The Chicago Writers Association recently held their 2nd Annual Uncommon Writers Conference and I was thrilled before I got there. Three of my favorite writers were slated to present so I early-birded this event last year.
And it was worth every penny.
Whenever I attend a conference or set up at a book fair, I know my time was well spent when I walk away inspired to learn more about the craft and maaaaybe pop another book out of my head. Both happened at the CWA conference (#JustWrite2019) so I wanted to share some of those revelations with you:
Lesson One: Outthinking the Market is Impossible.
The conference opened with words from the awesome Ann Garvin. Her words entertain me, most notably from her USA Today bestseller I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around. That morning, her words challenged me to gain everything I could from this experience. “Nobody’s coming to rescue you,” Garvin deadpanned to the audience. “Don’t outthink the market. Publishing’s not something you can outthink. It’s bigger than you.”
That just about stopped me in my tracks and the conference hadn’t even started yet. I needed that lesson. Querying one novel while I try to push out another has been a juggling act, but as long as I focus on the art, the reward will come – even if it doesn’t look the way I thought it should.
Lesson Two: A-Ha Moments Zoom By FAST!
My favorite Day One session, by far was the Fiction Panel, featuring Patricia Ann McNair, Christine Sneed, and Cyn Vargas. My pen and Twitter Fingers couldn’t move fast enough to archive all of the truth bombs these women writers were dropping, but some gems included:
– Begin right in the middle of things (Sneed)
– Pay attention to the books you read. (Vargas)
– When you can see the end of your story, make a sharp left. (McNair)
Needless to say, I now own books by all three of them.
Lesson Three: Characters (and Writers) Need the Pain of Change.
I’d been thinking about novelizing stories from my emotionally tumultuous high school and college years, so stopping by novelist Kathryn Craft‘s session on Day Two was a wise decision. Her novel, The Far End of Happy, is a fictionalized version of true and tragic events. I could tell from her insightful and candid presentation that writing this novel was therapeutic for Craft and I realized I needed that artistic release, too. “Writing a novel will not make your story any less true,” Craft mused to the packed audience and I walked away from the session with my next novel swirling.
Needless to say, I’ll be back next year. CWA’s conference proved to be a vital resource in the heart of the Midwest that I encourage any of my regional writer baes to attend. I’m pumped to start Camp NaNoWriMo next month with my brand-new novelizing idea!