Why Writers Must Attend Writing Conferences

I have a wonderful friend Andrew Rogers. He was able to get me and my mutually freeloading friend Josh into the Breathe Writer’s conference last Friday night. I cannot thank him enough.

It was my first writer’s conference, ever. Though I only attended a fraction of the conference it was a clear palm-to-the-forehead experience. Meaning, it was such an uplifting and encouraging occasion I felt like a moron for not attending before.

The key address was by W. Terry Whalin. It was titled Never, Never, Never Give Up – which, I believe, was coined by Churchill. He talked about various authors who faced mountains of rejection letters. And, though one author was rejected over one hundred and forty times, they eventually figured out a way to get published.

It was an invigorating speech filled with hope and a message of perseverance. When he was finished Mr. Whalin asked for young authors to come and talk with him and I eventually did, just as he was leaving. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

The agent I pitched my book to was there and it was good to see her. Before I could say anything she asked me – “Are you editing?” I nodded. “Good because it is a great idea.” (Bob’s-Hope-to-be-a-Writerometer went up a few blips).

After rubbing shoulders with a few more authors (and trying my best to not sound like someone who was giving way to much information away during a first date) I kept calm while secretly looking around and thinking that I have found the place I belong. My guess is this is how comic book enthusiasts feel at Comic-Con.

This experience made me realize the importance of writer’s conferences and the role they play in a young or veteran writer’s career. My hope is to attend the entire conference next year. The key note speaker is already lined up and I am eager to hear her address.

My most important experience came at the twilight of the conference. Mr. Whalin milled about the foyer waiting to leave and my friend Josh said “Let’s go talk to him”. I hesitated then followed. Josh pitched his brilliant novel idea while I stood quietly and awkwardly next to him. After he was done Mr. Whalin handed him his card and turned to leave. It was then I was overcome with a burst of confidence and shouted (probably pubescently) that I’d like to pitch my idea as well. He smiled pleasantly and turned to me.

I began to rattle of my idea. I was surprised it came out as clearly as it did because I had a log jam of words in my mind, but I spoke on. While I did so he asked a few questions about my novel. When I was done he asked if it was finished. I responded in the affirmative. He then asked for my card. I froze. Uh, I don’t have one. So I took one from work and scribbled my email on it and the book title.

This does not mean anything. This might have been a common courteousy acquisition editor’s do. But it was an experience I will never forget as was my first encounter of the Breathe Conference. I implore you to attend next year.

Cheers,

Bob

If you If you are a writer in the Western Michigan area and are interested in attending an excellent writer’s conference, please check out this reblog of the Breath Writer’s conference from Josh Mosey’s Blog. The theme is What’s your Story. The main speaker is W. Terry Whalin. He’s been a literary agent, published more than 60 books , and now an acquisitions editor.

Josh Mosey

I know that I’ve written about the Breathe Conference before, but since it is happening this week, I wanted to toss another plug for it onto my blog.

The Breathe Conference is a writer’s conference unlike other writers’ conferences. That is to say, while it still has sessions with amazing speakers that talk about the many aspects of the writing life, it is a conference where writers feel welcomed, supported, and worthwhile. I’ve been to some conferences where you walk away from a session feeling lost and intimidated. The Breathe Conference isn’t that. Attendees come away encouraged and with the tools they need to make their writing dreams published realities.

The main speaker for this year’s Breathe Conference is Terry Whalin. When I heard that, I said, “Who is Terry Whalin?” A common response, I think. But when I read the biography from his website (posted below), I feel…

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100 Word Challenge at Julia’s Place – Stubborn John

Click on the icon for other flash fiction entries

Here is my post for this week’s challenge at Julia’s place.

The prompt this time is I woke with another headache

It’s titled Stubborn John.

Enjoy.

“We should have known the signs. We should have known,” Margaret sobbed.

“Look, I know it’s difficult to understand. There is nothing we could have done. You didn’t know John was sick and he was certainly too stubborn to tell anyone.”

Margaret held up a hand interrupting him. She reached down and pulled a journal from her purse.

“Read October fifteen’s entry,” she said. Dr Alden took it and read.

I woke with another headache…

“Flip to October fourteen,”

I woke with another headache…

“And thirteenth,”

I woke with another headache…

Dr Alden gasped. Each entry, the past three weeks, began with that very sentence.

Cheers,

Bob

Why I Listen To Audio Books

I love listening to an author read their book. Now some of you might recall an author who gave an awfully monotone rendition leaving you wondering how they could have composed such a beautiful story. So, let me rephrase that. I like to listen to MOST authors read their books.

The reason for this might be as simple as they know the characters and thus know how they might sound in conversation. Another reason is because you hear the intended inflection of each sentence as it was supposed to be heard, unlocking the story even more.

William Golding

For the last few years I have been on a classic binge. This romp has taken me through most of Dickens’ work, Graham Greene, Thomas Hardy, C. S. Lewis, and Ray Bradbury. Thus, one of my most recent library borrows was William Goldings’ Lord of the Flies.

Mr. Golding, though terribly old at the reading, can deliver a story. His introduction was spectacular and his ability to deliver a line was clear from the first sentence. He painted word pictures effortlessly and just listening to the first few chapters left a vivid impression of the story he wrote.

Recently, I was instructed to work on pacing. Working on structure or verb agreement is much easier. Pacing seems ethereal, like trying to investigate something in a spirit world using scientific instruments. So, besides getting critiques from my writing friends, listening to audio books is the best way I know how to glean this part of the writing craft.

