I once heard a published author say how she no longer attends writer’s conferences because, “it’s just the same information, over and over again.” This astounded me in two ways: First over her belief that she’s heard every bit of information on writing ever possible and second, does a sold book mean you no longer needed to learn?

So. Not. True. My best writing advice can be boiled down to four words:

Write. Read. Learn. Repeat.

With this in mind, I was excited about our regional SCBWI conference! It was once again held at The Claggett Conference Center in Buckeystown, Maryland but this year, they had the Christiane Inn ready, so attendees were able stay on premise. Being able to walk to my room was super nice!

IMG_1412The conference kicked off with a fantastic keynote speech by E.B. Lewis. He was amazing! Some of my favorite talks have been given by illustrators and he now ranks among the top. And it’s funny how sometimes you hear exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need to hear it. Lately I’ve been working hard identifying my true self and what I want to accomplish as a writer. So it hit home when E.B. used this Mark Twain quote…

The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.

…before going on to share (and my apologies for not remembering this word-for-word,) an analogy of somebody standing at the end of a cliff, looking up to a group of people standing on top of the mountain above him. He asked them, “how did you get there?” to which they responded, “We jumped.” Meaning, in order to reach higher goals and climb to the top of that mountain, you must first take a risk and jump instead of just talking about jumping.

How true.

IMG_1414Next I attended freelance writer and editor, Kate Angelella’s class on revision since I’m now revising a mid-grade novel called The Glory Girls of Stockyard County that’s about girls’ baseball in the 1970’s. Again, although I’ve gone to lots of classes on rewriting a manuscript, Kate offered tons of awesome input plus a checklist of things to ask yourself before doing a second draft that is now loaded into my Scrivener novel template!

After lunch, (oh man, I seriously indulged this weekend,) I decided to join some other pals for some quiet writing time seeing as how Kate’s revising advice was swirling in my head. I couldn’t miss a social media class given by Susan Raab in the afternoon, though, since I’m in the process of figuring out what my brand is and how to reinvent my platform.

(By the way … after being asked, “You’re the runner, right?” and having people tell me how they enjoy my crazy race recaps, I’m thinking going with crazy writer/runner might be okay after all.)

With a few more pages full in my notepad thanks to Susan’s great input, we headed to dinner and then to the Inn where we joined E.B. for some wine (well, beer for me,) and a viewing of one of his favorite movies, The Book Thief. How appropriate was that film, considering the strong message at the end that we–as writers–need to share our stories with the world?

On Sunday, I attended a fantastic intensive workshop on social media by Susan Raab that had us digging in deep to figure out our brand, the message we want to give the world, and how to market our books. Somewhere in the middle, I started to wonder why none of my characters are runners. I  mean, running is a major part of my life. And you know what they say … write what you’re passionate about. So I pondered on it a bit and BAM, an idea smacked me right in the forehead and the first three chapters laid out perfectly in my head.

And then I started thinking about something Shelley Koon and I were talking about the night before, and double BAM, another character and story idea popped in my head.

See? Going to conferences is good.

Of course, now I’m really excited about these ideas. But no, they need to simmer until Glory Girls is finished. So does another project–on Saturday, Kara Laughlin approached us As The Eraser Burns bloggers about bringing back May Mid-Grade Madness again this year which absolutely, we’re on board, but it’s going to be hard fitting that in my schedule!

(Kara has created a Facebook page for the challenge if you’re interested in more info!)

IMG_1419All in all, I had a great time and came away learning a lot. So if you’re a pre-published author, (I do not dare say “aspiring writer” after reading an amazing blog post by Kristen Lamb–you must give this a read!) and you have the opportunity to attend a conference … GO! You won’t regret it.

Happy writing and running!

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