June is always the time of year that I travel down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the annual Southern Christian Writers Conference. Each year I expect to learn something, meet someone or gain something for my writing. This year I also had the opportunity to share a little of my freelance writing experiences.
Writers conferences are great tools for writers at all stages of their career. New writers can learn tips and techniques from those that have “been there and done that.” Experienced writers may gain a new idea, get a hunger for a new genre or meet that one person that begins to open up new doors of opportunity. And there is more than enough going on to meet the needs of those in between.
The Southern Christian Writers Conference was the place that reintroduced me to my passion for writing. This year it has given me a hunger to speak, to teach and to write in ways that I had not thought about previously.
More Things I Learned at the Southern Christian Writers Conference
1. Getting an agent is a job and should be approached professionally. It is important that I understand who the agent is, what they bring to the table and that I have my side of the information (book proposal or completed manuscript) ready to set on the table. Greg Daniels presented two programs about “Finding and Working with a Literary Agent” but his insights into the publication process were as valuable as all the other mountains of information that he provided.
2. Developing a platform is an essential part of getting published in this electronic age. “Platform” was the one phrase I heard time and again from the editors, agents and authors presenting sessions at the Southern Christian Writers Conference. Successful Freelance Writer is one step toward developing my own platform. Having a chance to give one of the opening speeches at the conference was another step. A platform is my way of getting the things I care about in front of an audience.
3. Editors are not the enemy. Cecil Murphey was a keynote speaker but was kind enough to fill in for a session when one of the other presenters became ill. Editors are in the business of making my writing the best that it can be and they deserve that I treat them with a professional attitude that includes meeting (or beating) deadlines and putting forward writing that is checked, rechecked and checked again.
4. Every day I should be working to get better – otherwise there is something wrong with where I am. My best is never enough. I need to be working for my “even better” each day, each article and even each idea that I present to readers, editors or agents.
5. I am not normal. I am an irregular person living a peculiar life in a “normal” world. If you knew me or have now met me then you already realized this was true. The truth is that we are all irregular and that’s what makes us unique.
6. There is more in me than I ever imagined possible. I stood up and spoke in front of almost 200 people. If that wasn’t enough, I used a microphone. I still get butterflies just thinking about it, but I did it. And I know that just like with my writing the next time will be a little easier and a little better. The important thing is that I be so certain of who I am and where I am going that nothing else matters. Vanessa Griggs motivated me to put as much attention into the details of my writing as God puts into creating a flower.
7. It is all about the details. Carol Evans of Birmingham Parent reminded me again that details do count. Information that I provide in my articles should be verified. My mistakes do not just reflect on me and my writing but on any magazine that publishes my work.
8. Proof reading is more than just checking the spelling and the grammar. Proof reading is “proof” that I am putting my best work forward. Rene’ Holt from Mature Living gave me the encouragement to make my writing more than just words on paper but to create an image and fill a need with those words.
9. Friends can be made in the bathroom. Sorry Susan – it had to be said. When we are open to the people around us then there is opportunity to bond with those people. Friendships can be formed in just a few moments shared in the Ladies bathroom, walking to a session or sitting at a meal. It is these friendships that can provide us with the courage to continue pursuing our freelance writing career or to expand our writing into another calling.
10. The speakers are not the only ones that can teach. Small groups at the meals, break out sessions and other down times can all provide learning experiences. Writing is a group activity even when we are typing out on the keyboard alone. It is other writers and readers that can give us the ideas, guidance and inspiration to start a new project or push through an old one.
The Southern Christian Writers Conference is just one of the many opportunities that all writers have at their disposal to expand their industry knowledge and hone their gifts. This year the conference reminded me that my freelance writing career is just one of the steps that I am taking to pursue my passion and follow my purpose.