Navigating Your Writing Life – 2013

I wasn’t supposed to be home this past weekend. I was supposed to be at my great niece’s first birthday party in Preston, CT. My cold had other ideas, so cancelled airline reservations, rental car, and hotel later, I sat at home with a box of tissues at hand. By Saturday, I woke feeling at about sixty percent of normal and thought a trip “over the mountain” to Charlottesville might be in order.

Last year I wrote about the Virginia Writers Club‘s Navigating Your 2012 Writing Life, and when I saw that my weekend in Connecticut coincided with this year’s symposium, I was dismayed. The one-day symposium provided some excellent information, and this year’s promised to build on that. However, the choice was easy–cute, adorable one-year-old wins out over a writers conference every time.

After a day or so of bemoaning the inconvenience of a cold’s preventing me from attending a significant family event, I learned someone sicker than I had cancelled for the 2013 conference, so I had an opening. Off I went.

In three time slots, the symposium offered nine workshops, and choosing was particularly difficult: (The ones in red are the ones I attended.)

Publishing Modes
Websites, Blogs, and Social Media
Poetry and Its Markets

Nuts and Bolts of E-Booking
Placing Nonfiction in Newspapers, Magazines, and on Radio
Join the Cool Crowd: Write Young Adult Fiction

Self-Review and Preparing Submissions
Publishing Scams to Avoid
Contests and Submissions: Getting Your Work Out There

Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House, was the keynote speaker. I’ve heard her speak about how she came to write her New York Times best-seller on several other occasions, but I learn something new about the writing process every time.

In our social media era, an Internet presence is essential for an emerging author, and “Websites, Blogs, and Social Media” provided practical tips for improving your Internet footprint–or establishing it. The format for workshops this year was excellent–the moderator asked the panel a few (a very few) pre-arranged (but good) questions, which the panel discussed, then the workshop opened to questions from the floor. I’ve long had a web presence, but I learned some things to improve it and make it reflect my writing better. For example, the name I use for writing appears nowhere on my home page. Duh. Had to fix that.

The same was true of “Nuts and Bolts of E-Booking.” I’ve published three e-books, but this was a good review of the various ways to publish your work independently. However, I would have liked to have heard the panelists emphasize pre-publication preparation (editing, proofreading, good grammar, etc.) more than they did. The panel was a good mix of an established, traditionally published author who switched to independent publishing, an author who tried the agent route and didn’t get one then went indie, and an author who went directly for independent publishing.

Since I’ve entered several contests this year, I wanted to see what I could learn in terms of improving my chances of winning or placing from “Contests and Submissions.” Again, a well-staffed panel of contest managers, judges, and winners provided timely and cogent information. However, my afternoon coughing jag started up and escalated to the point where I had to leave.

That meant I missed the networking session that afternoon. Networking with other writers, editors, and publishers is often the best part of a conference, and I was sorry to miss it. However, I’d spread enough germs.

Last year’s symposium was good. This year’s was excellent–very professional and well-organized. One great change from last year is that each participant got a symposium notebook, filled with presentations, handouts, and additional information for each panel–so I can benefit from the ones I was unable to attend. Betsy Ashton, author of Mad Max: Unintended Consequences and President of the Virginia Writers Club, told me, “We want this symposium to be the premier event for Virginia Writers Club–and for Virginia writers.” It’s well on its way to being just that.

I live for your constructive comments.

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