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.



Inspiration, Writing

Ten Writers Who Were Coffee Fanatics

writer's tools, notebook, laptop, coffee

Coffee and writing go hand in hand like dark chocolate and Cabernet—at least for me.

If I’m lucky, my son makes a pot of coffee before I get up in the morning. I’m lucky one out of ten times.

I start my morning with two big mugs of coffee which is four regular cups. This stimulates my creativity and motivation (or maybe I just get hyper) but the java gets me through a couple or three hours of writing and reading.

So, it didn’t surprise me that many famous writers are also coffee lovers.

Louisa May Alcott said,

I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.

Albert Camus contemplated,

Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?

Voltaire had a reputation as a coffee lover by allegedly drinking 40 cups of coffee a day mixed with chocolate (fanatic). Voltaire said about coffee,

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”

Not to be beaten by Voltaire, Honore de Balzac drank up to 50 cups of coffee a day—fanatic:

Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.

T.S. Eliot quote, coffee lover
T.S. Eliot quote on


Abigal Reynolds, who writes Jane Austen inspired novels, wrote:

I like my coffee with cream and my literature with optimism.

Here’s a writer who needs his coffee:

That’s something that annoys the hell out of me—I mean if somebody says the coffee’s all ready and it isn’t. J.D. Salinger

If you’re an American in England take a pound of coffee with you. According to Christopher Fry:

“Coffee in England is just toasted milk.”

Now here’s an author, Joseph Finder, who’s suspicious of those writers who don’t drink coffee:

I don’t get people who don’t like coffee and I distrust writers who don’t drink it.

And lastly, my favorite quote:

Gertrude Stein quote, coffee
The wonders of coffee-Gertrude Stein quote


Now it’s time for my second mug of coffee. Have a joyful week.

Writers, Writing

‘Shoulding’ All Over Myself

I Really by Sookie
I Really Should… by Sookie

I hate the word ‘should,’ but I use it on myself quite a bit.

I should be writing (working on my new manuscript).

I should be reading to improve my writing.

I should find a new book to read. (I did find this fun game to select a book, but twice it selected one I already read).

I should clean the house. I hate cleaning house.

‘Shoulding’ all over myself makes a mess.

Psychologist, Clayton Barbeau, came up with the term “shoulding yourself” to describe this cognitive distortion.

Yes, I feel distorted right about now.

Another psychologist, Albert Ellis, calls it “musterbation.” Yew!

Both say that we get into trouble ‘shoulding’ ourselves when it takes the form of an automatic thought, an abstract meaning an obligation to do something and if we don’t do it we are (or feel) wrong and guilty.

‘Shoulding’ ourselves is like nagging. We don’t need a spouse, or mother, to do this to us. It’s a  self-generated nag that makes us not want to do the task in question.

But there is something more sinister when we use ‘should,’ repeatedly, such as I am doing to myself today. Both psychologists say that the most frequent result of ‘shoulding’ ourselves is procrastination.

Yeah, the big P. That’s it in a nutshell. I’ve just been procrastinating all morning. I’ve been waiting to ‘feel’ like writing, because most of the time I feel like writing. Just not today.

‘Should’ is procrastination in disguise. I have to remind myself that not doing the ‘should’ is a choice. No one is going to suffer irreparable harm if I don’t write, read, or clean my house.

And the act of writing about this ‘shoulding’ and what I’m really doing has given me an epiphany- a light weight one-but one nonetheless: taking a step toward the ‘should,’ begins to propel you towards some sort of accomplishment.

So, I may not have worked on my manuscript, but I did do some writing today.

And that insight makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.

So, now I’m going to go find my earbuds, the leash, and take my dog, Chip, out for a walk. Just because I want to do so.

Now go do something you want to do.