When you’re a new writer, you hear lots of advice. I tried to give some of what was helpful for me on this very blog. Among these, one of the more popular is “Attend writers conferences”. Well, I was lucky enough to be invited to join my writing coach (Christina Ranallo) who held a mini-workshop at the big Crossroads Writers Conference in Macon, GA. Following my experience I’d have to agree – it’s a good advice!

I won’t write a full-blown, moment-by-moment review of every speaker. It will likely bore you. First of all, each speaker has his style and things don’t always “translate” well on paper. Second, If I’d attempt it, it would take a week to write… I will however try to outline a few lessons learned in this conference and hopefully it will help you as well as encourage you to find a good writers conference to attend.

Lesson #1, delivered by Bernice McFadden – author of “Gathering of Waters,” “Sugar” – Don’t give up!

Bernice shared her experience with rejection. You hear that a lot from writers, but she was rejected after already being quite an established full-time writer. Her book “Sugar” was being ignored and dropped by many agents and publishers and harsh words were spoken about her (To the extent of dooming her career). The thing that hit a note with me was when Bernice mentioned the little voice in her head saying “Don’t worry, keep going.” To hear someone show so much faith and dedication, completely ignoring “what the neighbor says” is very encouraging. I think I’ll heed this advice and never give up until my book will be in print. And the next ones too.

Lesson #2, delivered by Delilah S. Dawson – author of “Wicked as They Come” – Get off your island!

Delila made a nice little analogy about how writers often feel when they start out. A lot of us start writing with some enthusiasm and at a certain point we might stop and think “What now? Is there anybody out there? What do I do? Who do I talk to?”. Like a person stranded on an island. That person is spending a long time standing on the beach, looking out at the endless ocean waiting for a ship to come. The problem with that is of course – the ship may never come… The same applies to writers. Especially in our times. No one will come looking for you! It’s the sad truth. Deal with it. How? By going “Out there.” to the internet – Facebook, Twitter are the more trivial places, but there are plenty more. Delila shared some good advice about researching agents (If you’re looking to be traditionally published). She called it “Agent stalking” which I liked. Be prepared is what she says. Build a raft, put a lot of water and food so you can get out of your little island and make it TO the ship. Again, good advice.

Lesson #3, delivered by Robert Venditti – creator of “Surrogates,” writer of “X-O Manowar” – You don’t always know the answers. That’s perfectly fine!

Robert’s speech was fascinating through and through. The main point I wanted to highlight refers to the axiom – “Write what you know”. This is a first hand confirmation to something Joseph Heller once said about this – This does not mean that you have to know about this from personal experience. What you know is merely What interests you and gets you going. Of course there’s much to be said for research and learning about what you want to write about, but the most important thing is – You don’t even have to know the answers to all the questions you pose as you write. At least not at the time you write them. I strongly agree with Robert’s opinion that in fact, you don’t have to answer all of these questions! What’s more exciting than raising a question that makes you think as a writer? A question that makes the reader think about through the book and after he puts the book down?

Lesson #4, delivered by Adam Mansbach – author of “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” “Angry Black White Boy” – WRITING SHOULD BE FUN!

By far, the most engaging and down to earth part of the conference. First of all, I absolutely LOVED the fact that Adam spoke to me as another human being. This is not a dig at the other great speakers. Simply a contrasting style. For the duration of his speech I was completely engaged and I wasn’t the only one. Adam loves what he does and it shows. He’s enthusiastic about his ideas and concepts and he doesn’t shy away from making his mark very pointedly. I also liked that he spoke directly, honestly and at eye level. I think this is extremely important for a new writer who just wants to understand this mine field we call “writing”. His speech was not about giving advice, but I was still able to walk away with an important lesson – Enjoy what you do, do the best fucking job possible and be happy. This is not small change. In a panel about screen writing, Adam was also the one to point out that there’s a lot of bullshit and insincerity involved and that it’s up to the writer to either learn to play this game, or decide to stay away from it all together (Away from politics, not the writing).

Before I go the fuck to sleep, I’ll add a few more words.I went to the conference with my writing coach, Christina Ranallo.

Christina was invited to give a mini workshop on The Hero’s Journey. I don’t know anyone (and I’ve listened to many) who can go through the Hero’s Journey better than her. Christina truly understands what Campbell taught, knows how to deliver it and make it relevant to any form of fiction you write.

This is NOT lip service!

Don’t take my word for it. Take the word of the many writers who packed the room in Macon. Better yet, if you’re in Atlanta or around it – take her workshop. I was sitting among the rest of the large group of writers and some of the comments I’ve heard were “This is exactly what I came here for!” and “That’s the best part of this conference!“.

That says a lot, due to the fact that the conference was fascinating as a whole!

That’s all from me for this Saturday night. See you next year CW Macon!

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