Listening to audio books has helped me more than I expected. It has given me perspective and a glimpse of pacing. It has also given me something to do on the way to and from work each day.

Do you like to listen to audio books? If so, why? Do you use it as a tool to become a better writer?

Cheers,

Bob

Why Novelists Should Write Short Stories

I recently listened to an interview with Stephen King (below). He discussed short stories and how they are an art form that novelists seem to forget. They are dear to him because that is how waded into the writing world. He releases collections of short stories every now and again because of his love for it, and because he does not want to lose that skill.

As I have written in past posts I contribute to a free flash fiction contest at Julia’s Place. They are a fun distraction from the rewrites and edits I am currently slogging through on my novel. I hope to branch out to other websites and one day publish some.

Recently I stumbled upon a website Flash Fiction World.com that takes flash fiction and occasionally pays for it. That is not the best part. The best part is that it gives tips to those seeking to refine the microcraft. HERE are details about a creating a mini story arc.

So, why dedicate a post flash fiction? Because refining the smaller crafts of the story world can enable the novelists to grow and become better at understanding stories. They do not require a lot of time, and can be building blocks to make you that much better at the craft.

Cheers,

Bob

 

Restoring Wonder

This past weekend my family and I attended Lights in the Night in Grand Rapids, MI. It was an entry in ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition. People filled the city and art covered it. It is a spectacular time for businesses, artisans and everyone in the community.

I wanted to share this experience with you as best I could, but you just had to be there. Some say there were five thousand floating lanterns, others twenty thousand.

I don’t get the chance to stop often and “smell the roses”, but that night I did. I felt like a child again. I was filled with wonder.

Cheers,

Bob

No, For Now

I’ve been remiss. I promised to fill my readers in after I got a response from the agent about my book proposal and I did not do so. Part of the reason was because I needed to take some time to digest her response. It was not a bad response by any means. But it was a response that indicated I have my work cut out for me if I desire representation someday.

First and foremost she said my stories have high potential. She also mentioned that I am a very creative person and that my stories will appeal to many readers. Needless to say I was thrilled. However, there is work that needs to be done, a lot of it. There are several mechanical flaws and my book is in need of a thorough shellacking. I will miss my darlings.

Now, some writers might wilt and collapse at the idea of more work after seven years of writing, but I don’t look at it like that. I am not super thrilled with going through it again but my hope is in the professional critique.

If she had said don’t ever write again I would have been crushed. But she didn’t say that. She said they have potential and that is where I will get my energy. The idea is great, the execution is off the map. It’s time to pick up the old draft and begin again. I don’t have to start from scratch as she told me what I need to improve and even asked for me to send it back to her after I get some readers to pick through it.

So, here’s to another few months of work. Here’s to writing and the grand adventure that it is. Thank you all for your encouragement through this first rejection.

Write today.

Cheers,

Bob

100 Word Challenge at Julia’s Place – The Mount Wilderness Discovery

Here is my post for this week’s challenge at Julia’s place. Enjoy.

I hate climbing, because of the chance of falling. However, when my friend Declan discovered a boulder of silver, atop Mount Wilderness, I was intrigued.

In what seemed like an instant of preparation and ascent; suddenly it was in my hand. I held it up to the sun and referenced Jem’s Guide to Gems. It matched the example in the book. I jumped, tripped then tumbled. That’s how I broke both arms and legs, four ribs.

The fall lead to a newspaper article revealing why we were up on the mountain in the first place. Which lead to the boulder being discovered by a sponsored climber.

Cheers,

Bob

Every Writer Needs A Vacation

As you are aware I did not blog last week. It was fiscal year end at work. My two daughters had birthdays and family and friends came into town to help celebrate. Also, my wife’s birthday is today. Needless to say it was a busy week. Through it all I barely wrote, and it was the best decision I could have ever made.

So, here are a few reasons why every writer needs a vacation.

Floating Lanterns Over Grand Rapids, MI

1. It’s refreshing – Writer’s write about life. But when it passes by at a thousand miles per hour they don’t have a chance to take it in and it becomes harder and harder to write. At some point the well of creativity dries up. Taking a step back can help revitalize your inner artist. You might even see something that restores child-like wonder.

2. Family is important – I write because I love it. But I love my family more. Spending time with my daughters on their birthdays was grand. We ate cake, opened presents, rode a carousel while my daughter June grinned ear to ear. It was magical and it was as if time stopped. I will never forget that.

3. It is healthy – As a writer, and husband, and father, and worker, and friend, and Christian, I have many roles that demand attention and require tons of energy if I want to do them well. I don’t want to be a Jack of all trades because that just means I’m average at everything. I want to be great. When I focus on one thing, like being a good father, I have more confidence to take a step back from being a parent to write. If I was a terrible husband or absent father it would be difficult, psychologically, to write. I bet I would be consumed by guilt which would certainly stifle my ability to write.

4. It helps you get perspective – Perhaps you are struggling with a concept. Maybe you’ve written yourself into a dead end and cannot see how to bridge a section of your novel with where you want it to go. There are many times when I am not focused on my novel when suddenly I am struck with an idea that will help me continue my work. It’s like the plotting part of my brain works best when I am not writing at all.

These are just a few reasons writers need a break. Have you taken a break from writing for a period? If so why? Did you find your inner artist refreshed?

Find some time to write today.

Cheers,

Bob