Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Conclusion).

Attending my first writer’s workshop was a leap of bravery for me, intermixed with excitement. Since then, other events for me have followed. Here, in the final part of this blog series, I’ll give you 10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion.

The first workshop I had ever attended was in the spring of 2015, when in the early days of writing my memoir. Most recently, I was at a three-day writing workshop with Midwest Writers (July 22-24, 2019). And it was the furthest away from home that I’ve ever traveled for such an event. Yet, well worth it, in that it broadened my awareness, courage, and inspiration as a creative writer.

Time and again, the emphasis at these events have been to expand our individual skill-set in creativity. Whereas, what to write is up to each individual. A question that came into my blog during the posting of this series centered on questioning the trust in and working relationship to others also at the event (I’m paraphrasing the exact comment/question). However, this concern seems nonexistent to me. If anything, the support shared among writers increases the power in my words.

For example, learning under the guidance of author and journalist, Michael McColly, I came to understand that as I develop the book I am currently working on—a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, a changemaker during the mid-20th century—I need to not only describe what she did, but also describe in detail what society was like during this era. McColly can’t write these words for me. It’s up to me. In my smaller publications, I often write about homelessness and how we can help others. McColly can’t describe what it is like to be homeless any more than I can describe the AIDS epidemic in America and in Africa in which he journals about from his personal experience. However, coming out of his classroom, I can understand how to write to reach readers when describing my own experiences and interests.

If you missed the prior posts to this blog series, you can link to them here:
Part 1 It is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others. Here I share about my attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (or MWW, for short.)
Part 2 Break-out sessions with industry leaders and authors, Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and others.
Part 3 All day intensive session with Jane Friedman, author.
Part 4 Logistics of getting to a writer’s workshop and what to do when there.

10 tried-and-true benefits for getting out of our zone of solitude and into the rooms with others who share in the same great passion:

1. You will meet other writers.

(I know, duh, right?) Yet, this is the place to meet lots of people who are at varying stages in their writing careers. Wherever you are on the road to success, you will meet others who have been there before and who are ready to help you. I find that writers as a group are very supportive. If you make an effort to say hello and to sit next to people you don’t know, it is easy to meet others who can help you take the next step in your writing. It is also an opportunity to share your own experience, strength, and hope with others.

2. You will get energized.

It’s revitalizing to be with other people, all excited about the same thing. Like a pep rally from high school, when with others with the same goal, you can’t help but get the desire to write more or better than you ever have before.

3. You will feel good.

It is a motivational booster to be with others in unity. My entire experience in attending MWW, from traveling from home (and learning to drive a late model rental car) to meeting new people to seeing new sights was eye-opening for me. Any new experience which brings positive awareness amps our endorphins—it is a feel-good thing.

4. You will learn something.

Part of the reason I write is that I enjoy reading and gaining knowledge. We are hardwired to get excited about learning new things and writer events are full of ideas and insights about the craft. Sessions can be just as interesting as college classes—the only difference is that there are no tests.

5. You will find practical information for immediate use.

No matter where you are in your writing path, you will gain some nuts-and-bolts knowledge that you can use to make your writing better. Workshops can vary in their goal. My attendance at the yearly workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts came with a focus to bring community members closer together through the writing craft. Whereas, the focus at the MWW event was to expand our skillset for writing.

As varied as our writing is from writer to writer, so are the focus at these events. You could learn how to write for magazines and journals, how to use dialogue or create a story arc, how to develop a social media presence, how to zero in on your specific genre of writing, how to learn a new genre of writing, and the list goes on. You could gain feedback on your current manuscript. You could learn about the publication process or how to put together a query package when seeking publication. (Preparing my memoir for publication consideration involved writing a synopsis, a marketing plan, and defining my readership, and more.)  

6. You may gain new readers.

And you may discover writers to follow. On day one at the MWW conference, I browsed the swag table, complete with books for sale from other authors also attending the event. While I appreciated having a spot to display and sell my book, all the more fun, was to find the author behind a book I bought. I kept asking around if anyone knew who Carol Michel was (the author of the book I bought.) On the final morning, I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the gal next to me. Guess who she was? Yep, none other than Carol, the author behind my new great find.   

