The turnout for the Third Annual Write Now! Conference of the Triangle Area Freelancers was smaller than last year, but the group made up for it in enthusiasm. Keynoter Amanda Lamb told a touching story of writing books as a 4 or 5 year old (she still has them and showed them) and how her dream finally came true as an adult with her first published book. She’s now working on her third book, and she exhausted me just talking about her schedule as a news reporter for WRAL-TV, a mother of two, along with marketing her second book.
Clearly she has a passion for her writing and a persistence that took years to bring to fruition. Her unique insight was the revelation that writing a TV script daily has taught her as much as the classes in creative writing and journalism in college about how to write because she does so much of it on deadline. Now she is able to churn out good quality copy even in the long form in spite of a demanding schedule. Obviously she is a well-organized and determined person.
The four break-out sessions that I took were: Moving up to the Major Markets by Mandy Matson, Podcasting for Success by Mur Latterty, Nurturing the Writer/Editor Relationship by Molly Wyman, and Niche Writing with Anita Hill, Dewey Cassell, Sandra Gutierrez, and Paul Bain. This is where we got the opportunity for close interaction with professional writers who successfully make a living at the career they love.
The one consistent theme in all the sessions is that it took a long time to get there, and the competition is becoming more competitive and the publishing industry more unstable all the time. Web sites, blogs, and podcasts are some of the techniques writers use to market themselves and their writing, but building personal relationships with editors and/or agents is where you really get the assignments.
The standard advice of building a “platform” has grown from public speaking and establishing yourself as an expert in a particular field to establishing a presence online to further build your “brand,” or reputation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing for a general interest or a niche market; it is the quality of the writing that counts. If you are a new writer, then that quality must be demonstrated in your query letter presenting a proposal or an idea. They used such “old-fashioned” terms as “finding your voice” and carefully researching your potential markets in depth BEFORE you make a pitch. It’s OK to follow-up a rejection notice, provided that you do it correctly.
Fortunately we only had one PowerPoint presentation and had lots of time for Q&A, which was one big advantage of a smaller group. I didn’t attend the Five-Minute Mentoring session where individuals got to meet one-on-one with a professional writer to ask any question they wanted and to get advice. Some writer’s conferences I’ve attended have been more like creative writing college classes or opportunities for big names to “show off.” This conference continues to be a real working session where folks of different levels can have a great learning experience as well as network with other writers.