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Rally of Writers 2012 Highlights

Last weekend, Miss Moppet and I attended the 25th annual Rally of Writers here in beautiful Lansing, Michigan. It was attended by a couple hundred writers and a goodly variety of authors and writing professors. YOURS TRULY won the grand door prize, a character named after me in the next Loren Estleman novel. Within a couple of years or so, I will be making an appearance in a Western or a mystery paperback. Fun!

Some other highlights of the Rally included:

For only $30, I purchased the services of a professional editor to review the first 10 pages of my work in progress, Briars and Black Hellebore. It was enormously helpful and wonderfully encouraging. I have already rewritten my first chapter (all of it--she asked lots of questions and discussed with me about what came after those 10 pages) according to her rock-solid advice, and I feel better about my manuscript than ever before. There's nothing like having a professional polish up that first chapter to remove niggling doubts and other obstacles to moving forward, confidently, with the rest of the book.

I also found inspiration and encouragement in a workshop by Meagan Francis, a local mom blogger, journalist, and author who writes about parenting. She talked about platform-building, owning your expertise about your own family experiences, and generating a following. I had lots of ideas about how to make my blog more professional and successful, most of which I will probably not bother to use. Before I have a manuscript finished, I have vowed to save most of my energy for that--and meanwhile, it's nice and low pressure to keep The Magic Nutshell a giant bag of random crazy. Which brings me to...

Andrea King Collier, another local author and "contentpreneur," gave a hilarious (as always) off-the-cuff presentation on multimedia storytelling--more about building platform and following. The major point I took away from Collier's talk is that you have to find your own unique way of doing things that works for you. She is a great example of walking that walk. She knows her target audience--politically progressive, middle-aged women with a sense of humor--and she wastes no energy trying to please anyone else or trying to be anything she is not. She avoids doing annoying or toxic things on Twitter and Facebook, but she does not avoid being casual and authentic, even if that means posting opinions about her favorite sitcoms and cracking jokes. She relates to her friends and fans in the way that is most natural for her. Below is Collier's recent Ted Talk, which she made up pretty much on the spot, to the consternation of the event producers. Collier knows from experience that she is best at improv and that rehearsal kills her groove. "I can only do it once," she said. So that is what she did.

The whole experience of the Rally left me with a sense of confidence and clarity about moving forward with my novel and with my expectations about life as a writer. I hope for and expect to make money from my writing in the future, but I know it will probably have to come with hard work, complicated sales pitches, and inconsistent paychecks. And that whatever my experience ends up being, it will be solely my own. The life of a writer is solitary; every writer's style, journey, and definition of success is unique. There is no formula that applies to every one of us. That is both terrifying and very, very exciting. It was great to attend a writing conference and share a little of the lonely bewilderment and passion with others who understand.


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