“You’re a writer? Really? So, how did you get your start?”
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked that question. Fortunately, I have a ready answer: “I went to a good writers conference!”
When I first started writing, I had no clue what I was doing. All I knew was that from the time I was 12, I wanted to be a writer. Time was passing, so it was high time I got going. A friend invited me to go with her to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in California’s beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. She backed out, so I went alone. I arrived to cherry blossoms breezing across the road and dogwood trees just beginning to open their pink and white cross-scarred blooms. More importantly, friendly writers and un-intimidating editors strolled close enough for me talk to.
I hurried over to an editor and proudly handed her my amazingly well-written children’s book manuscript. She was amazingly underwhelmed. (Her exact words: “Keep writing, dear. You’ll get better.” Ouch!) My first inclination was to take the next bus home. Instead, I attended a Major Morning instruction class on the craft of writing (8 hours total) that turned out to be tremendous. Plus I took in a plethora of workshops, and I spent my off-time rewriting like a crazy person. The result was my first published book.
That’s how I got started. And it is just one of the reasons I’m so quick to recommend writers’ conferences to writers–especially those starting out.
If you’re wondering whether or not you should take the time, and lay out the bucks, to attend such a conference, consider:
- You will 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 the writing isn’t up to par. Your writing 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. (They are at Mount Hermon.) 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 that word. In fact, I’m not that crazy about the concept. Gathering up people in order to use them? Uggg! But it can also 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, pros. As in editors and publishers and agents and such. They are at the conference for one simple reason: 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.
Some really good writers’ conferences are coming up. But I especially want to mention the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference that’s just over a month away: April 7 – April 10. Need an extra boost to get started? Check out the “head-start” offering the day before.
So, you ask, “Will you be there, Kay?”
Will I?! Couldn’t keep me away!
For more info check out: mounthermon.org/writers
Want to talk to a real live someone? Call 888-MH-CAMPS
For Christmas, I got my dad a CD of a Popular Mechanics-type magazine from 1919, the year he was born. He loves mechanical type stuff. Always did. In two months, Dad will be 98 years old. Here is the birthday card I found for him:
Funny how times change, isn’t it?
Dad has stories he loves to tell and retell again and again—always with different details. The thing is, more and more his story endings evolve from the way things were to the way he wishes they had been. No use correcting him. No reason to. He’s earned the right to own polished memories. It’s what I will want when I’m 98.
“Nostalgia is the file that removes the rough edges from the good old days.”
~Columnist Doug Larson~
Wars… elections… laws… words. We think we’re doing the right thing. But too often the result is not at all what was intended. Here are a few examples:
- China’s one-child policy: The intention was to control the booming population. And it did that. But since most families wanted that one child to be a son, it has caused a gender crisis. According to the Chinese government, by the year 2020, men of marrying age will outnumber women by at least 30 million.
- CEO salaries: Yes, many of us complain that they are way too high–which they are. So some years ago the SEC stepped in and required that CEO salaries be made public. But instead of shaming CEOs, it showed them that others were getting more, so they demanded more, too. The result? Between 1976 and 1993, CEO salaries leapt from 36 times to 131 times the average worker’s pay!
- Prohibition: The 18th amendment to the US constitution was well-intended. Surely less drinking of alcohol would benefit the country. In 1918, when the law was passed, New York had 5,820 legal bars. By the time it was repealed in December 1933, there were over 100,000 speakeasies.
- Texting while driving: We all know the price we pay on the road for this. There ought to be a law! You would think so, but when such a law was first enforced, auto accidents actually increased. Why? Because rather than stopping their texting, too many people simply moved their phones from the steering wheel to their laps so the police couldn’t so easily see what they were doing. Which meant their eyes were off the road for longer periods of time.
- No more DDT: DDT dangerous to humans? Obvious solution: ban it. When that happened, it had limited impact on people’s health. But it greatly crippled the fight against malaria. Which mean millions of deaths to people–especially children–in developing countries.
The lesson to be learned? Be careful what you wish for. Or vote for. It will likely have unintended consequences. And some of those may well be catastrophic.
“It is much easier at all times to prevent an evil than to rectify mistakes.”
Breaking News: We are in a kindness crisis. Yes, in our own country, but also around the world. Everywhere we look, there seems to be less kindness in public life. Sure, different ones of us will pinpoint different people we think are responsible for it. But whoever is to blame, the sad fact is that the lack of kindness in public is affecting all of us. In ways large and small, it trickles down to us everyday folks, and then we follow suit. The result is that we are less kind to our own families, to our friends, and certainly to the strangers among us.
But here’s the thing: kindness isn’t simply frosting on the cake. Far from it. It’s what makes respectful connections possible. And here’s the good news: opportunities for showing kindnesses are everywhere. The difficulty is with knowing where to start. But that’s also the power of kindness. You don’t need money and you don’t need a ton of time. And you can start right where you are. Some suggestions:
- Pay a compliment.
- Lend a busy mom a helping hand.
- Run an errand for someone who is sick.
- Speak a word of encouragement.
- Remember someone’s birthday.
- Do yardwork for an elderly neighbor.
- Pay a complement to someone not used to it.
If we can help to change the anti-kindness trajectory, it will benefit us all in the long run. But also in the short run. Because when we extend kindness to others, our own negative outlook will become more positive. Let’s try it, shall we?
“Love will draw an elephant through a key-hole.”
I just read a fairly long article on how to get started as a writer. It pretty much gave the same advice I’ve seen countless times before. You probably have too. The article suggests:
- Write what interests you
- Write about what you know about
- Write what you like to read
- Be willing to rewrite
- Network to find writing jobs that will pay
- Don’t give up
Ever heard any of these ideas before? Yeah, me too.
Shortly after I read that, I happened upon a Dr. Oz article titled Living Long and Living Well. Because I really want to do both, I read it. Pretty much the same advice I’ve seen countless times before. You probably have too. He suggests:
- Get daily rigorous physical activity
- Get 15 minutes of sun every day
- Choose natural foods
- Sleep at least seven hours a night
But he had one more suggestion: Have a purpose. Dr. Oz wrote, “There may be no better longevity booster than simply wanting to be here. You have one life; it makes sense to love living it.”
Yes! That’s the secret to writing, too. Want to do it. Write what makes you happy. Write what doesn’t require you to neglect your family, your friends, your community. You have one life in which to write. It makes sense to love doing it.
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville~