August 22nd, 2014

So many things have been brewing since I wrapped up my first-ever Writer’s Digest Annual Conference, in New York, but I wanted to quickly recap some of the highlights from this life changing event.

There were so many amazing sessions, I can’t believe how fortunate I was to take all of this in. Since I am the uber-planner (some of you are saying “you got that right!” – I can hear you… ;-), I carefully chose the panels I planned to attend with specific goals for each.

The most amazing session was the “Agent Boot Camp: Think Strategically! How to Determine the Publishing Plan that’s Right for You and Your Work“. In this incredible presentation, I met April Eberhardt who explained about a brand new way of publishing – Partnership Publishing. This seems to give you the best of a traditional publishing route along with the ability to control the destiny of your works, like self publishing provides. After asking quite a few additional questions throughout the conference, which she gracefully and thoroughly answered, I signed up for a post-conference meeting to get more details on and see if this was something that may more to my liking as I venture forth into the publishing world. (Follow-up: the meeting went very well and I’m working to finalize my manuscript so we can get things underway!) To say the least, this discussion opened my eyes to what I foresee to be most invaluable, regarding my future as not just a writer, but (finally!) a published author.

Another session that proved so invaluable was “The Google+ Advantage: How and Why Authors Should Incorporate Google+ into Their Platforms“, which helped me better understand the way this social media platform actually works. It’s even more powerful than I first imagine and I am still working on implementing all the functionality from this amazing tool.

The “Networking for Writers: The Most Important Skill You Never Knew You Needed” session, by the amazingly entertaining Mare Swallow, was another surprising session. What should be common sense for any given social setting was discussed, with some interesting and funny/horrifying life stories, as well as some tips for making great impressions with potential literary contacts that can help you in this somewhat fickle industry. Mare also discussed, with great passion I might add, her wonderful non-profit organization Chicago Writers Conference, detailing how her work there has also taught her some invaluable IRL social skills.

The last session I want to comment on is “7 Steps to Stronger Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels“, by Gabriela Pereira, which proved to be as surprisingly enjoyable for an overly crowded event as I have ever attended. She made the session interesting and added details around her points that made them very easy to relate to. It seems common sense, but Gabriela laid it out so we could build on her information as we progressed. I, for one, appreciated the thought that went into her presentation and have made several references to this material in my own edits that I’ve been working though these past couple of weeks.

Finally, the keynote speakers were stellar. I am a bit embarrassed that I didn’t know these wonderful people prior to the event. Now that I know more about their work and the people they are, I have become fans of their works. The first of three, on for each day of the conference, stood out for me. The title, “Opening Keynote: Have I Read Anything You’ve Written?: Granting Ourselves the Permission to Face the Blank Page“, by Dani Shapiro, delivered on its promise. It was filled with the passion that I have now found to be part of her writing. In this presentation, she spoke of her personal trials and tribulations, bringing me to tears with her reading of the final page in her amazing memoir Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life and Devotion, which I purchased immediately after her wonderful speech. To my surprise, the hardback book was beautifully crafted with rough edged pages that reminded me of ancient texts only visible through protective glass. Somehow, this seemed the proper way to present this body of work, which I have thoroughly enjoyed since the conference, even though these are not usually my kind of thing. I aspire to be half the writer of this amazing woman, as well as Harlan Coben (day two speaker) and Kimberla Lawson Roby (closing keynote speaker).

That wraps up my session related highlights of this amazing event. As an added bonus, I met so many wonderful people that I’ve been keeping in touch with via various social media venues. This event was my own personal Mt. Everest and I feel like the top was even more amazing than I could’ve ever dreamed. I celebrate all those who ventured to this particular mountain top with me. Here’s to many other climbs in our future! <clink>

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