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When You Share, You Win

Below I've posted two letters from writers who attended our September event in New York. You can find information on all Writer's Digest events here.

The lesson I find in it? You never know what's possible when you share something and give freely. Sometimes, you get a mention on Oprah. Sometimes progress is a little slower, but you're still effective in reaching your goals. All journeys start with that important first step.

My humble thanks to Carol and Cheryl for their kind words. We couldn't do what we do at Writer's Digest without the support, feedback, and guidance of writers.

Dear Jane,

I have been meaning to write a thank-you note to you for the last few weeks, but I’ve been extremely busy getting my novel published. Now, as we approach Thanksgiving, the time seems right to give you thanks.

I received great advice and support from you at various conferences, including the one last September in New York City, as well as through your magazine articles, blogs, and other avenues of expression. Because of you, my novel, Whispers from St. Mary’s Well, will be available on in about 2 weeks. It is in the process of being published right now. And that’s not all—your advice has led to a multitude of wonderful experiences, including my connection with a great editor and an experience that ended with my getting my name, voice, and face on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Here’s what’s been happening since I met with you in New York, and you shared your wealth of wisdom with me.

Although I’m not very techno-savvy and had not become active in any online forums, blogs, or social networking sites, you suggested that I needed to step into this millennium and get my name out there on the Internet. I joined Oprah’s Online Book Club, and after writing three comments about her book selection, I was contacted by the Harpo staff. They said that my comments were exceptionally insightful, and they asked if I would let them use a comment on the show. They called the house and made a recording of me reading one of my comments, which they showed, along with a picture of me and the written comment.

Although there is no mention of me being a writer or of my novel, Whispers from St. Mary’s Well, I have gotten connected with a lot of other Oprah readers. I can only hope and pray that once my book is out there, they may recognize the name Carol Kenny, from our conversations about Uwem Akpan’s book.

Also, I am starting to work with Henry Hutton, and Lisa Wynn, who are going to help get me launched on multiple social networking sites. I am also working with a web designer on and for

I got started on these marketing venues, but had to focus on getting the novel edited, tweaked, reformatted, reviewed, and designed for publication. Now that my work with the novel is completed, I’ll be able to focus on marketing. Then, once this book is fully launched, I can devote my time to writing my second novel.

I am very grateful that you suggested I contact Kathleen Marusak as a copy editor. Working with her has been wonderful. She spotted typos and gave excellent editing recommendations, but she also loved my novel. She inserted comments around various phrases, which revealed that she understood the essence of the content and themes embedded in the story.

Last year, I wrote a workshop for the Winston-Salem Writer’s Group on how to setup and maintain critique groups, and how to give and receive effective manuscript feedback in these groups. I taught my class that integrity and honesty were equally important for both positive and negative comments.

Although it is essential for a critiquer to point out any errors, or words, phrases, character traits, or plot points that don’t work, it is equally important to highlight areas that are especially effective. If, as a writer, you have embedded a subtle message in the text, and the reviewer comments on it, you know it worked.

All of this is simply to say that that is what Kathleen did. Not only did she identify items that needed correction, she shared with me her interest in the book and her understanding of its message. I will continue to work with her for the rest of my career. Thank you so much for suggesting that I contact her. Instead of just drinking a sip of wine in your honor tomorrow, I might down the whole bottle. That’s how grateful I am.

I previously posted on the blog about the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York last September, that it was the best conference I’ve ever attended, and I’m a constant conference attender. Now, as my novel is about to hit the streets, I want you to know that my work with you at the conference truly made it one of the best experiences of my life. Thank you.

Have a great Thanksgiving! You’ve certainly given me great reasons for giving thanks, tomorrow and for the rest of my life.

Carol Kenny


Hello, Jane. Since the September conference in New York, I've been working very hard to rearrange my entire approach to my aspirations about getting published. The conference was completely life-altering for me, and I thought this would be a better way than the survey to let you know how valuable your efforts were, at least for this attendee.

On November 4, I finally launched my first blog, completely borne of the conference, with a specific, clearly defined purpose. After those three days in New York, I began studying and planning for the next several weeks. But I finally decided that I just needed to get started in order for the real learning to begin.

Everything is explained in my blog's launch posting (November 4), including the well-deserved kudos for your first WD conference. So I invite you to visit whenever you can find a free minute in your schedule. The postings since November 4 have taken me a lot further than I ever would have expected, although I now understand so well your cautionary comments about how much time is required to get a really successful blog off the ground.

So, Jane, I thank you and your staff from the bottom of my heart for the September conference. I've been to almost every one of your BEA conferences since 2004, but /this/ one was the winner.

Cheri Laser

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