Inspiration, Travel, Writing

Six Bits of Wisdom on Writing Conferences

double rainbow, New Mexico, Ghost Ranch
Double Rainbow over Ghost Ranch, Abiquiú, New Mexico

Hello, everyone.

I’m back from the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s (SCWBI) Conference in L.A and A Room of Her Own (AROHO) writing retreat at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiú, New Mexico.

Both conferences were packed with information. I loved my time in Abiqui, New Mexico, it’s a gorgeous place for writer workshops. SCBWI had approximately 1,100 people in attendance and AROHO had 130.

The best thing about attending these conferences is the people: writers, poets, illustrator’s and those who live and breathe their art.

It felt good to be in community with fellow writers, both pre-published and published. I believe we need each other and have the opportunity for personal engagement with some of our favorite writers.

The Write Life has a list of annual conferences, but this list isn’t complete. Do a search for your state to come up for more localized conferences.

There is an expense to conferences, and if the budget can’t afford the cost, most have fellowships or scholarships. If you remotely qualify, submit your work. It’s worth a try.

After the conference, I waved goodbye to new friends and three days later I feel a little lonely without them around for “writerly” support.

After digesting my notes, I thought I’d share a post about conference attendance and implore you to seek out conferences, seminars, and workshops during this or next year. (The conference folks have strict rules about blogging/recording seminars so I can’t give you specific info on classes-so sorry).

Some bits of wisdom for you:

Wisdom Bit #1: If you can’t attend a conference, find out what their Twitter handle will be and follow the hashtag for some interesting information. If you wait until after the conference the info is usually removed.

Wisdom Bit #2: Usually writers work in isolation, so a conference is your opportunity to attend at least one social function. While at the function, meet at least two people, ask questions about their writing, what’s their story? Your writing community just expanded.

At the SCWBI conference, there was a big party where most people dressed up to the theme of Glitter. The chapter I belong to, Central Coast-Calif. were dressed as the “Bling, Bling Book Queens.” I like music and I like to dance, so I was there. (We found our gowns at thrift shops).

Bling, Bling The Book Queens-SCWBI15 Conference
Bling, Bling The Book Queens-SCWBI15 Conference

Wisdom Bit #3: Take notes in one journal or pad. When you get home you can easily refer to your notes and type them up. I’m having a hard time finding my notes since I took three journals.

Wisdom Bit #4: Use your business cards. If your pre-published (like me) make some cards up listing your name, website, and social media. Here’s mine. On the back is my name, Twitter name, and website. I only give out a card if a person asks for one or mentions they’d like to keep in touch. I now have 25 more Twitter followers, several more FB requests, and following back those same interesting writers and agents. Your writing community is expanded and so are your potential resources.

business cards
Writer’s Card-Moo Eco Cards

Wisdom Bit#5: If you were invited to send in a manuscript (and this often happens in conference seminars) jot down the agents name and pay attention when she/he tells you what to put in the email subject line. If she tells you to send a month after the conference, follow up on the request in a month. Draw a large block around your agent notes and star it so you can find it when you get home.

Wisdom Bit #6: Organize your notes and make a “Must Do Now,” “To Do,” and a “Nice to Do,” list.

  1. Must Do: Send out my manuscript on xx date to Agent xx; Revise first five pages with the info learned in First Five Pages workshop.
  2. To Do: Set up one social media avenue if you don’t already have one; Read a recommended book on revising or editing; Set up a calendar reflecting your new goals and timelines.
  3. Nice to Do: Follow the new person you just met on Twitter or other social media. Stay in contact.

Bonus Wisdom Bit: Please don’t be that guy or gal who overtakes a conference session. They usually sit in the first row, speak without raising their hand, and try to monopolize the speaker. You will be remembered, by fellow writers and the speaker.

Thanks for reading and have a great week.




Pow Wow Experience

Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe
Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe

My laptop grew dusty during the time I roamed through Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I  stayed with friends on the outskirts of Santa Fe. No wifi, no cable, nothing but a dual wide mobile home sitting on an acre of land, surrounded by horses, sheep, and chickens.