7. You may find a new market for your writing.

Conferences attract writers from many walks of life. Some of them will write for markets that you haven’t considered yet. They might know of a journal or other publication seeking the kinds of things you write. They may know of a publisher who is looking for a book like yours. And you may be able to pass on what you are aware of, to help others. (It’s a community thing.)

8. You will improve your professional effectiveness.

Like other professionals, from doctors, salespersons, schoolteachers, and others who attend continuing education conferences, so too, is this our way to learn more. Joining other writers at these events are an excellent way to for us to continue our education and improve our knowledge about our craft. If you are serious about your writing, then your attendance at such an event will prove that you are committed to your chosen profession.

9. You will make new connections.

Connections could be in the way of editors or agents who show up looking to meet up-and-coming authors. Connections could be newfound writer-friends that you will see time and again at future events. Exchanging business cards and email addresses is great way to not have to say “goodbye” but instead, to keep in touch. And be sure to do just that, by visiting their Facebook page or dropping them a note through email or even mailing them a card if you have their mailing address.

10. You will get inspired.

If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles in order to succeed. They may be able to give you hope or encouragement or that little push that you need. Either way, you will find the courage to keep on writing.

Every time I join forces with other writers, I come out of it renewed and refreshed with benefits far outweighing what I can accomplish all by my lonesome. It takes action to get out of my zone of solitude and into the room with others. This action, time and again, is my reminder that I am a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing.

What about you? Have you attended any events with others who have a shared interest? If so, what can you confer from these benefits? In the wrap-up to this blog series, I hope you too have gained a greater love for your potential as well as the inspiration to be found and created with others.

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Part 4).

I love writing workshops. I love the awesome speakers, the swag bags, the great connections, the food, and getting to know others—all of it. However, most people I know can be like me—a bit uneasy when it comes to, well, to just getting out and doing it.

How do you sign up? What do I do when walking into a session? What should you wear? What, exactly, should we do during break time? And doesn’t it cost money?

Well, here, in Part 4 of this five-part blog series, I’ll show you what it is like for me and how to make the most of your time there.

This blog post series explores my recent attendance at the Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana (or for simplicity sakes, MWW.) In part one, I expressed the gratitude found in going to a workshop, conference, convention, or the like. In parts two and three, I shared about the break-out sessions when at this event with MWW.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills.

Pre-Attendance

You can find out about upcoming events, workshops, conferences, conventions, and the like by doing an internet search. Best yet, it’s often easy to hear of these events from your friends and other people you hang out with.

When you learn of an upcoming event, do some research. Find out what this get-together is about, where it is, who will be speaking, and if there are sessions, which sessions you’d be interested in.

With MWW, I was already following Jane Friedman’s blog and had already met her in person. When I got word that she would be teaching at this event. I dug in and learned more. Wow! — the break-out sessions to choose from with the presenters offered what I needed for advancing my researching and writing skills in the current book I am now working on. And yes, I was down for a full day with Jane Friedman.

In prior events I’ve attended, one was the Writer’s Digest indie-lab, right near me in downtown Cincinnati (September 29-30, 2018). I chose that one for its close location and for one of its speakers, Amy Collins who has been an integral part of my book marketing. One thing awesome about it was that on the first morning, Amy and I met for breakfast— it was a time to get to know each other outside the centered scope of my book.    

I also went to the annual writing workshops with the School for Creative and Performing Arts (or SCPA), also here in Cincinnati. Those were once a year in the spring up until they were recently discontinued. I went to each one except the first one. It was awesome in that it joined community members with their students for an intensive weekend of creativity. And it was free, only requirement being to pre-register. Following each workshop with this school, our works from the weekend get-together were compiled into a published anthology. When I first attended, it was in perfect timing for my writing career—that was in the spring of 2015, when I was in the early days of writing my memoir.

Once you know you want to go and what parts of it especially interest you, it is time to sign up. Nearly all events, whether it is a workshop, conference, or convention have an online registration form for you to complete and submit. Do this as soon as you can. The hosts of these events most often want to make the registration process easy-friendly and will include who to contact with questions. Don’t shy away from emailing or calling if you need more information or help in this process. They want to see you at their event!    

