Nothing happier than writers working on their craft – LDStorymakers Conference

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All I really saw. Also, it rained a lot.

I’ve been promising a post about the writers’ conference I attended for some time now. Last night, I dreamed of the agent I had a pitch session with. She was sitting in a room full of all the people at the conference that met her. She said she had 2,000 e-mails with queries and manuscripts, but was waiting for the ones promised, and expected us to all be showing up in her inbox in her home state because she had 2,000 e-mails, but she really wanted our manuscripts…

So, get to those manuscripts, Lady and Gent writers…

This conference was pivotal for me. I had made a goal to take writing very seriously this year and dedicate more time and energy to it.  I created a five-year writing plan that begins with Year 1(this year): Taking writing to a professional level –  picking a genre I enjoy, writing five out of seven days, working through revisions, finding beta readers, attending conferences etc. I knew it was important to attend the conference for my personal devotion to writing as a craft. I did not know it would prove to be so inspirational. Never before had I seen so clearly the path to success as a writer. Oh, maybe not a best-selling writer. Maybe not a block-buster make-a-movie-from-this writer, but a published writer. The people I met, from agents to authors to other writers, were the source of this inspiration. And the advice, solid, real, practical advice on the writing craft itself, editing, pitching and more was the best I’ve ever received. My favorite agent quote, which I’m paraphrasing: There are a lot of people out there that will tell you what to do and how to do it. Most of them are other writers. When an agent tells you what to do, you should listen to them, instead, because we’re the ones that are going to read your submissions and we’re honest about what we want.

It was in Provo, UT, but aside from the mountain that dominated the view from many of the conference building’s main windows and the block around the hotel and conference room, I couldn’t tell you much about the city. I was going from classes on fixing manuscripts almost ready to sell to writing your query so it’s exactly what agents need to intensive sessions on plotting, characterization, editing, blurb writing (more important a skill than you’d think) and pitches – 30 seconds, really, only 30 seconds, don’t waste time with chit chat…

Classes I missed, and wished I didn’t included medieval weaponry (because come on…) how to get the science of medicine right – more along the lines of what really happens when you stab someone with a knife or hit them with a heavy object, so you can describe it better – scene building, and agent panels.

In attendance? Great agents. Famous authors. Mid-level authors. Newly published authors. Writers with a few manuscripts but no sales (yet). Beginner writers. Going-to-write writers. My best friend who I haven’t seen in a decade. A decade! *I’m so sorry I chatted endlessly for hours straight, I can’t help myself. It’s like I have a talking problem.

I already plan to go again. There is something truly inspiring about being surrounded by hundreds of people working in the same craft. This wasn’t a conference just for those first-time writers or dreaming-of-writing writers, though there was plenty of information for the beginners. This was a conference that catered to all levels  – the majority of us weren’t masters, but we’re certainly journeymen, on our way to being better. The classes reflected that. It’s very rare in life to be able to slip away from the world for a few days to work on growing your skill level. There are lots of conferences and workshops for lots of different fields, but worthwhile ones that have you furiously writing notes and annotations, and then staying up late at night to take more notes on how to apply it to your work specifically, and then, after you leave, furiously reading those notes and implementing it in your work… that’s rare. I can’t remember the last time I stayed up past midnight because I didn’t feel what I had worked on was good enough, yet this is what I did at the conference.

The fabulous thing about this conference, though, was the true, genuine, desire of every presenter, agent, and attendee to help make everyone else a little better at their craft. It was a place where the goal was to study, learn, share, make connections, and grow the writing community.

 

Headed to Storymakers!

This time next week, I should be in Utah, learning to fine-tune the craft of writing, editing and pitching. I’m about to begin a flurry of pre-conference preparation: Practice pitching, writing, practice pitching, packing, practice pitching, finish current projects, and practice pitching.

The conference is my first writer’s conference, and it marks, for me, the first true steps of taking my personal writing to a different level. And, as the Pitch Clinic course I took back in October has changed and drastically improved the quality of my sales letters and press releases, I expect this clinic will alter the way I structure my work-in-progress, my essays, and my long blog posts.

This is an exciting opportunity, and I can’t wait to meet some of the masters of writing that will be in attendance, along with some old friends I haven’t seen in years. There is danger in attending this particular conference in Utah, however. My friend, who attended last year, warned me that for months after the conference, all she thought about, and all she did, was write and write and write….

Fiddling a website

I had to fiddle with the website today. I couldn’t take the first version of my website any longer, and it sure wasn’t helping.

Other things I did today, while fiddling with my website:

  • Came up with three book ideas, two essays, a blog post about content marketing that should post soon and a parenting post I want to send off to scarymommy.com relating to kids and Pokemon.
  • Decided I need to support Superman in the Batman vs. Superman civil war movie.
  • Went to lunch with a friend, because the hardest thing about working from home for yourself is being alone all day.
  • Realized the last blog post was about looking for a job, and I needed to change it, because things have changed since that last post.
  • Discovered the magic of sinus irrigation.
  • Developed a mild case of envy for highly successful ‘names’ in content marketing, and their hybrid life-work posts that seem to balance native advertising with funny tidbits about life.
  • Created a plan to eventually merge my life blog to this blog, because #authentic.

