Monday, April 11, 2016

AWW Spring Seminar Wrap-Up

On Saturday, despite the blanket of snow that covered the ground in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I attended the spring (ha!) seminar from Antioch Writers' Workshop. The topic of the seminar was "The Writing Life," and Margaret Wrinkle led the pack as the featured speaker.
I took this photo from the AWW website.
I hadn't heard of Margaret Wrinkle before registering for the seminar, but I took a peek at her bio, which intrigued me (excerpted from her website):
Born and raised in Birmingham Alabama, Margaret Wrinkle is a writer, filmmaker, educator and visual artist. Her debut novel, Wash, published by Grove Atlantic, reexamines American slavery in ways that challenge contemporary assumptions about race, power, history and healing. It has won the Center for Fiction’s Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Wash has also been named the Fiction Runner Up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, a finalist for the 2014 Chautauqua Prize, a Wall Street Journal top ten novel of the year, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an O Magazine top ten selection and a People magazine 4-star pick.
Not intimidating at all, is she?

Much to my utter delight, Margaret Wrinkle walked into the auditorium dressed in casual clothes and spoke to us like she'd known us for years. And after listening to her speak about her writing life, her book is now on the top of my to-read list.

But what did she say that other people have not? I mean, I've been to several writing conferences, I personally know authors, and have read extensively on "the writing life." In fact, I have my own writing life, right? A couple of sentences stuck out amongst the others in her presentation, as they struck me as something I hadn't really thought about before. They included:
Images help you stay present to the heart of the story.
Your mind is a small boat on the ocean of your subconscious.
Live a boring life; save the drama for the work.
I plan on referring to those thoughts wherever and whenever I can.


I also had the pleasure of hearing three energetic and passionate speakers talk about querying, editing your manuscript, and self-marketing.

First up, Sharon Short. I know Sharon on a first-name basis, and attended the query session because I was interested in what she had to say. (I'm in the process of querying right now and have an agent looking at my book. I hoped that I'd done everything right.) Sharon's genuine enthusiasm made for a great session. She shared her experiences with querying, gave us some information about agents--those to look for and those to avoid--and helped us understand the importance of researching which agent you actually query.

Kate Geiselman then took me through the art of editing and formatting a manuscript. Again, I'm past this stage but I felt like I wanted a refresher course. Kate provided that and more. She began the session with a lovely video by Stephen Fry (If you haven't seen this yet, you should):

And from there, she reminded us of grammar rules and formatting tips that any writer could use. The best advice she gave, though, is to pay attention to submission guidelines, as they can vary widely. Like the true teacher she is, Kate repeated that phrase often.

I'd seen Kate before at a Sinclair Community College writing workshop, but I've never had the privilege of attending one of her sessions. She's a vibrant teacher and someone from whom we can all learn.

Last but not least came the session with Greene County Public Library publicist Ryan Ireland. He'd created a presentation worthy of any publicist, and disseminated a wealth of information on how to self-market. (He spoke about figuring out your readership, what to include on a website, and how to use social media most efficiently, among other topics.) I'd chosen this session because I find it really easy to help promote someone else, but I had, until yesterday, no idea how to self-market myself. Based on what Ryan said, I think I have a lot of work cut out for me, but I knew that when I got into this mess of a writing life.


This spring seminar is a one-day type that happens every year. I'd suggest trying to get there next year, if you're local. But if you're looking for something even more extensive, consider the Antioch Writers' Workshop Annual Summer Workshop. It's a week-long event that is chock full of information and experience that any creative writer would be fortunate to add to his or her writer's toolbox.

Happy Writing!

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