Cecil Murphey, mentor, Shelly Beach, writer's conference, writing

Top Five Reasons to Attend a Writer’s Conference

This will be my ninth year attending the Cedar Falls Christian Writer’s Workshop, and my eighth year as a presenter. Two weeks after last year’s conference, I moved an additional hour away from the venue, but I’ve never considered not going. In fact, during my job interview for my current position as program coordinator at a spirituality center, I made sure to mention I would be gone for a few days every June to attend this conference.

It took me two years after I learned about this conference to work up the courage and rationalize the cost to attend. It was my husband who suggested I invest in myself and my writing. He was my biggest encourager. Outside of the learning that takes place at these kinds of conferences, I’ve netted lifelong friends and mentors at this particular conference. While there are many reasons to attend a writing conference, here are my top five:

To learn more about the craft of writing. I believe in lifelong learning. No matter our level of expertise in writing, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes we have to make a commitment to hone our craft and that commitment might involve both time and money. Committing to a conference or a class could be the first step in taking our writing seriously. Call it an investment in yourself. I tell attendees in my writing classes that paying for a class gives them a reason for taking time out of their busy days to write. “Remind your husband or your kids that you paid good money for a writing workshop so now you need to write and sell something to recoup your money.”

If you take yourself seriously, others will take you seriously, too.

To learn more about the business side of publishing. It’s not enough to be a good writer; you also have to learn about the ever-changing world of publishing. What is a book proposal? How do I write a query letter? How can I build up my platform? Do I need an agent? Where do I find markets for my work? These are questions you can find the answers to at conferences and workshops.

To connect and network with other writers. There is nothing more enjoyable than “talking shop” with another writer who understands the foibles and follies of the world of writing. Writers at conferences and workshops share markets with each other, commiserate about rejections, and support each other’s accomplishments. I’ve made life-long friends at each conference I’ve attended. My world has gotten so much bigger in the last few years. It was at a conference that I met my mentors (and good friends), Shelly Beach and Cecil Murphey.

To meet and network with editors, publishers, or agents. Not everyone who attends a conference ends up sitting next to an agent at a lunch table and subsequently signing a contract with her husband a few months later, but I did. I’ve developed both personal and professional relationships with editors and agents at conferences. While initially the prospect of meeting with an agent or editor was quite daunting to me, I’ve experienced some enlightening conversations with several. Of course, the easiest conversations are those I’ve had without the anxiety of attempting to sell something.

Amazing moments and divine encounters regularly happen at Christian writing conferences. I can’t speak for all conferences as I’ve only attended Christian ones, but I’ve found that if I pray fervently before, during, and after a conference, and keep my eyes and heart open to God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, amazing things have transpired at each of the conferences I’ve attended, some so powerful they’re difficult to talk about without crying.

 

C. Hope Clark, Cecil Murphey, mentor, Shelly Beach

What is a Mentor?

“Can you tell me what a mentor is?”

The question came during a panel session at the conclusion of the Cedar Falls Christian Writer’s Workshop yesterday.

I’m blessed to have two writing mentors in my life, so this is how I answered that question:

A mentor is someone farther along in your chosen career path, someone you admire and look up to, whom you can learn from. Author Shelly Beach  has been that for me ever since June 2011, when I attended my first writer’s conference and watched this dynamic speaker up on the stage. Her roster of speaking experience impressed me almost as much as her variety of books and writing credits.

A mentor is someone you can ask for advice in the business you have in common. Because, for those who aren’t yet aware of this; while writing is a craft, publishing is a business.  Cecil Murphey is another mentor. I met him when he spoke at the 2012 Maranatha conference.

Both Shelly and Cec have become good friends, but I’m careful not to take advantage of that friendship. I’m well aware how busy they are, so I don’t bombard them with questions. I can garner a lot of information from their blog posts or books. When I wondered about ghostwriting arrangements, I read Cec’s Ghostwriting: The Murphey Method. ghoswritingIf I’d needed further guidance, I could have e-mailed him, but the book answered all my questions, and then some.

A mentor might not be aware they serve as your mentor. It could be someone you watch from afar, learning from their work.  I consider C. Hope Clark a mentor of sorts, ever since I read her The Shy Writershy writer(since updated as The Shy Writer RebornAs a fellow introvert, I wasn’t sure how I would face book-signings or public speaking, but thanks to her book and a great deal of hands-on experience, I’m now comfortable with both. Not only have I discovered a few markets for my writing from her FundsforWriters newsletter, Hope’s column and the short articles in it taught me a lot about the writing world. You can find some of them reprinted in the Best of FundsforWriters Vol. I.  I might not have considered her a mentor, except she actually replied to my e-mail with good advice when I asked about promotion and marketing shortly before my Coupon Crazy was released in 2013. Now, I follow her closely on Facebook, and I respect her opinion on issues related to writing and publishing.

