What to Remember at Every Writing Conference

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Writing conferences: They make us feel good because we’re taking proactive, positive steps toward our writerly goals, rather than sitting in front of the TV with a laptop and The Simpsons.

Thing is, once we get to the conference, we’re constantly analyzing: Do we stack up to this writer or that budding poet? Do we have what it takes to do what this speaker is suggesting? Will we ever be up there, rambling about our books while everyone dines on roast beef and pasta during the keynote address?

And, certainly last but not least: Are we writers?

Here is the latest in our Top 20 Lessons from WD in 2009 series.

No. 15: None of Your Business
“Don’t come to the Festival—or any writing conference—with the goal of finding out once and for all if you’re a writer. It’s a question that will only get in the way of your work. Leave it alone. It’s none of your business.”
—Iowa Summer Writing Festival Director Amy Margolis, as interviewed in our May/June 2009 issue.

My sister, who decided to up the sibling ante by attending law school, once told me that one of the cardinal rules in that realm is to never share, discuss or allude to one’s grades in the company of others. You just don’t do it.

Perhaps in the world of writing conferences, like any gathering of those prepping for a fiercely competitive marketplace, it’s best to turn off your overactive mind and just listen, absorb and learn.

Also, tonight I’m heading out for a vacation, and I’m turning over the blog keys for WD Editor Jessica Strawser to help out and be your Promptly maestro until I return. She’s a former book editor and has worked in different areas of the publishing world, so feel free to tap into her wisdom in the Comments section of the blog in the coming week. All told, she’s a great source of knowledge.

As for me, my family has a tendency to have awful luck on vacation—if you ever want a solid tale, come up to me and say, merely, “Out West; van on fire?”—so I’m hoping the following travel-minded prompt will ward off the spirits of bad travel and serve as an appropriate digital knocking on wood.

Here’s to you and your writing (and fireless vans),



WRITING PROMPT: Vacation From Vacation
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below:

With your cell phone and souvenirs in hand, your torn map falls to the ground.
“He wasn’t even supposed to be here,” you mutter.
And just like that, you need a vacation from your vacation.