I drove up to Monte Sano to experience the second Monte Sano Writers conference. The morning was crisp and spring made no apologies for her arrival. The church was tucked up in the woods along the edge of the Monte Sano State Park. The setting alone was enough to make me want to write.
I had packed my laptop, my tablet and my notepads. The last several conferences I had attended were social media focused, so I fell into that technology trap. High on a mountain, out in the woods, will break that technology trap. I returned to my pad and pencil for most of the day.
It was nice to break the pattern of checking social media, tweeting and commenting on sites. I had the opportunity to just listen and engage with In Real Life people. Maybe that is the true benefit of a conference – aside from the foundation of building relationships. I am pushed to a new place and from that new place I can learn a new direction, see from a new direction or just step out in a new direction.
Top Tips from the Monte Sano Writers Conference 2014
– Even published authors struggle with their talents. One of the writers that spoke shared a story about how one of the stories from her published SERIES had been made into a movie, but she still felt inadequate in so many ways. Art is so subjective – whether it is the printed word, painting or singing. You have to be bold in your understanding of what you are doing and why you are doing it if you are going to survive that subjectiveness.
– Editors are NOT magicians or fairy godparents. They are working for a living to find viable authors and manuscripts that will make their company money so that they can continue to work for a living and find viable authors and manuscripts that will make their company money. Ami McConnell did a wonderful job of explaining what editors do and why they do it. She definitely revealed the value of a committed editor.
– The words are not about me but about the experience I give to the reader. Although the words are about me (because I am crafting them and sacrificing for them) but I have to learn to insert the reader into each moment so that the reader becomes invested in the words, the characters and the story. Milam Propst delighted me with her enthusiasm and stories and especially her wisdom.
– Humor makes it all a little easier (and better). Even tough situations can be bridged with the right tough of humor. I missed the sessions led by Robert Benson, but his humor stood out during the panel discussions. “I write memoirs so I always write in first person and I’m usually tense.” He also offered some insight into the path of writing. “I just keep telling my story over again hoping I will learn something in the telling and you will gain something in the reading.”
– Know your reasons for writing. Many of the people that attend writing conferences (or any conference for that matter) are looking for the secret handshake or magic bean. Ami McConnell reminded us to learn our individual passions and to then follow that passion to our unique purpose. And for those that are in it for the money, Marilyn Baxter reminded us that “my name may not be on the story but I am fine with that as long as my name is on the check.” Know your reasons and they will guide you in the right direction.
– Bloggers and writers are not from the same planet. Yes, bloggers can be writers and writers can blog, but bloggers often more aware of social media opportunities. Not one of the presenters offered a hashtag or twitter handle. Only one of the presenters even had that information available in the packet, but then Homer Hickam comes from the world of technology and he understands that yes, it can be rocket science.
– Writing is a job, an adventure and a challenge. You need to read everything through before you sign anything (great advice for life). You need to develop a plan for writing, publishing and marketing. You need to ask more questions until you have no more questions to ask. Homer Hickam has been in the industry since he was in third grade (although he had to take a break because of an incident at that time that revoked his first amendment rights) and his insight into the elements of the publishing world was astounding.
I found a different way to look at things. I discovered a new focus for my life and for ministry. Just as important, I learned some of the “what not to do’s” that can end up hindering my right direction. Attending conferences can build new relationships and open doors. The real value behind the conferences is the insight you gain about your next step.