It was awesome. And very cold. It snowed one day and a couple of days bore 30 mile winds.

I’m sorry I missed my last Poetry on Wednesday, but I do have one poem that is apropos to this post. It is by MariJo Moore.

Why We Dance

To dance is to pray,

to pray is to heal,

to heal is to give,

to give is to live,

to live is to dance.


The GON Pow Wow took place at the University of New Mexico, in the Pit, a stadium holding thousands of dancers, audience, vendors, and drummers for a full two days and nights.

Opening ceremonies began with the eagle carrier on the stadium floor, joined by hundreds of dancers streaming in from the four directions of the stadium, dancing in a spiral towards the center until every inch of floor space held a dancer.

The strong, steady drumbeats mimicked the heartbeat. The cultural chants and swirling dancers in colorful regalia evoked a mystical atmosphere where I was transported to prayer and gratitude. Unknowingly, the drums took me to my own personal quest for self-identity that increased as the day grew to night.


Over 700 tribes from the USA, Canada, and Latin America gathered. The one thousand dancers ranged from tots to tribal elders, men and women.

Of particular awe were the Code talkers and veterans of WWII, Korea, and each subsequent war, including the Warrior Women. One of whom had an incredible reunion with her husband, as she walked with the color guard onto the stadium floor.


Captains Jukari and Amileah Davis reunited at GON-photo by Davis Couple
Captains Jukari and Amileah Davis reunited at GON-photo by Davis Couple

 U.S. Air Force Captain Jukari Davis (Navajo), stationed in Afghanistan, surprised his wife, U.S. Air Force Captain Amileah Davis (Métis) in front of thousands at the 31st Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque, New Mexico last Friday.

Some general rules, when attending a Pow Wow: 

  • Respect the dancers. No snapshots unless you ask first. Thank the person (s) for their time.
  • The dancers wear ‘regalia,’ not costumes. Each piece is symbolic and has meaning. Don’t handle their regalia.
  • Stay away from the dance area, even for your photo shots.
  • Don’t go around saying “How” to native people. (Originally, the greeting was “Hao.”)
  • Respect the ceremonies by standing when asked, or keeping silence. 
Two dancers in regalia, GON 2014
Two dancers in regalia, GON 2014

I asked a young man if he could share the symbolism of his beaded face dress. He smiled and said that the face dress was called beaded eye drops.

“Long ago, the story says that a boy watched grass dancers and spoke of becoming one some day. He waited until he was old enough to begin dancing, but he had an accident before he could begin, which left him in a wheelchair. Everyday, he came to watch the grass dancers, tears falling from his face. Out of respect, the grass dancers strung beads around their eyes, symbolizing the tears of that young boy.” 

Grass dancer, beaded eye drops. GON.
Grass dancer, beaded eye drops. GON.


Drum beats reverberated through my body, evoking feeling from some long ago ancestor, moving my knees and feet in the dipping motion of dancers.

From noon until midnight, for two days, the music, exquisite regalia, dances, and aromas of fry bread, roasted corn and sweet potatoes inundated every part of me.

Several times I was asked, by natives, if I was native, and what tribe. Vendors sometimes give other natives a discount on items. The long answer would be that my DNA test says I’m 51% Native North American, but since my mom was orphaned at a very young age and I don’t know anything of my father’s history, and both are Mexican ethnicity, I could be native. My children are one eighth Blackfoot. But  I answered truthfully, “I don’t know.”

I could tell by the reaction on the askers face that this was not an acceptable answer. My  cousin said, say you’re Yaqui-all Mexican heritage has native indian. She is Diné (Navajo) on her father’s side. That feeling of ‘unknown otherness’ swept through me, briefly, until the drummers began another song. My quest is now to find out more about my heritage (although Ancestry dot com isn’t very helpful to me).

I’ve been to several pow wows, but the sheer immensity of this one was an incredible experience.

I hope to attend the Gallup, New Mexico pow wow in August. Maybe by then I can have a more definitive answer to the question, “Are you native, what tribe?”