Symposium Withdrawal

August 4, 2015

book stackFor those of you who don’t know it, I have the honor of serving as the president of the Virginia Writers Club, one of the oldest, continuous writing clubs in the country. Part of what I do is help with the annual writers symposium. (Commercial announcement: 6th Annual VWC Symposium, August 6th, 2016, Charlottesville, VA)

Working with Maggie Duncan, the first vice president, and several volunteers including Chuck Lumpkin, Kimba Dalferes and Linda Layne, we put together a series of panel discussions and in-depth workshops on both the craft and business of writing. Participants learned about writing poetry, science fiction, and mysteries. They learned how to assemble an anthology. They learned about self-publishing, the importance of hiring a professional editor, of using social media to connect with readers, and what to expect when their book is about to be released.

Have you ever tried to herd 75+ creative types from room to room? These are folks who enjoy breaking the rules, not noticing there are lines where they should color, and in general doing their own thing. Kinda like herding cats.

Our keynote speaker was Sharyn McCrumb, the NYTimes best selling author. She entertained us with a talk on the similarities of marketing between being a writer and a NASCAR driver. So what do these two opposites have in common?

To be successful you have to have a great product. For the race driver it’s a fantastic car. For the writer it’s a well-written, professionally edited and designed book. Race drivers need teams behind them with deep pockets. Writers need the same: top publishers, promotional teams, and deep pockets.

Race drivers do more than drive around an oval at top speeds, They need training, the team behind them, and guts to drive at 180 mph. Writers need to rearrange 26 letters into words, words into sentences, and sentences into chapters. They need a team behind them and the guts to put their stories out for the public to find and read. The audience laughed until our sides ached.

It’s not as easy as it looks from the outside, but the folks I talked with all walked out with one trick to use today, something they hadn’t thought about, something they’d tried earlier but now wanted to tweak and try again.

If you are a writer, I urge you to go to writers workshops. They help. And you get to network with other writers who share your anguish. They’ve walked in your shoes. They are more than willing to help you take your first or next steps.

The program went off without much of a hitch. Well, there was one near disaster. I broke a nail just before we set up the registration table. Nearly ruined my whole day.

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