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Ready to WRITE–Rejoice!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One of the things that drives me to wanting to attend writing conferences—especially the ACFW conference—is that I know how much fun I’m going to have. Yes, the long hours can be exhausting and even draining. But for those of us who go to only one major conference a year, it’s more than worth it to take a huge leap out of our comfort zone and dive into the fray of five hundred other writers.

On her blog yesterday, Rachel commented on her disappointment with the worship sessions we had this year at the conference. I share her disappointment. I know some people in attendance enjoyed the music. But because I wasn’t getting anything out of the music, I had a choice: I could either walk away with a bitter feeling about it, or I could choose to direct my concern in a positive direction (i.e., volunteering to help plan next year’s conference).

The best workshop that I attended at this year’s conference was Kim Sawyer’s “Turning Rejection into Redirection.” Not only was it a reminder that there is more than one reason why our manuscripts are rejected; we need to recognize that, and use it as motivation to redirect our energies — and maybe even our story. As a seat-of-the-pants writer, I have a general idea of where I’m going. In writing predominantly romances, I know the ending—it’s the happily ever after. I’m just not sure exactly how that HEA happens until I get there. I just have to trust in the process and continue writing—whether it means getting published or not. Which brings me to today’s letter . . .


Rejoice! You have a wonderful gift—the gift of story. It’s a gift we share with with a multitude of people around the world, connecting us in ways we never could imagine. You have a talent, aptitude, and desire to write stories—do it to share the joy that can be found by experiencing life through someone else’s eyes/experiences. Even as an unpublished author, I have had the amazing experience of knowing that my writing has helped someone else—when a colleague told me she had gone to a specialist and been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder after hearing me talk about researching the condition for the heroine of my current contemporary romance WIP. I rejoiced that day—not in the fact that she has this disorder, nor in the fact it was my story that did this, but in the fact that something that to me seemed so simple (talking about research) helped someone else regain confidence and peace in her life. So rejoice in the gift you have—even though it may seem like a struggle now, you never know what impact the stories running through your head might have (once you get them written)!

Read. As writers we hear this over and over and over. At this year’s conference, it came up with both the agent panel and the editor panel. Louise Gouge taught a session where she showed the attendees a little about literary criticism (different from critiquing). If we want to be good writers, we must first be good readers. This is hard for me to say, because right now, I’m not a good reader. As a copy editor, it’s hard for me to pick up a book to read without noticing errors or differences in house style. As someone who has studied literary criticism and was taught to analyze everything I read, it’s hard to set that aside and just enjoy a story. Of course, it’s always a sign to me that a story is really good if I can sit down and read without doing either of those things. So, I have actually started listening to audiobooks rather than sitting down with a regular book much more often. It’s not quite the same as curling up with a good book, but I can actually “read” more each day by listening than I could by sitting down with a hard-copy book because I can listen while I’m getting ready for work in the morning, in the car, while I’m fixing dinner at night. I try to choose books from many genres, both contemporary and historical, so that I’m not limiting my own writing. This morning, I dusted off the box of The Fellowship of the Ring, determined to listen all the way through at least this first volume, if not the whole trilogy, which I’ve never done before.

Reach out. Writing can be such a solitary pursuit. And though I’ve never seen formal statistics, I would venture a guess that at least 90% of people who are serious about pursuing a writing career are introverts—meaning we’re uncomfortable surrounded by people, and that’s also the fastest way to drain us of energy. But one of the worst things we can do to our writing is become isolated. Reaching out to other writers is more than just attending conferences. In fact, as someone who was introduced to the writing community through the “trial by fire” of attending a conference first, I would recommend reaching out online first if you’re especially shy around others. Joining online groups—whether research-related topical groups, local writing groups, national associations, or even just reading a large number of writers’ blogs weekly—is a great way to get started in meeting other writers. My critique partners and I laugh about the way we came together: we met because we were reading and commenting on each other’s blogs regularly for a couple of months. Then we started e-mailing and becoming friends. Then we decided to give critiquing a chance. We quickly discovered that each of us had weaknesses that were strengths of the others’. But if we hadn’t been reaching out to other writers, we never would have found each other.

If you’re a newer writer—reach out to find those with more experience who can help you on your writing journey, who can direct you to writing organizations, seminars, or websites that helped them in their journey. If you’re an experienced writer, reach out to find newer writers you can help mentor. Because of the red MENTOR ribbon attached to my nametag at the conference, I had a couple of newer writers come to me to ask how they could find a writing mentor. Neither wrote in my genre or I would have gladly taken them on as protégés. What I suggested they do is get involved in the ACFW e-loop as well as the forums. To visit the blogs of each writer who has one listed, especially in the posts in their genre forums and start reaching out to those writers, building relationships with them, and they’ll most likely find that they’re getting “corporate” mentoring that way—and in the process will discover their mentor.

I had the privilege of being mentored/taught by two multi-published authors when I was in grad school. One broke me of all my bad writing habits, the other came in behind and picked up all the pieces and put them back together again. While I don’t want to “break” anyone, I do love mentoring younger writers—even if it’s just through spending several hours writing comments and examples on a contest entry. My goal for the next year (between now and the 2008 conference) is to find one beginning writer I can serve as a mentor for, to help that person become the writer she (or he) has the potential to be by passing along all of the wonderful knowledge I’ve received from others.

How will you reach out this year? In what are you rejoicing? And what book are you currently reading?

  1. Tuesday, September 25, 2007 12:39 pm

    What an inspirational series of blog posts!

    I’m reaching out by interviewing authors and featuring their new releases on my blog. I’m also volunteering to help with the Black Writers conference that will be in my city next year.

    I’m rejoicing that I have almost 70,000 words on paper when a few short months ago, I had none. And that I have a pretty good synopsis, both of which will lead me to begin submitting in 2008. I’m also rejoicing for the many encouragers I’ve met this year.

    I’m reading Donna Alward’s Marriage at Circle M, because I need to read even while I write but I also need to keep it light as I focus on polishing my manuscript.


  2. Tuesday, September 25, 2007 2:40 pm

    Reaching out is so hard! I’m naturally an introvert unless I’m completely comfortable–which I am with y’all, by the way. But if I hadn’t gotten involved with people online first, I’d have been a total wallflower. (How’s that for a bad bad cliche?) What fun meeting in person. I’m so excited for next year!


  3. Tuesday, September 25, 2007 5:40 pm

    I feel like I’m still at the conference, still learning what God is teaching through these blog posts. Such an excellent take on things.

    I’m reaching out to…my MIL.
    I’m rejoicing for successes and setbacks.
    I’m reading Violet Dawn by Brandilyn Collins


  4. Tuesday, September 25, 2007 5:59 pm

    Sorry I missed seeing you at ACFW. I was only there for part of the conference, but it was enough for me to agree with others who said that the workshops and sessions offered were better than last year.


  5. Wednesday, September 26, 2007 4:37 pm

    Reaching out– to some younger moms that need encouragement.

    Rejoicing– in a husband who honors and is involved in my spectrum of pursuits

    Reading– Perilous Gard (listening to, again!!!) and the first of a new children’s fantasy series, Children of the Lamp. Want to see how another author mixed djinn and humanity.



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