I hate road trips, growing restless, figity, after half an hour behind the wheel.
But today I hit the road at 6:30 a.m., taking the almost two hour drive from the north suburbs of Detroit to somewhere in Lansing, MI, in stride, because I was attending and presenting at the 29th annual A Rally of Writers put on by Linda Peckham and her awesome team.
The Rally was everything a writer’s conference should be: fun, informative, full of cool people, adequate time to learn and reflect, and as promised, great cookies.
Here are a few of the things I learned:
- Lev Raphael, who teaches creative writing at Michigan State, presents all over the planet, and writes mysteries, was the keynote. He calls himself an “escaped academic” and was quick to say something I have said for a long time: Writing is not just an art, it is a business. Once the writing is done, we must think about marketing. He also said we should not shirk from reading bad work because we can learn from it. His example was 50 Shades of Grey, of which he said, “Her sex scenes were like a Picasso. You can’t figure out what is there or where,” which the audience, including me found hysterically funny.
- Bonnie Jo Campbell facilitated a session on writing Very Very Short Fiction, presenting a number of short shorts from several writers. Great to study, great to know, that what we might have called a “vignette” years ago is now microfiction! I especially loved the work by Stuart Dybek, whose books I plan to purchase. His short short called “Ransom” goes like this: Broke and desperate, I kidnapped myself. Ransom notes were sent to interested parties. Later, I sent hair and fingernails, too. They insisted on an ear. Ha! Would we could all write like that, eh? If you haven’t heard of Bonnie Jo, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. The opening paragraph of the title story (which is more than halfway into this volume of shorts) blew me away. I read it four or five times, just because I thought it was so well done! Bonnie also said, “Every one of my novels is a failed short story,” which I totally understand.
- There are as many kinds of writers as there are people under the sun. I had stunning conversations with people whose experience and writing is diametric to mine, and what a delight it was.
My Speaking Skills for Writers workshop went well, with a full room of delightful people willing (mostly) to come to the front of the room and share their work. I love helping writers make the most of whatever speaking opportunities they have! If you are in a writing group that might benefit from this workshop, let me know.
Oh, yeah, and I met a guy who shares my surname and as near as we can figure from comparing great-grandfather’s names, we may be some sort of distant cousins. How cool is that?
Have you been to a Writer’s Conference recently? Tell us where, and what you learned!