Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing Conference Highlights: Friends, Inspiration, Awards, and More!

These last couple weeks have been so busy. Filled with outdoor adventures (now that summer weather has finally arrived, yay!), family reunion preparations, traveling out of state, and of course…writing any spare moment I can squeeze it in! But tonight I have a few minutes to update you on a big event that took place in my writing universe last weekend:


It’s the first writing conference I’ve ever been to, and it was SO GREAT! If you’ve ever read any writing blogs or articles, you know that attending writing conferences is pretty essential to the publishing process. They give writers easy access to agents/publishers, they provide hands-on workshops with professionals who can critique your manuscripts, and they  offer useful, specific classes on how to write better, how to publish your stuff, and a bunch of other writing-related tips/tricks.  Plus, you get to meet amazing fellow-authors who inspire and motivate you!

Conference highlights:

This is a picture of my fellow children’s writers, who quickly became my friends! We did a critique workshop together, and my oh my, they are all super talented!  I loved reading excerpts of the books they are working on and look forward to seeing where their writing takes them.

The man above on the left is Eugene Gagliano, author of over a dozen traditionally published books for kids, which are just wonderful (I got two of them at the conference, signed and everything, yes!)  It was such a pleasure to attend both his picture book critique session as well as his writing for children workshop, where we explored character development-Hence the tiara and captain’s hat ;).

Eugene was so kind and gave me some wonderful advice and encouragement which I have to tell you, made a big impact on me. I want to share one of the things with you: BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. In order to get our stuff published, you have to believe in yourself and your work. He showed our class a huge box-full of rejection letters he’s gotten over the years. He was rejected over and over and over again, but still, he believed in himself, so he didn’t give up. And now he’s an author of about 15 or more published books. ...Oh, and you want to know something else pretty cool? He bought a copy of my book, ITCHY MITCHIE and had me sign it for him. It totally made my day!

This woman above is named Patricia Frolander. I sat next to her by accident when I decided to drop into a Wyopoet’s board meeting during a break in the conference. She was so warm and kind as she introduced herself after the meeting. Eugene was sitting in front of us and told me, pointing to her, “She has a book in the bookstore filled with her poetry that is just fantastic, you should go check it out.”

After the meeting, I went straight to the bookstore, found her book entitled MARRIED INTO IT  and began to read. I absolutely loved the first poem I read and bought the book. Just afterward, all writers congregated to the main hall for an award’s ceremony. 1st place traditional poetry winner was none other than Patricia Frolander. She read her winning poem.  It was like 5 minutes of reading, and I was BAWLING by the end. Our entire table was. I was officially in awe of this woman and her beautiful, touching, magical writing. If I could but affect people in such powerful ways by my writing, then that’s all I could hope for as an author. Just…wow.  I was so excited to have her sign my copy of her book and agree to take a picture with me.  This woman is what true God-given talent looks like. I feel so honored to have met her and to have been inspired by her!

Above is me receiving the Western Horizon Award! Wait, what? So, let me tell you….this was an award for writers who published their first major work in the previous year.  As you probably already know, my short story was published in THE BOOK OF HOPE, an anthology that came out earlier this year by Silver Owl Publications, and my poem MOVING WEST will be published later this year by Western Press Books. So I applied for this award, and what do you know? I got it! It was kind of surprising since they didn’t tell me beforehand, and then all the sudden my name was being called, and then there was this plaque with my name on it, and I’m like, “WHUH??! Um, holy cow, thank you so much!” The lesson in all of this? If there are calls to submit to an award that you could qualify for, SUBMIT! You don’t win anything unless you try. Ps. the bottom picture is of me and my friend Gayle Irwin, who won the Milestone Award. She writes wonderful stories for dog-lovers, go check her out! 

I had the opportunity to read one of my stories at open mic during the conference. It was a little intimidating and I totally got “dinged” for taking up my 5 minutes before I was able to read the very last lines (sooo close!) But it was just a great experience, not only to read my story out loud and see people’s reactions, but especially to hear other people’s writings. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to everyone’s diverse, unique, heart-breaking, hilarious, and adventurous stories. It’s just inspiring.

Ok, now for an info dump to any fellow authors reading. Here are just a few of the notes I made at the conference of things I found particularly helpful. Warning: they are random tidbits of information put in no particular order, (kind of like the story ideas floating around in my head). Maybe they will be helpful to you too. I hope!
  1.  Keys to successfully publish: Practice, patience, persistence, and even prayer! J
  2.  For Children’s writers, subscribe online to Children’s Book Insider – super helpful!
  3.   Treat yourself seriously. Say “I AM A WRITER.”
  4.   Before writing your children’s book, complete the following: My story is about __________ who more than anything, wants to _____________, but can’t because ______________.
  5.   Always let your work rest awhile. Then come back to it with a fresh perspective.
  6.   Finished your book? Okay, now go back and highlight all the passive words (was, is, am, were, has been, will be, etc.) and replace them with active words.  (There are a lot of writing websites that explain this more detailed, I like this one:
  7.   Using your life experiences can make your writing awesome: Don’t stick to the story – real life is boring, use your experiences to get you started, then ask “what if?” and allow it to go wild to make your story interesting and exciting.
  8. When titling either a poem or story: Titles are more of a big deal than we talk about –they can/should actually be a part of the story, can even change the story’s meaning. They can be long, even a whole sentence. They can give context, perspective, be the opposite of the poem’s actual meaning – this especially works in humorous poems.
  9. Social media presence is a huge factor that agents/publishers look at when considering publishing an author’s works. They want to see that an author is gaining a “fan base” and have put themselves out there so there is something to build  a marketing plan on. In other words, get a Facebook page going, join twitter, create a website, start a blog!
  10. When searching for an agent, keep in mind that you don’t want Stephen King’s agent. Because if you do get them, you’ll be the lowly little newbie at the bottom of their priority list. Shoot for an agent that’s in the same career stage as you – a newbie, and you will have greater success.
 There’s more but I’ll stop right there, mostly because it’s 9:30 at night and I’m so ready to go to hit that pillow and zzzzzzzzzzz…

…But before I do, there’s just one more thing I want to say about the conference. I just have to give a shout-out to my other half. There was no way I could have even dreamed of attending if it weren’t for my sweet husband. He took the kids all Friday afternoon and Saturday, and brought them by the conference center every few hours so I could feed my baby during break times…what a guy! How grateful I am that my husband is supportive of my passion for writing. 

Stay tuned for more soon!