Friday, May 13, 2016

Conference take-aways

This was my third year attending the UW Writer's Institute. I loved seeing familiar faces and not having the "deer in headlight" first-year attendee look on my face. I adore the cookie and pop (I'm a Minnesotan, folks!) snack break and the continental breakfast. (What can I say? Food helps.) Downtown Madison is a delightful place to explore during lunch break, and the Madison Concourse Hotel is gorgeous. It was a weekend of soaking up encouragement, acquiring accountability, and creating camaraderie. Who doesn't love all that?

One of my favorite workshop presenters this year was Laurie Buchanen. Her insights on writing gave me a much-needed fresh perspective. For instance, she challenged our writing intentions: Do we have good intentions to write or are we actually giving our writing attention? Writing takes Attention rather than Intention. And who could resist Laurie's plea? ("Promise me you'll spend 15min. a day writing.") She concluded with the reminder that, as writers, we are not spending our time or wasting our money by attending writing conferences, workshops, or enrolling in classes. We are investing our time and money. Additionally, several times throughout the weekend I heard, "Butt in chair. Words on paper." Yes, even if the writing sucks. Again, it's an investment.

Many of this year's conference highlights were small, but powerful. For instance, Friday's Success Panel Lunch event implemented tables arranged by genre. While there were only two tables of children's and middle grade genre writers, it was wonderful to network with other picture book writers. Writing is, by nature, a solitary profession, yet we benefit much from drawing together in community. This conference provides exactly that.

The Success Panel is another of my favorite highlights. Getting to meet and listen to fellow conference attendees who are also recently published authors is so cool! They share candidly and humbly. They speak about the joy, and agony, of the publication process. They encourage and admonish. One Success Panel author, Bibi Belford, drew my attention because she is also an educator. She has a debut middle-grade novel titled, "Canned and Crushed." (I'm currently reading it to my nine year old.)

The Writer's Institute is invaluable, and their keynote speakers are spectacular. This year's keynote speaker, Hank Phillippi Ryan, was also no exception. Additionally, the conference follow-ups (Did we feed your writer's soul?) are compelling inspiration to keep the creative juices flowing long after the weekend is over.

Perhaps you'll join me at the Writer's Institute next year? I'd love to see you there!