A Writerly Blog
I had come to the point of exhaustion. I'd worked diligently to write, submit and connect. But nothing was moving. Was I truly meant to be a writer, or did I imagine it? I needed to get my head together — a clear vision for the road ahead. Was I only spinning my wheels?
Then, the opportunity to join the team for the first ever writer’s retreat at Mount Hermon Conference Center near San Jose, CA, presented itself. For years a stellar writing conference was held at that lovely wooded venue, but it was time to forge another path. Writers attend conferences often. It's a place to learn new skills, be inspired, practice the craft, create new connections and meet with publishers and agents. But a retreat is none of that. No busyness. No running to the next workshop, feverishly writing down notes that will be sure to translate into a published book. No feeling of panic as we meet with an industry professional.
A Retreat means Rest and Refreshment
So what is a retreat? It's rest, refreshment, and time alone with God, finding your next right step in this sometimes frustrating journey towards authorship. And yes, it can be about connections—with fellow writers on the same path. But the main focus is to listen. What is God telling me about my next step? Your life? My relationship with Him? The great thing about the Mount Hermon Retreat was the freedom to choose where my focus would be. No pressure to attend any of the soul-care and craft sessions or gather with other like-minded writers. I could spend the entire weekend communing with my Creator on the many paths through the towering redwoods or pray along the labyrinth.
Listening to God’s Voice
So, I listened. In the labyrinth. In the chapel. On the forest path among the towering redwoods, feeling quite small. And I found answers to three questions:
In the mix was an Instagram Makover class, Author Accelerator Book Coaching Certification course, and my newly joined Hope*Writers community. I assumed, since I purchase them, I needed to continue with the instruction and connection.
These are the answers I received:
I also had a pull (not totally surprising, since this is why I entered the writing field) towards memoir. I have lived an adventurous life, with ups and downs, challenges and disappointments. But God used those times to draw me to Himself.
He also made it clear as I contemplated my career in the chapel, that my words are like seeds sown in the world. Someday, they will grow to touch hearts with the truths of God's Word and eventually change lives. I can't do it, but He can—through me!
Have you taken time away for any reason to get your priorities in order? Or maybe you just needed a rest. Either way, we all need the opportunity to pull away from the busyness and listen. You'll be surprised what God will whisper in your ear.
Experiencing a bit of cabin fever lately? Maybe you live in a tropical climate and are able to get out any day at any time. Well, I'm honestly jealous. But if you live in the mid to far north hemisphere, winter is showing it's true colors. White and not-so-white.
Coupled with the coronacrisis lockdowns, it can be spirit-zapping!
Well, I decided I was going to get out for a quick morning walk Monday through Friday, and keep my eyes focused on my environment, no matter how bleak it seemed. Come along with me (leave behind your coats, boots and other winter accessories) and I will share my discoveries!
Can anything good come from a crisis? Particularly, the Covid-19 Pandemic? I've been thinking a lot about it lately, as I watch life as we once knew it fade into the distance, and a new normal come to the forefront. People grumble and panic. They blame and turn inward.
THERE IS A GLIMMER OF HOPE ON THE HORIZON
While some reveal a negative attitude in response to what is swirling around them, (let's not mention the TP frenzy), others are doing something positive during this crisis. And I believe for many, it comes from deep inside with a heart of faith in God and His providence. Or, maybe for some, motivation to help the less fortunate.
Whichever it is, I am thankful. And I stand back with awe and gratitude. For a person of my age, I'm supposedly meant to hunker down at home. Well, I'm trying my best. But there are times. . .
Our family had the opportunity last Saturday to watch A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood starring Tom Hanks, who, by the way, did a fabulous job portraying Mr. Rogers. It would not surprise me if he won an Oscar. It helped me understand the heart behind the man so dearly loved by his young viewers.
It's not as easy as it seems. . .
People think an author sits and drinks lattes as words stream from her pen. Then off to submit to agents and editors. In a few weeks, voilá - a contract. Soon, royalties come streaming in, and the celebrated author is on the way to her villa in Santorini. Or maybe Tuscany.
And now for something completely different. Do you love to share newsworthy articles? Love to inspire your readers? Or, are you a history buff, but sadly, with very little time to read? Do I have news for you! Apps you'll love. Since I am a Mac girl, these three are found at the app store. If you are an android user, good news - it's available for you as well.
