Heading to the 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference, I had lofty goals of posting my insights and observations from the show floor, but there was so much going on I didn’t get a chance. (Apologies).
But wow. What a great conference. One of my personal highlights was moderating a fiction panel with Benjamin LeRoy, Publisher of Tyrus Books, Millicent Bennett, Senior Editor at Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster; and novelist and writing coach Holly Payne. It was a great conversation that covered ways to go about submitting work to editors and how to create successful submissions, but soon evolved to general discussion about the importance of the craft of writing. It was so refreshing in the age of author platforms and social media to hear editors put the emphasis on good writing. Bottom line: marketing yourself is important, but make sure your writing is ready for that… be a good writer first, then look to become an author.
I spent the rest of the weekend meeting with authors and dipping in and out of some really great sessions including one by A.J. Jacobs, author of The Year of Living Biblically. Jacobs gave some great advice in a talk titled “Writing About Yourself in the Digital Age,” and anyone interested in writing memoir or personal fiction could benefit from his ideas. Some of his words of advice:
- People are inherently interesting, provide insightful details to turn them into characters
- Be expansive… write about the world as you write about yourself
- Know what details to emphasize and what to leave out to get to the real story
I also always enjoy listening to literary agent Donald Maass speak. Maass shared his views on trends in fiction and how the lines between literary fiction and genres are becoming blurred. Maass’s message is that the most successful writing will “marry great storytelling and beautiful writing.” Expect more from Maass about this in his forthcoming book with WD, Writing 21st Century Fiction.
I spent the rest of my time dipping in and out of some really great sessions and panels and meeting with authors that I’ve worked with. I was also excited to see some familiar faces and catch up with attendees who’ve come to past events, including folks who I’ve had one on one critique meetings with. The conference had a great atmosphere of support and understanding – afterall, we’re all hoping for the same thing: to get published and find success with our writing.