We all need mentors; successful people to emulate, learn from, and aspire to be like. As for the ultimate dream coming true; working with our mentor in some capacity, well…

Sometimes, that dream comes true. It did for me last year~

cec and me

 

 

creativity, writer's conference, writing

What would Mom do? Top 5 Reasons to Attend a Writer’s Conference

It seems fitting to discuss writer’s conferences on Mother’s Day, because for many years the only Mother’s Day request I had was for time alone to write. My favorite gift from my husband or one of my older children was a gift certificate for a local restaurant, along with a promise to watch the kids while I took myself out for breakfast and wrote for two hours. I was a self-taught writer who’d learned the basics of query letters, manuscript formatting, and book proposal writing from the many books and magazines I pored over. Conferences and classes seemed like what a “real writer” would do, not a mom of eight who clutched madly to what little creative time she could get.

The first writer’s conference I attended was the Cedar Falls Christian Writer’s workshop in Cedar Falls, Iowa the summer of 2011. I’d been writing for nearly twenty years by then, but it wasn’t until my own mother’s death that I made the decision to take my writing seriously.

When Mom passed away in November 2010 (on my birthday, no less) she left very little in the way of material items. It was her artwork we desired; the quilts, teddy bears, paintings, and woodcarvings that embodied her creative legacy.  As the writer in the family, I inherited many of her notebooks, journals, and several versions of three unpublished manuscripts. In her writing, I discovered two distinct themes; my mother’s strong desire that her children get to Heaven, along with her fervent hope that each of them would utilize their God-given talents while here on earth. Repeatedly, she wrote about her dreams for her children and grandchildren. It was evident that she never doubted for a moment that every single one of them had talent.

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newspaper3.jpgWhile I’d briefly considered attending a writer’s conference one year, the cost seemed prohibitive. After Mom died, I asked myself what she would do if she’d had that kind of opportunity to further her creative endeavors. My interest in the conference was just as much spiritual as it was creative, a way to hone my craft while fueling my faith. My husband not only encouraged my attendance, he insisted it was high time I invested in myself, something that people who believe in us tend to see long before we do. I believed my mother would have said the same thing.

I’ve never looked back. Every year since 2011, I’ve set aside tax refund money and kept the dates of that Cedar Falls workshop open so I could attend. I look forward to it all year long. When I was being interviewed in February for my current job, I made it clear; “The schedule sounds fine, but there’s a week in June when I will be attending a conference.”

Why?
Why would I recommend writers or aspiring writers attend a conference or class? There are many reasons, but here are my top five:

To learn more about the craft of writing. I believe in lifelong learning. No matter our level of expertise in writing, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes we have to make a commitment to hone our craft and that commitment might involve both time and money. Committing to a conference or a class could be the first step in taking our writing seriously. Call it an investment in yourself. I tell attendees in my writing classes that paying for a class gives them a reason for taking time out of their busy days to write. “Tell your husband or your kids that you paid good money for a writing class so now you need to write and sell something to recoup your money.” If you take yourself seriously, others will take you seriously, too.

To learn more about the business side of publishing. It’s not enough to be a good writer; you also have to learn about the ever-changing world of publishing. What is a book proposal? How do I write a query letter? How can I build up my platform? Do I need an agent? Where do I find markets for my work? These are questions you can find the answers to at conferences and workshops.

To connect and network with other writers. There is nothing more enjoyable than “talking shop” with another writer who understands the foibles and follies of the world of writing. Writers at conferences and workshops share markets with each other, commiserate about rejections, and support each other’s accomplishments. I’ve made life-long friends at each conference I’ve attended. My world has gotten so much bigger in the last few years. It was at a conference that I met my mentors (and good friends), Shelly Beach and Cecil Murphey.

To meet and network with editors, publishers, or agents. Not everyone who attends a conference ends up sitting next to an agent at a lunch table and subsequently signing a contract with her husband a few months later, but I did. I’ve developed both personal and professional relationships with editors and agents at conferences. While initially the prospect of meeting with an agent or editor was quite daunting to me, I’ve experienced some wonderful conversations with several. I can’t speak for non-Christian conferences but those I’ve conversed with at the Christian conferences have been wonderful. Of course, the easiest conversations are those I’ve had without the anxiety of attempting to sell something.

Amazing things happen at Christian writing conferences. Again, I can’t speak for all conferences as I’ve only attended Christian ones, but I’ve found that if I pray fervently before, during, and after a conference, and keep my eyes and heart open to God, amazing things have transpired at each of the conferences I’ve attended, some so powerful they’re difficult to talk about without crying.

This advice doesn’t just apply to writers; I would encourage all creative people continue learning and honing their craft throughout their life, whether that is painting, drawing, music, or quilting. During some seasons of our life, it might have to be simply checking out library books or subscribing to magazines on the subject, but if time and money permit, a class or conference can be a great jump-start to living creatively!

Maybe the best Mother’s Day gift is a gift you give to yourself; enrolling in a class or workshop.