Six years ago, our family took a Revolutionary tour of Valley Forge, Yorktown and Philadelphia. We learned many fascinating facts during our time there. I thought it would be appropriate this week to share parts of it with you. Our first stop was Independence Hall, where all our founding documents were deliberated and signed.
Ten days ago I returned exhausted from three whirlwind days of our regional SCBWI Conference. Wow. I couldn't take it all in -- there was so much to absorb! There were workshops and keynote addresses by seasoned authors, a bookstore to shop to our wallet's delight, and of course, a county fair to top all county fairs.
Topics from how to garner invites for author visits to social media marketing and what to look for in an agent. And the customary craft courses on voice, editing and character.
If you've been to a writer's conference, you know how daunting it can be. So what are the 5 things to remember? Let me outline them simply here:
1. BE COMFORTABLE
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing (with a sweater or jacket to ward off a chill in case the rooms are freezing). Bring snacks, a method to take notes, and a tote, small suitcase or large purse to hold all the conference goodies and handouts.
2. BE WILLING
If you live in the area, (but even if you don't) volunteer to help set up registration, drive speakers to and from the airport, or attend to the needs of the host for a workshop. I offered to pick up a well-known author after her flight, and ended up having a friendly and insightful conversation. I realized she has some of the same issues as we debut authors do!
3. BE FRIENDLY
Network with attendees, authors, agents and editors. Sit with them at a meal, chat in the lounge, or catch them at the end of a workshop. They are humans like you and me. No need to be intimidated! If you don't try, you'll never feel comfortable around them. And don't underestimate the importance of conversing with fellow writers, even if they haven't published yet. We all have valuable things to share. Bring business cards to pass out, and be sure to follow them on social media. Who knows where that will lead!
4. BE REALISTIC
Don't expect to land an agent or sign a contract at your very first conference. Yes, it has happened, but chances are slim. It doesn't mean you or the conference was a failure. It does mean you have accumulated tips and tricks for your writer's journey that will eventually lead to a contract. Put into practice all the things you are learning, and move forward. Good news may be around the next corner, whether that is next month or next year!
Remember those notes you took? Hopefully, while in the workshops, you highlighted or circled the items you needed to work on first. Maybe it's editing your latest manuscript, or submitting to that awesome agent you talked with -- just make sure you've perused their wishlist before submitting. Get to work immediately on those tasks. As I write this, I'm reminding myself I have not followed through on my own advice. Believe me, I will miss out if I don't move ahead. Don't be like me!
This is the first time I've attended a conference as a debut author. So I was honored to see my little MG historical fiction nestled among the great kid lit authors of the Midwest. Well, maybe a bit intimidating, too. And although I sold only one, I discovered another author had sold none. So, I didn't worry. We all need to begin somewhere. And I am firmly traveling down the path of marketing, writing and submitting.
Here I am below, ready to sign the one book purchased. But no one showed up. No worries, because two-thirds of the attendee authors didn't show, and the few that sat at their assigned place faithfully and waited, had no books to sign. But, we took photos of each other, then exchanged and signed our books. Win-win. Just not in the usual sense.
Can you think of other points to remember when attending a writer's conference? Which conferences have helped you the most on your writer's journey? Tell me in the comments below. . .
Speaking of debut authors -- The Heart Changer has 12 reviews right now. Can you help me reach 20? If you have read my story, please give me an honest review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and/or Bookbub. You can copy and paste the same review to all the online sites. Easy-peasy!
I'd sure appreciate it!
What exactly is a reader soulmate? That was the question poised to us in Colleen Riordan’s Wild Ink Marketing beta course. To put it simply, it's that person who will fall in love with your book. Or purchase it for a child, grandchild, local library or classroom.
Colleen challenged us to answer three questions our reader soulmate would ask if she were perusing the shelves in a bookstore, and happened to lay eyes on our book:
1. Does this book contain the types of characters, plots and themes I enjoy? (Is it my favorite genre?)
2. Can I afford this right now? (Will it be worth my time and money?)
3. Do I need this? (Can I walk out of the store without it, or must it become my next read?
I attempted to answer those questions in my video - take a listen!
I love a good writing prompt. But sometimes, I fight them. Mostly because the memories of my past have faded far too fast. So, I began to use the prompts to remind myself of my adventurous childhood. In fact, it was when my almost-one-hundred-year-old mother passed away in 2008, I began my writer’s journey.
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.