Sunday, October 2, 2011

Still Reverberating from Central Ohio Fiction Writers' Conference

I'm still reverberating from this weekend's Central Ohio Fiction Writers' Conference. The conference featured best-selling authors Brenda Novak, Joanne Rock and Catherine Mann. Two editors from Harlequin joined us, Paula Eykelhof, Executive Editor Harlequin and MIRA Books and Adam Wilson from Harlequin Teen. Two agents attended the event, Nalini Akolekar from Spencerhill Literary Agency and Melissa Jeglinski from The Knight Agency. The event also featured Barbara Vey from Publisher's Weekly. 

What always amazes me about writer's conferences is the genuine desire of every person who attends to help others grow in their careers. Brenda Novak's keynote was about setting a goal, staying focused and not being afraid to stay with it.

Joanne and Catherine shared their experience as critique partners. The two friends were also joined by Melissa to share how to strengthen an agent/author relationship. These sessions reinforced for me the importance of openness to feedback, loyalty and trust. An important call-out for me in this session was the importance of reading widely in your critique partners' genres. I feel so blessed to be able to send pieces to my critique partners (thank you Connie and Kathleen) when I don't know what to do next or just need someone to say "you really do need to work on this" or "that actually works, stop stressing."

The agents and editors participated in a panel that highlighted the importance of strong writing, voice and knowing your audience. Lastly, Barbara Vey shared insider information about the business.

I had the opportunity to pitch my work, which is always exciting, but most importantly I was reconnected with the energy of this business. It's easy to sit alone in your house late at night pounding the keyboard and feel your energy dip. A conference like this will keep me sizzling with the feeling of community, even as I write alone, at least until the next COFW meeting.

As someone who has always written, but for years didn't think I could become an author, the writing community has introduced my dream to hope and possibilities. Anyone who wants to be a writer should sit down and write that first story. Then go directly to a writer's group and get engaged. Don't stop writing, but start polishing. Polish until the unique voice shines. Learn until you know enough to be dangerous, but don't stop learning.

Writing can be a hobby and a creative pursuit. It's fun and energizing. I write because I couldn't stop myself if I tried. Writer's conferences remind me that publishing my work is a business. I plan to stay at this business and continue to get a little better every day. One of these days I'll be in a position to pass on all the inspiration these authors, agents and editors have given me this weekend to another beginning writer. It may take time to reach publication. It will definitely take hard work but it will be worth it.

Brenda Novak called writing "a dream of the heart" and I think that's a wonderful way to describe how so many writers feel about their work. I'm going to keep working on this dream. I encourage anyone else who has the same dream to get out there and connect with authors, editors and agents in this industry. It's worth every second.

Below is a picture of me with Brenda Novak. She sat at our table and was the most gracious and engaging person. I'm diving into her book, Inside, later tonight, just as soon as I write another chapter of my in progress YA novel.

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