Red Clay Writer's Conference at Kennesaw University outside Atlanta this past weekend. I figured it was close, only one day, and reasonably priced, so why not? What is so unusual about this outing is that I did not present a workshop. Instead, I wanted to sit in the audience, listen, and hopefully walk away with a skip in my step and new motivation about new opportunities in the publishing industry. After all, who doesn't need a shot in the arm these days? Especially as a writer?
I walked away with these new ideas:
1. If you don't blog, you're lagging behind. I heard this from every speaker but one, people. Doesn't matter if it's Blogger or Wordpress or something your webmaster designed, but you need that communication. Readers expect it now. Update weekly, minimum. More is better.
2. Voice is everything. Frankly, it's more important than good writing and sharp facts. Voice is a uniqueness about your writing that grabs readers. Quirky is popular. Snide is entertaining. Humor is worshipped. Writing without a serious infusion of personality is a waste of time. The world is clamoring for attention, and just writing journalistically with solid facts and structured sentences is simply passe.
3. Don't count on living off book proceeds. Unless you have the book of books that unexpectedly takes off like a rocket, plan for other income. Write freelance, blog (with ads), or copywrite. Diversify your writing so that you have income streams, not one source. With self-publishing so popular and traditional publishers still reeling from all the changes, your book has too much competition to earn you a fulltime living.
4. You have a better chance breaking into a magazine by pitching to the web editor over the print editor. Less competition, shorter pieces, and a chance to pitch something trendy and current. The pieces are shorter (around 500 words or less), too. Also, they only take e-mail queries!
I'm a firm believer that everyone should attend one conference a year. While half of the classes didn't interest me, the other half educated well, as I'd hoped. That's how it's supposed to be - provide something for everyone. Well attended with little wasted down-time (5-10 minutes between sessions), I felt they packed the day and didn't waste a moment of my time. I walked away pleased. My head is chocked full of ideas for editorials and columns, and I can't wait to crack my knuckles and get started.