Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Keep the Learning Train Chugging

As a teacher, I am a maniac for lifelong learning. I am constantly reading books and articles about brain research and effective teaching techniques. At present I'm involved in an amazing program from the Kennedy Center to integrate arts education in the classroom. It's transformative.

I have this same passion as a writer. I'm always reading craft books and devouring blogs that share writing tips and "Ah Ha" moments. The third leg of my learning trifecta in writing is conferences. Love them. If you haven't taken the conference leap, you are cheating yourself out of crazy wonderful experiences that will make your writing grow.

This last weekend I attended the San Diego State University Writer's Conference. It was fantastic. Here are ten tidbits plucked from the conference treasure chest.

  • Do advanced reading appointments/critiques -  Super advice from industry pros. 
  • Networking - Don't be shy, you'll meet fascinating new friends
  • Always have a pitch ready - Yes, an agent sat down at our table and invited us to pitch our books. Just like that.
  • Bring your first five pages and don't be afraid to go to a "first pages" critique. 
  • Style wise - Thoughts are no longer italicized
  • There is a big difference between learning how to write and learning how to be an author - business savvy matters
  • No one really know what is going to happen in the industry with the rise of e-books and indie publishing
  • In sex scenes, emotions matter more than parts
  • Try using the Meyers-Briggs personality test to create character profiles
  • In fantasy/sci-fi show an unknown object in action to teach the reader about it, as opposed to just describing it
Any tasty conference tidbits you have to share?


  1. Leslie, that's very interesting about the thoughts no longer being italicized. I'd not heard that. But I'm always behind...still putting double spaces between sentences as well.

    Also, your last point about the fantasy object in action -- that's one thing I always thought JKR did really well. She'd show her creation in action and how it worked before it figured prominently into the mystery plot of a story, such as the Polyjuice potion.

    Thanks for sharing all these!

  2. I'm with Susan...I hadn't heard about thoughts not being italicized. Is that industry-wide? Good to know, thanks!

    You had a banner weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Apparently we share the same craft book addiction.

    (Yes, your credit card did send me death threats after you commented on my post.). :D

  4. That's some great information! I love the Meyer's Briggs thing. It's great for characters! Just did it for my three main characters and it was great!!


  5. Oooh, good to know about thoughts. I'll have to fix that!

  6. I attended my first conference last year and really enjoyed it.

    I found it very cool to have writers, agents, editors and readers (yes, readers) in one place.

    As for networking, some people are good at going up to anyone and starting a conversation, then jumping to the next person. That's not me but I did make a few contacts I'm glad about.

  7. Awesome list!!! I really enjoyed it.

  8. Great tips! I'm going to the NJ SCBWI conference in June and I'm submitting the first 15 pages of my manuscript for an editor critique. They also have a first page critique session. I'm looking forward to both!

    I also didn't know about not italicizing thoughts. That's really helpful to know.

  9. Thanks for the tips and I enjoyed taking that personality test (and I would like to apply it to characters, too).

  10. Awesome tips! I especially liked the love scene one!

  11. Great tid-bits! Aren't conferences fun? I wish I could go to them more often.

  12. I always come across thoughts being italised. I hadn't yet heard of it not being done so. Thanks for all this tids and bits!

  13. Thanks for the info! I agree about romance being more important over sex, and I didn't know about thoughts not being italicized. Does this hold true even in first person?

  14. Wow, these are great! Thanks for sharing =)
    I've never been to a conference. I'm hoping to change all that this year.

  15. I really loved the one 'serious' conference I attended and am determined to make it more of a priority moving forward. I'll be going to the SCBWI one in Western Washington in a few months and can't wait! :)

  16. Such a good list. The hardest thing on it is not to be shy. I have a really had time holding up my book and saying, "I wrote this. Will you read it?" I do a lot of hemming and hawing, but I am working on that skill.

    Glad you had such a great conference.

  17. Glad you all enjoyed the kibbles and bits. Thanks for stopping by.

  18. What great insight! I can't believe an agent came and asked you all to pitch at the table! How did it go?

  19. Excellent tidbits! I agree with you that writing conferences are so important. Each time I go I learn so much and come away feeling inspired. Your tidbits reminded me to review my pitch and make it more natural. I met with an editor last year at a writing conference and it was more helpful than I can even explain. Also- people should remember to bring their business cards to the writing conference. Many people will ask you for one and a lot of people don't bring them along. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Thank you for sharing those highlights! I never go to conferences so I appreciate learning from those that do.

  21. I always come away from conferences with info spilling out of my ears and inspired! I love all the insider info you get from editors. It's the best way I know to connect with them and other writers.

    My advice on conferences: up your caffeine intake for the day, especially if your like me, and all conferences are several hours away!

  22. I really like that last on with SF/fantasy - world building in action!

    I think I share your passion for life long learning. I've taught all ages except high school, and my favorite ages are preschoolers (just discovering everything!) and adults who want to expand their skills or have just found something fascinating that they want to learn more about it. I love going to conferences (both in my field and writing/publishing) they are intensive learning!