Last weekend I attended UW-Madison’s writers conference, the Writers Institute. The conference is in its 25th year and has definitely grown. It’s two and a half days long and they have so many classes, the first two days go from 8am – 8pm!
My brain is now leaking.
Honestly, I love attending writers conferences because they are so energizing. It’s the best feeling in the world to connect with your peers, learn about your craft, mingle with people who “get it,” and return home ready and raring to write!
Plus, this year I won 3rd place in the First Page Contest for nonfiction. *does Peanuts character happy dance* It’s been a long writing journey the past 4 years, and now I feel like I’m writing what I’m supposed to when I’m supposed to be writing it. So overjoyed.
I’d have been even more productive had I not forgotten where the parking ramp I parked in was and spent 45 minutes walking around downtown Madison in heels for a wind-about, nighttime stroll. Oh well, I was sitting most of the day, so the exercise was probably good. *grins sheepishly*
Here are my favorite takeaways from the conference.
1. From Opening Keynote, Nathan Bransford:
Rule #10: Keep writing.
Cultivate your failure. Be afraid of “If I don’t publish my book…” Use that to set deadlines, talk with other writers, be heard, find success stories, and write what you love.
2. From UW-Madison Creative Writing Program Coordinator, Ron Kuka:
Go through your pages like a camera. What does the reader see?
This may easily have been the best class on deep edits I’ve ever attended. Sharing examples of one page of work during four rounds of edits was so fascinating and he really nailed the points about giving our readers both a wide and close-up view of the story through all the senses.
3. From Author and Journalist, Roy Hoffman:
There is powerful emotion in home.
Roy’s class on Writing About Place was one of the most talked about sessions at the conference. He focused on adding details when writing about place to inspire memories and feelings in our work. I had a chance to chit chat with the Kentucky gentleman one morning, and he is so kind and supportive of writers. A great teacher.
4. From Debut Author, Dale Kushner:
Things around us beg to be experiences. Learn to relax and play to overcome block.
Second keynote speaker of the conference, Dale is a fabulously intuitive and spiritual writer. She recognizes that to be creative, we mustn’t lose our sense of wonder in the world. A poet and now novelist, Dale believes in learning from your writing and embracing the emotions that go along with that. Each revision we do teaches us more about our writing.
5. From New Yorker Cartoonist, Ken Krimstein:
Accept that you have no idea how good your work is. You never know what will sell, just do it, and do it, and do it.
Step into your artist’s pants.
One of Ken’s rules is to “knock dignity off its pedestal.” When it comes to writing comedy, you have to be willing to rework the rejections. Never try to explain a joke. If you have to explain it, it isn’t working. Write the draft and then color it in.
6. From Wisconsin Author and Keynote, Michael Perry:
Don’t overlook the exotic in your own backyard.
In both his keynote address and author panel at the conference, Michael Perry talked about the strength in writing what you know. He left his hometown in Wisconsin to work as a cowboy on the ranches of Wyoming, and he intended to write a book about that. As providence would have it, that book would never see print, but what would become his first book was the story about the people in his hometown, New Aubern, WI.
I had the pleasure of meeting Michael at a book reading last year, and I interviewed him on my blog as well. You can check that out here if you like. He is a delight to hear speak and a very humble man. 🙂
7. From Former Writer’s Digest Publisher and Author Resource Extraordinaire, Jane Friedman:
Seduce the agent into requesting your work. Make them feel special and say why you think your book is a good fit for them.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jane in one the conference’s new “Fireside Chats,” a small group Q & A session and got her view on trends in the publishing industry.
*Note to self: Check out wattpad. Have you all heard about this? It’s popular among young writers (teens-early 20’s) and allows you to post portions of your work at a time and readers can comment on the work and wait to read the next installments. Jane says it’s a more positive environment than Goodreads right now. And I LOOOOOVE Goodreads, but there are some mean folks out there leaving reviews without ever having read the books they’re reviewing. What do you guys know about this?
I also attended Jane’s class on writing queries and it was PACKED! She kept the class simple and said to lead with your strengths in your query letter in order to wow the agent.
8. From Creative Writing Educator and Public Speaker, Sue Roupp:
One word will unstick you.
First off, Sue has the greatest laugh ever. It’s big and bold and it fills the room with her excitement for storytelling. Sue taught a class on memoir writing and emphasized that you are the hero of your own story. Through you, the reader learns that it’s ok to fail, to learn, and to gain knowledge.
That’s what inspired me this past weekend.
Who or what inspired you this week?
Welcome to the 83rd Academy Awards! If you missed the second most watched television event of the year, here are the highlights!
The day went by very quickly, as did my whole weekend. Amidst the rushed grocery shopping, dish cleaning, counter wiping, gift assembling, and cooking *whew* I was able to completely restart my story, beginning the book in a totally different place and adding more dialogue. Woohoo! I read the first page to my mom and best friend and asked for feedback on whether or not it hooked them. Generally, they both really liked it, but did give me one place I could embellish the relationship between characters more intensely and that was appreciated. So that gives me exactly one hour after work tonight to madly edit the first page, print it out, and mail it in to the writing contest at the Writers Institute conference I’ll be attending in April. Nothing like a little deadline madness to tell your procrastination pixies to buzz off! If they’re flying around your work space, please take time to check out Kristen Lamb’s Blog, she has helped me immensely with realistic goal setting, hooking your reader, and gives FREE advice on what to watch for in your story that may make an editor pass on your project.
Since I’m still in a celebrating mood from my Oscar party, “Cheers to Writing Weekends!” that also involve your BFF making asparagus soup, squash risotto with gorgonzola, and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and your BF helping chop blocks of cheese and doing the dishes! Yay!
I actually had some time to get back into reading blogs by you wonderful fellow writers! Here are my favorites from the past week!
Jillian sparked up a great debate on the mash-up of classic literature with sci-fi themes. What do you think about this new wave of publications? Check out her post, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer Seriously?
Discovered through Freshly Pressed, C C Lester, had a great post on the times she argued over whether she was a writer, or an author, or neither at all. In the end, it was having a loyal reader that meant the most to her, but she’s certainly struck a chord with many of us so check out her post, So am I an Author Yet?
Wendy Matheson just kicked off Women’s History Month for me in her entertaining post, Strength, Thy Name is Woman! It details many inventions that are often accredited to men, but were actually made by women.
For your laughing pleasure, The Hack Novelist writes a letter to the guy holding a conference call in a crowded Starbucks cafe’. I think he eloquently pens what we would all be thinking. 8 Pages and the Conference Call
I’ve also been following the very funny Mark, from Mark My Words as he battles the unemployment offices, takes on the world of freelance writing, and has to fire his maid and buy clothes at a second hand store. Well… you’ll see. Champagne Wishes on a Sparkling Water Budget
Happy writing and reading, friends! Tell me about your weekends! What writing goals did you accomplish? If you found some great blogs this week, what are they? I’d love to cheer you on and check out the posts you love!