Whether I’m speaking, taking part in an on-line interview, or just chatting with the person next to me on the plane, the #1 question I get is: “How did you get your start in writing?” I realize the question is often just another way of asking, How can I get my work published? But it doesn’t really matter, because the answer to both questions is the same: A good writers’ conference.
When I first started writing–back when the earth first cooled and dinosaurs still roamed–I had no clue what I was doing. Even so, with all the faith in the world, I set off for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California’s beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. I loved it from the minute I stepped out of the car. Cherry blossoms breezed across the road, dogwood trees blossomed pink and white, and friendly writers and un-intimidating editors strolled close enough for me to touch. I showed my writing to an editor. She was singularly underwhelmed. (Her exact words were: “Keep writing! You’ll get better.” Ouch!) But I took a tremendous Major Morning instruction class (8 hours total), plus a plethora of workshops, and I spent my off-time rewriting like a crazy person. The result was my first published book — a children’s Bible story book filled with the stories of women (Special Women of the Bible).
That’s how I got started.
If you are wondering whether or not you should lay out the bucks to attend a writers’ conference, consider:
- You’ll get expert training. Most of what I know I learned at writers’ conferences. Believe it or not, the biggest reason manuscripts are rejected is because they just aren’t up to par. Yours may be good. Perhaps even really good. But to be published, it has to be great enough to stand out in today’s glutted market.
- You can get individual instruction. In some of the best writers’ conferences, special mentoring tracks are available. A published writer works with you and your manuscript to help you zero in on whatever it is you need the most.
- You can “network.” Okay, I don’t really like the word. In fact, I’m not that crazy about the concept. Gathering up people in order to use them? Uggg! But give it a different name and it can mean easing into a group of people with the same struggles and concerns you have, where you can gain mutual support and wisdom. That’s a concept I do like!
- Hear challenging presentations. Most great conferences have a keynote speaker who is way more than just entertaining. He/she is an expert in the field of writing and has helpful, inspiring words to share.
- Interact with the Pros. Yes, I really mean the pros. As in editors and publishers and agents and such. They are at the conference for the simple reason that they want to meet people like you. They want to read your work and consider it. They want to help you be all you can be as a writer.
There are some really good writers’ conferences coming up. But I especially want to mention the 41st Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference that’s just over a month away– March 26 – 30. (It also offers a Head Start mentoring clinic before the conference, March 24 – 26. If you need help with a manuscript in progress, this is a great possibility for you.)
So, you ask, “Will you be there, Kay?”
Will I?! Couldn’t keep me away! In fact, I’ll be leading a pre-conference Head Start fiction group, and a non-fiction mentoring group during the conference. I’d love to have you join me in either or both of those!
When? March 26-30, 2010 (Head Start March 24-26)
Where? Mount Hermon (Santa Cruz Mountains), California
More info? mounthermon.org/writers
Want to talk to a real live someone? 888-MH-CAMPS