Getting to It

Attending MWW involved a different mode of transportation for me. I couldn’t just hop on a city bus or in a taxi and go. When first signing up, I wasn’t even sure if my old and ugly pick-up truck would get me three hours down the highway.

But, as the saying goes—where there’s a will, there’s a way. I had registered nearly three months before event day which gave me time to figure it out. As the time neared, my pick-up truck became a goner. In Plan B, I made arrangements with a rental car agency. Now, for those of you who know my story, my driving a late model car was going to be a brand-new thing for me. (Ask me about hitchhiking and I can tell you about that part of my past, but driving, well, I’m not much of a driver.) A good friend went with me to get the rental car and then gave me a crash-course in driving. By the time I returned the car, I had not only learned so much at the workshop but also how to work a key-less car.

As far as lodging went, MWW posted hotel suggestions right on their registration page along with discounts. Here, I did more research. And more. In the end, I settled on a different place- a motel with lower rates, no frills, and high reviews found online. And it gave me a two-night reduced rate. I left home on the morning of the workshop, checking in to the motel later that day. I checked out of the motel on the morning of my final day, the day with Jane Friedman. Each night I was too tired to even think about a swimming pool at the higher-end hotels.

For events further from home, again, look into the travel options to decide if you’d rather drive or fly or perhaps even carpool. There may be discounts available for airplane flights, either on their website or through a certain membership you have. AARP got me a discount on my rental car. I think AAA offers discounts too. Research to find what works for you.   

Packing

Survival Kit: Print out and take with you any registration receipts, agendas and the like. Also take a notebook for notetaking and pens or pencils. If you take your lap top computer or tablet, also take your charger for it. Your phone charger as well, needs to be in this survival kit. 

Clothing: The fewer items you can take, the less bulky packing will be. Anywhere you can mix and match will work well. Be sure to pack a sweater for layering as temperatures can swing and vary in different parts of the country as well as in different rooms at the same event. 

Not sure what to wear—whether to dress up or not? If the event you’re going to is an established one, browse their website or other social media page, perhaps from their prior events and find pictures to see what people are wearing.

When attending MWW, I dressed up more than my usual day-to-day attire, if only because it is a good feeling for me. You see, on my library job, I do work that puts me in between public floors, which can be dusty and dirty. Switching from jeans at work to dressy pants is my reminder that I’m getting out of my zone and doing something great.  

Another thing for the survival kit is to include your business cards and if you have a published book, then, that too.  

Check-In

Upon arrival at MWW, I knew from their website that parking was free right out front of the alumni center where it was being held. Most often, the registration process will let you know ahead of time as to where to park. If you are unsure though, contact them before arriving to find out the parking logistics.

Once parked and first walking in the building, there is most likely a welcome table. That has thus far always been so for me in the events I’ve attended. Here, you can introduce yourself and the person who greets you will likely make you feel welcomed. That person will give you a packet of important papers and other goodies for you to help yourself become acquainted with the layout.

At MWW, I was right away greeted by the event host, Jama, and from her, I knew I was in the right place. I knew her name and picture from registering on their website.

Meals

Again, the registration process will likely have informed you which meals, if any. that the event includes. Where meals are included, this is a great opportunity for meeting new friends. So, I recommend staying off your phone—while it can seem intimidating to be in a room where you don’t know anyone, and a phone is an easy distraction, engaging with people instead leads to much greater things. Even if your goal is as simple as having a five-minute conversation with one person over the lunch break, that’s better than being a wall flower.

Presentations and Sessions

If the event has several sessions to choose from in each time block, I suggest choosing a topic that interests you and of which you have yet to learn more about.

Don’t limit yourself to familiar speakers. There’s time in between sessions to say hello to those familiar faces. Instead, meet new leaders and listen to ideas unfamiliar to you. Our investment in time and money is our opportunity to expand our horizons. 

Talking to Speakers and Panelists

Talking to the people presenting at the event, especially when they’re surrounded by a gaggle of fans can also seem intimidating. But making these connections is crucial to our networking. Industry leaders tend to pop up at several different events, so the next time you see them, they will no longer be strangers. This was the experience I had with Jane Friedman at MWW after first meeting her at the Writer’s Digest Conference.

