Did I mention that the Mayborn was chock full of informative lectures and panels? I know I’ve talked about my fabulous, amazing workshop, and the Oprah Incident, and a few social events here and there. But lest you think that the entire conference was held in the bar, I now present a run-down of a few memorable presentations.
I loved Melissa Shultz. She started the conference off on Saturday morning with a lecture on free-lance writing that had lots of meaty information. She presented Ten Keys to Success in Free-lancing, ranging from "establish a plan" to "learn how to market" to "be an armadillo" (i.e., learn how to take rejection). I especially liked her advice that sometimes you might want to generate a concept for a potential client. For instance, a client may not understand that he needs to utilize good SEO techniques to drive people to his website. Once you explain SEO to him, perhaps he will hire you to write it. Or maybe you can convince a small business owner that she needs a newsletter. It pays to be creative in conceptualizing.She also gave me a couple good tips about the business side of things and reminded me I need to be much more organized on the book-keeping. If I pay attention to her, maybe next year it won’t take me a whole day to go through receipts come tax time.
Melissa shared several websites for free-lancers and I list them here:
American Society for Journalists and Authors
I had the opportunity to get to know Melissa a little at the Joyce Carol Oates reception, where we had a fine time talking about mid-life crises, and more the next day. She is also a literary agent with Jim Donovan Literary.
For a good interview with Jim Donovan, click here.
I also enjoyed Rob Kaiser, who is the writing coach for the San Antonio Express-News. He did a great lecture on Impressionistic Writing. Kaiser says that Impressionistic Writing is "not beholden to the timely or the famous but to truths of the world that transcend those things."
I just loved that.
He talked about how, really, with the right treatment any event or person can become a story and he urged writers to "stick to the sights and sounds of a scene as you saw it," and then with your own sensibility turn it into a story.
Here’s my take-away quote from his presentation: "Electronic media is the mirror on the living-room wall that reflects back at us but print media can be the impressionist painting." Nice.
Christine Wicker wrote Not in Kansas Anymore and also Lily Dale, The True Story of the Town That Talks to the Dead. She says she writes about the "nut factor," or what people really want to know about the story. That you’ll find the meat of the story when you figure out what it is that people really want to know.
On the difference between journalism and book writing she says, "If it happened and it’s interesting–that’s sufficient" for a journalist to write about. However, for an author, "interesting is not enough. You have to know what your readers care about."
She also made what I thought was a great point–that one thing the reader always wants to know about is the author of the book. That sometimes that can be the thing that pulls readers through the pages. Think about it. Isn’t that true? If you are reading a novel, aren’t you always glancing back to the author photo, reading the bio, wondering how closely the book echoes the author’s life? And if you are reading non-fiction, aren’t you wondering how the story was researched and written?
Finally, I want to talk about Erik Calonius, who wrote The Wandered: The Last American Slave Ship and the Conspiracy that Set Its Sails. He gave such a great talk on the process of writing his book, how he discovered the story, how he researched it, and how he shaped the narrative. And even though it was Sunday morning and I could barely see, I hung on every word.