Getting the most out of writing conferences

Gill and Coudal at the National Arts Club

Yesterday I was studying memoir with the International Women’s Writing Guild at the National Arts Club. It was a great group of women in New York’s most beautiful brownstone.

This morning I was journaling about how much I love writing conferences and being in community with other writers. I also love Twitter chats around the hashtags #blogchat and #wjchat (web journalist).

Writing is a solitary endeavor so communing with other writers online or in person inspires and energizes me. I fill my soul with other writers’ stories and feel less lonely and more courageous when I return to my writer’s desk to write my own story.

Here is advice on attending writing conferences:

  • Sit in the front, pay attention
  • When a volunteer is called for, raise your hand
  • When a question is called for, have one ready
  • Make one friend
  • Tweet one quote from the speaker
  • Tell someone about your big secret project
  • Share the struggle, share the joy — be honest

I mostly took my own advice:

  • I sat in the back, but I paid attention
  • When a volunteer was called for, I read something funny about marriage and work being overrated (got some nice laughs)
  • I made a friend who is heading to Abu Dhabi to report from a falconer conference
  • I tweeted, “Writers make the invisible visible” -Eunice Scarfe #iwwg
  • I told Judith Glynn about my secret project
I love IWWG women’s writing workshops because, beyond the juicy substantive information, i.e., Eunice shared a ton of unknown delicious memoirs, there is always depth, laughter and understanding among women writers.

The International Women’s Writing Guild is a fabulous group that has empowered me as a writer, by giving me mentors and a sense of belonging.

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Good Advice

The head of school sent forth the 8th graders with this good advice:

1. Embrace change. Learn to love it.
2. Do good. Keep on doing good. When you see something good that needs doing, do it. Don’t wait for others. Especially do good for strangers.
3. Find your own punctuation. That means: Take moments to stop. Think. Be intentional. Eat. Laugh. Share meals.
4. Don’t be tourists. “Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin,” Bruce Chatwin said. Yes, walk in the hidden places. Dig in.
5. Be a duck-rabbit. This is from Ludwig Wittgenstein. In other words, be paradoxical; be a mystery. When people try to box you in, resist.

While Dominic A.A. Randolph addressed these remarks to soon-to-be high school students, the advice seems pertinent to creative writers, like me. As a writer, I want to    1. love new ways of writing    2. write to make the world better, kinder    3. find new ways to punctuate sentences (or not punctuate — look no period)    4. engage fully, even subjectively    5. be a writer who is paradoxical, counter-intuitive and funny

Randolph also inspired an earlier post which described 3 aspects of community: 1. Hard work 2. Passion 3. Diversity.

http://mbcoudal.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/what-is-community/

I love learning and learning about learning. Having kids and learning alongside of them (and with them) is like being in grad school and grade school at the same time. A mystery wrapped in a conundrum. A duck-rabbit. Both and.