This past weekend, I attended the Columbus State Writer’s Conference, held at Columbus State Community College (Columbus, Ohio). This was my first visit to a writer’s conference, and an achievement of one my self-improvement goals for 2014. * It afforded me the opportunity to learn, to stretch myself, to people watch, and to improve my writing.
It was a great experience, and I was able to develop some new ideas. Though my self-consciousness seemed to be aware that I was the “new kid,” I didn’t keep to myself too much (that’s difficult – being the introvert). My self-development goal of marketing myself was enhanced by a couple of conversations with some small press representatives and other writers. The observation was made that many of the writers using small presses today don’t know how to market themselves. And I suppose that writers can be an introverted bunch…that’s likely an over-generalization, as writers probably represent many personality types, but the things that make writers write: introspection, long hours focusing on details, developing ideas in their heads…would lead one to think that – yes – many writers don’t self-promote very well.
What they can do, however, is tell their stories.
Case in point: I was perusing the book displays, when I walked up to a table hosted by modest looking grey-haired gentleman and remarked,”This book is titled with a Beatle lyric…how about that?” It turns out that this collection of short fictions, entitled And Your Bird Can Sing, by Robert Miltner, held all works that he had entitled with Beatle’s lyrics. Dr. Miltner then proceeded to eloquently and excitedly explain his writing process for this book. I was enthralled. Not only was this a creative use of pop culture, but he had also mastered the art of story-telling, just to explain to me how this book came to be.
Through the day, I attended several well-done seminars, one on using maps to develop ideas, another on the value of research to flesh out ideas (I’ve decided that to be a research-writer is my dream career – it combines many of the elements that I enjoy most – looking up information, summarizing it, the thrill of knowing bits of trivia, deciding how the information works with what you are writing, developing ideas), how to assemble a chapter book (a challenge that I will be pursuing), and the intersection of philosophy and poetry.
The people watching at this conference was great. So many different personalities were on display, ranging from the typical student (eager, quiet, shy) to the aspiring graduate (well dressed, outspoken, bold), the avocational writer (relaxed, dedicated, inquisitive), the story-teller (gregarious, passionate, opinionated), the publisher (realistic, informative, resigned).
At the end of the day, what you write about and how you write (your process) doesn’t really matter. It is whether your writing is “charged”, and readers believe you, and want to immerse themselves in your “story”. I have to continue to learn about or develop the world as I need/want/wish it to be seen. This is especially true for poetry, because oftentimes we don’t know how a piece will be perceived.
You can give it a sense of place, you can charge it with a feeling that could be familiar, you could even give it something new, or even made-up. As the presenters of the philosophy-poetry seminar said, without “not knowing”, creativity would not be possible…
It was a day well-spent.
* And based on my experience, I’m going to be seeking other opportunities to attend conferences and writing workshops.