And don’t just go after the well-known speakers. If someone spoke eloquently and is lesser known, these people generally have more time to talk to you and can be fountains of knowledge.

Networking

When you see “Break” on the agenda—well, it’s time to get to know others, even through a casual meet and greet. Making conversation with strangers can seem awkward at first. However, unlike where you’re thrown together in a room with little or no context, this workshop or event gives you one topic you already have in common—the event itself. This is also a good time to ask for their business card and to offer yours.

To start chatting with someone, it’s as easy as starting off with a question about what sessions they attended or what speakers they liked the most. From there, it feels more natural asking that person what he or she does for a living and why they are also there.

Most people at these workshops or events are there to mingle with like-minded individuals, so don’t be afraid to chat with others and make connections.

Social Media

Don’t underestimate the power of using social media (live tweeting, following the event hashtag and liking posts) during the event. This “social currency” can keep you connected after returning home. Some of my bonds with fellow writers and well-known authors are strengthened through online means which keep us connected well after the event. 

Post-Event

Reach out to those who you met. Ask how they are doing with what they learned. Shortly after attending MWW, I emailed a fellow memoir writer. In her reply email, she exclaimed “Oh, my first table buddy.”  

And talk about the event. Whether you’re on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram or have a blog, show your love for a conference online. Personally, I have enjoyed writing about this conference and what I learned. If mingling in person days afterwards, share your experience with attending the event. Encourage others to get out of their zone of solitude and into their community.

I hope this blog post series is helping you. I returned with so many ideas and concepts swimming around in my head, meant to be processed. Sharing with you has helped me gain focus. Reaching out to those I met at MWW has strengthened my connections and has given me more opportunities to be there for others. It’s a community thing. Together we can make our communities great.

Look for the final part in this blog series coming at you in a week from now. It will be an overall recap. If you have any feedback pertaining to this series, please let me know in the comments and I will try to include those in Part 5.   

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Part 3).

As promised from my prior blog post, here is Part 3 which dives into my final day at the Midwest Writers Workshop. I wrote this post for readers who are curious about my journey and for fellow writers who would like a greater insight into the business of being an author. This is my experience and not heavily weighted in note taking.

My all-day intensive session with Jane Friedman was aimed at published authors and my best guess at how many authors came together to hear Jane teach was, oh, about forty authors.

Rather than a variety of break-out sessions in this workshop as before, this was bootcamp with Jane Friedman, an author and industry leader. I’ve been following Jane in her blog posts and social media sharing since the early days of writing early drafts to my memoir, now published. I had first met Jane in person when attending a writer’s conference, here in Cincinnati. For anyone who is aspiring to connect with their readers, I can’t recommend her enough.  

      For starters, she had us break up into small teams, each team to a table. Teams were based on genre or the category we write in. At my table, were three other creative nonfiction authors. Going around the room, we had teams in sci-fi, self-help, inspirational/religion, young adult, mystery, romance, children’s, and a few more.  With much of our work for the day being dependent on writers helping writers, teaming up with authors in our same genre worked well.   

SWOT ANALYSIS

In teams, we discussed the SWOT analysis. SWOT is the acronym for strengths – weaknesses – opportunities – and – threats. I was already somewhat familiar with this business tool, having learned it when in a work-related training at my job place, the public library.

Jane takes this acronym one letter further: SWOTF and no, I don’t think I can pronounce that acronym, although she did, somehow. In SWOTF, the F is for fears. It’s a framework for taking an inventory to identify and analyze the factors which can impact the viability of a project, product, place or person—or an author’s book and outreach to readers.

WEBSITE ANALYSIS

We discussed the importance of having a landing page for readers to discover us and our books. For me and many others, the landing page is our website. Jane asked for three volunteers to share their website. I was the first volunteer. On an overhead projector screen, we watched her go through my website, discussing the strengths in navigating it. From her analysis, I learned where and how I could either improve or change things up. Slowly but surely, you may notice some changes in my website and some, as subtle as they are may go unnoticed.

For one, I removed the huge (huge!) picture that my website template defaulted to when setting it up. This gets rid of clutter and moves you, the website visitor directly into what I want to share.

