Yes, on Saturday I had the truly wonderful opportunity to attend the James River Writers Conference here in Richmond, VA. From what I’ve seen of other writers conferences, this one is smaller, but even more awesome because everything is so up close and personal. Anytime you can sit and listen to Barbara Kingsolver (of "Poisonwood Bible” fame- yes, pick your jaw up off the floor) chat with Erica Orloff while you’re having lunch at a table with a couple of editors, after which you are going to go have a pitch meeting with an agent...well, let’s just say I call that a good day.
It was a really good day. And I’m sure you’re wondering how my pitch went...well...it was great! The agent really seemed to “get” my book, and she was super nice and asked me some great questions, one of which was about how the love story part of the book turned out in the end and when I told her she said, “Oh, good. That’s what I was hoping for.” :-) She asked me to send her the first 25 pages, so I’ll be doing that this week! Hurrah!!
Okay, back to the rest of the conference. Let’s start with the plenary session: “Ideas Worth Writing.” Stacy Whitman was the first speaker, and she talked about finding your voice. She said:
- Voice must come from the writer: it’s not something that can be edited into existence.
- A story may have been told before, but it’s never been told in your voice. Voice is important!
- READ! Read stuff in your style AND outside your style. Don’t let your voice get completely swallowed up in one style or author.
- WRITE! Use your own experiences and try to “hear” your characters in your head. Take notes of the things people around you say, and their expressions. It’s okay to base your characters off of real-life people.
This is an amazing creation by a very talented artist who drew these visual notes AS the speakers were speaking during the plenary session. It was really something to watch. After it was finished, they had it on display in the lobby. It’s not only fun to look at, but there is some really great advice in there! Click on it to see a larger version.
Moving on to Brian J. Jones, who took his cues from Jim Henson, whose official biography he wrote:
- If it’s something you love enough, you can make a living at it.
- “Puppets without trained puppeteers are a toy box. Writing without trained writers is a phone book.”
- Give yourself permission to really stink at writing- behind closed doors. Apparently when John Lennon was writing “Something in the Way She Moves” he couldn’t think of a good word to come after “attracts me like ____” so someone told him to just put a random word there and move on. The word he chose? “Cauliflower.”
- Jim Henson was constantly told “no.” So he just kept going.
- Be original. Do your OWN thing.
- Have FUN!
Next week I have a very exciting interview for you, but don’t worry, more writing conference notes will come in the weeks to follow!