels were using about social media were new to me, and I’ll give all that thanks to Kristen Lamb, Social Media Expert! Kristen, I wrote in your name and blog site on the evaluation sheet as a person to bring to future conferences. Please come to Wisconsin! The last panel on sunday discussed the writer’s role in digital media and Josie was so knowledgeable about the importance of creating an author brand before you seek publishing. I was able to ask some questions and she really gave me some concrete ways to use my blog and my twitter account and my facebook to get my VOICE out there and she continues to do this with her own blog. I really appreciated the encouragement.
I chose not to pitch to an agent at this conference. I’m simply not ready. My story isn’t developed far enough and I had too many unanswered questions MYSELF that it didn’t make sense to pay for 8 minutes of rejection from someone ELSE. But Ted Weinstein is the man! He was one of the agents meeting with writers working on non-fiction books. If I were ready to pitch my memoirs to an agent, I would want Ted on my side. Ted sat on panels and did his own session giving writers an inside scoop on what agents are looking for. His feedback was depressing and honest and invaluable. And I mean all of that as a high compliment. He emphasized that as writers, we have to look at this path as a career and be professional about our publishing plans, i.e. how do we plan to market ourselves, because the publishing houses aren’t going to do it. Not unless you’re writing the next Oprah Book Club Book, but that’s right she’s retiring! Nooooo! Seriously, if I hadn’t listened to Ted speak I wouldn’t know what to expect when it came time to publish. For example, ask the agent your pitching to what they’ve recently published? Don’t you want an agent that is successfully selling people’s books on the market?! I think Ted is a rare gem in the world of agents, a man who wants to help his writers with their careers. Careers? Jess, you mean we could potentially make a living from writing? *Borrows Lori’s magic wand* Yes, dearest writers, you can feed yourself and your families by writing for a living, you just have to be somebody famous first. Which takes us right back to Josie, use your blog, your facebook, and your twitter account to show the world YOU.
Are you following me? No I mean that literally, SUBSCRIBE right now! I’m not going anywhere! I just claimed my area of expertise, check it out in my newly edited About page.
Your turn! What are the areas of writing you are working on in your path to publication? Are you already published? Share with us what got you there! How have you been shaped by other authors, reading them or meeting them?