Yup, the conference is over.
I always panic about the week, worry that the faculty or attendees won’t love the time. That something will go horribly wrong. It’s just so much work.
But here are just a few things I learned.
1. Most everyone REALLY does want to do well–really does want to write a good story. They may go about the writing differently than I do, but their hearts are in the right places.
2. The faculty WANTS the people in their morning sessions to sell a book or get a contract from an agent while we are at WIFYR. Or after we leave. Cynthia Leitich Smith’s class became her kittens and she was like a momma cat protecting her young.
3. The faculty loves the people in their classes, loves speaking to afternoon goers in their sessions and wants to see the attendees succeed. The whole week we spoke to each other about the who was at the conference and how to help them be better writers. We spoke about their talent. There wasn’t one faculty member that I talked to who wasn’t thrilled about their students. All of them. Trudy Harris beamed when she mentioned her morning session attendees.
4. People feel they CAN learn the things they need to be better writers. Attendees (and faculty) took pages of notes. They went to the sessions. They supported each other.
5. The faculty, both morning and afternoon, are almost always prepared (we don’t invite people back if they aren’t). They bring tips of what they have learned on their own or have gleaned from others. Every faculty member wants the attendee to learn something amazing and be able to say, “Guess what I learned from Julie Olsen?” Or “That Ann Edwards Cannon really DOES understand the industry and what *I* am going through as a writer.”
6. No matter what, no matter where, Tim Wynne-Jones will have an amazing, well-thought out presentation that makes people better creators (if they listen to him). And Ann Dee Ellis will be so prepared the rest of the faculty can’t believe she’s able to do so much in such a short week. I took writing ideas from other teachers and used those techniques with my own class.
7. I think emotion is an important part of every novel. It was cool to see that Matt Kirby (2012 Edgar Winner!!!) lets the power of a story guide him in what he will write. It’s not just about awards or how to make money, but how an event has moved him–and will move the plot or character.
8. Our faculty is prepared to meet the needs of all their students. Greg Leitich Smith’s class had newer writers (newer to children’s work), young people and older people in the class. Greg led the class in a way that he could answer the questions himself or help the attendees find his or her answers. He’s super smart but so down to the earth he can see what each person needs and work toward that.
9. The authors want to let you see the ways they have succeeded. By showing what was important to an author might let someone else release strict hold on portions of their lives that keeps them from writing. Mette Ivie Harrison is a hard worker, for sure. But she can’t do EVERYTHING like I’ve always thought. Mette was willing to show that she’s okay giving up some things so she can do what matters to her–which happens to be her family, her writing and her triathlete training.
10. Believing you can do this helps you to succeed. But you must be willing to put the work behind the belief. Just because you have a good idea doesn’t (always) mean that is enough.
A great big thank you to all the attendees (we couldn’t run the conference without you)–to all the Morning Faculty (mentioned above)–the Amazing Assistants–And finally to editors Ruth Katcher, Alexandra Penfold and agent John Cusick.
I hope this is a terrific year for us all as we write and publish and prepare for next year.