 

 

Good. Bad. How can we know?

When you’re in my field, and you are between positions, there are three things you are expected to do.

1: Apply for positions in your field (obviously). Like many career professionals with between 12 to 15 years of experience in my field, I’m in the position of seeking positions in different industries. I enjoy working collaboratively. I enjoy the community that exists in a great organization. I remember my best career experience was with a little company making a great game. I am still in touch with many of the people I worked with. It was an experience I rate as highly as my time in the Air Force. They were both great experiences, and I made great, lasting friendships. Right now, I’m not quite changing careers, but I am looking at different industries, and this can be just as challenging. There are wonderful online groups in LinkedIn, and a few local meet-ups I’m beginning to attend that will help with this, and I expect I’ll find more.

Thing is, it’s not just enough to spend the time between positions applying for positions.

2: Work. Yes, work. I have always wanted to expand my writing portfolio. I love information. I love taking a topic or issue, complex or not, and dissecting it to a level that anyone can understand. I love educating through information. This is why, while I search for the next position, I am also working to expand my writing portfolio. I’m not an idle person, and tend to be very productive. I have time to do this now, and every single bit of advice I glean from career sites, coach sites, job hunting sites and personal advice from people in the field I respect and value, says that I should definitely be doing this. It’s also a great way to learn more about the different fields I’m interested in, what I personally enjoy writing, and where I can take a few safe risks.

3: Professional development. Everyone, I think, loves professional development. Growth and education should never end, no matter where you are in your career or personal life. This is why the first posts on this blog were about the Pitch Clinic course and challenge. It’s why, after I complete the challenge, I will begin a course on Udemy that will help fill some technical knowledge gaps I have discovered in the process of creating my website. I have to be careful here, I am prone to taking classes and courses for the sake of taking classes and courses.

A lot of people talk about being in between positions as a bad thing. I sometimes do. Loss of income! Loss of position! Loss of co-workers! Loss of routine! And this in-between period is lasting longer than I anticipated. Loss of an expectation! I want to get on with the rest of my life. This in-between period? Bah.

Then, I stumbled upon a great passage in Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. She writes:  “We don’t know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don’t know.” The analogy she refers to is a family with one son who they depend on to take care of them. He suffers a great fall, and is crippled. They are devastated. They fear he will not be able to take care of them as well. Then, two weeks after his fall, all the young men his age are rounded up and sent off to war. He, though, is not taken, and stays home and is able to take care of them. Is it good? Is it bad?

I know that so far, during this transition time, I’ve learned how to write story ideas that will sell. I’ve applied to many jobs, shifting and changing tactics as I realized just how much my profession has changed in the past few years. I’ve broadened my social network. I’ve found a community of writers and communications professionals that know exactly what I’m going through, and who offer great advice and encouragement. I’ve defined goals. While I haven’t seen any results yet from any of this, while I haven’t made a penny, I have grown and become more confident. I know more about who I am, where I want to be in my career, and how I want to live my life now than I did a year ago. Good. Bad. This in-between place is just another place in life. It is me ‘getting on with the rest of my life.’

Pitch clinic challenge is on

November is NaNo Month, and while many of my writer friends and freelance writers are spending the month trying to get 50K words down, or the first draft of a novel, I’ll be selling ideas to magazines, online publications and everywhere else I can think of that needs a professional writer.   It’ll be a little difficult as I’m also balancing this with looking for a fulfilling full-time job, but as with anything worth doing, well, it’s worth doing.

I wrote earlier about how I signed up for the Pitch Clinic in order to learn the best tips to successfully sell ideas and pitches to magazines, online publications, B2B publications and just about anyone that hires people to write for them. The Pitch Clinic is over, and on Wednesday, the Pitch Clinic Challenge begins. This is really the beginning of my journey as a freelance writer. I like defined starts and ends, so establishing a few weeks ago that Pitch Clinic Challenge was my beginning helped me focus and mentally prepare. Some people just go ahead and forge forward. I like to plan the day and make ‘forging forward’ kind of an event. In preparation, I tried a few things over the past couple of months, things that would help me learn which selling style best fit me (cold calls? pitches? letters?), learn what type of ideas I tend to have (parenting, education, technology, SPED topics, SciFi pop culture) read up on publications I am interested in writing for, etc. I’ve dabbled and explored what type of marketer I am and which mediums I prefer to use (I do love Twitter, don’t care for Facebook) and planned my writer’s journey out. I’ve researched it. I’ve packed for it. The only thing left to do is, Nov. 3rd, start the journey.

Woot Woot! I’m just a little super excited about it.