It was suggested I use a pop-up window for inviting people to subscribe. I might do that. As it is now, it is a bit obscure, found under my Contact and Media Page.

It was suggested that on the menu for my blog, I give a detailed blurb of what my blog is about and why I blog. I plan to do this—once I learn how the techy hands-on work to create that.

I updated my bio as found under the About tab.

OUTREACH and LISTENING

Jane shared the many ways we can engage with readers, from on-line to in person. And taking it further, we discussed how to share and what to share, especially when it comes to a world of strangers on the internet.

Regarding listening, our readers are who we care about. Before anyone read my book, I could describe it, but my words of kudos no longer hold their weight. Rather, it is what readers have to say about my book and their words are the most important tools I have for sharing with those who haven’t yet read my book as to what people think of it.

Going a step further, we discussed who comparable authors are. I kind of already knew this, from when I was looking for a publisher— that’s one of the things publishers want to know—who can we compare you to?  One of my comp authors is Brianna Karp, author of The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir. Jane took us through some online exercises, which in part had us look at what readers of comparable books are saying. This information can be helpful in broadening our outreach.

AND MORE

Jane also shared hidden gems with us, from helpful links to other resources. Again, watching on the overhead projector, we followed along as she took us through tools we can use to amp up our exposure as authors.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. This means getting out of zone, which is often one of solitude or at best small with only a handful of other like-minded friends. It means showing up to a workshop, convention, conference, or the like and meeting new people.

Look forward to Part 4 of this five-part blog series, coming next weekend. In Part 4, I will share my experience in the logistics of getting into the rooms with others. Then, Part 5 will be a wrap-up.   

To get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you. 

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers.

Together, we can build upon our skilled craft.

Do you sometimes find yourself all too comfortable in your zone, wondering if it’s worth it to do something different? I can assure you that yes; it is worth it and much more. Writing in solitude—or from my easy chair with my pet birds chirping and cheering me on—can and often seems to be the norm for me. However, it is well worth it for us to get out of the usual solitary routine by joining forces with others in a shared unity over our creative potential.

Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. After my return, I attended the next scheduled meeting with a local writers group I am in (“A Private Writing Circle”). In our meeting, I was encouraged to do a five-part blog series to explore and share my experience in this workshop.

Today is Part 1 of this series. Next weekend and then the following few weekends, I’ll post again, moving from Part 1 to Part 5. Here’s what to look forward to in the coming posts:

Part 2: Details from the workshop sessions (or “break-out sessions”) in which I gained valuable insight from Michael McColly, author and journalist, from Matthew Clemens (CSI TV crime show writer), from Ashley Hope Perez, young adult author, and from others.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills. 

Part 3: My bootcamp experience as taught by industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. This was an all-day intensive session for authors and couldn’t have been more enjoyable had it not been presented by Jane Friedman.

Part 4: The logistics of getting out of our zone or easy chair and into the rooms with others. This will include some basic how-to in registration, lodging, and more.

Part 5: An overall scope of the benefits in attending a workshop or a conference or seminar. If you go with an ear to listen, there will be speakers who seem to be talking directly to you. Some have overcome great obstacles to succeed.

We, too, can find the courage to succeed! 

Attending Midwest Writers Workshop

In essence, my attendance at this workshop reminded me of the privilege of not only being a writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Of the themes I noticed which kept being voiced by attendees and presenters alike, is the need for diversity and to use our writing tools to make a real positive change in our communities and with the people who make up our home towns.

Throughout the event, I was ever meeting new people, and often exchanging contact information with new friends made. One such friend was excited to hear me reach out to her a few days out from the close of the event. I smiled when reading her reply email, “my first table buddy.” 

In the days following the workshop, I couldn’t help but notice a renewed spirit in me; an appreciation for this greater writing community. It is something that nurtures me as a person and helps foster the written work I create.

I look forward to sharing more with you. Look for Part 2 next weekend on this blog. For now, please share in the comments as to what it is like for you to get out of your norm. Also share any questions you may have that you’d like me to answer as I explore this five-part series.

If you like what I write, please subscribe to get notified of new blog posts.

-Elle-

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