Total Pageviews

Friday, May 15, 2009

Open Your Heart to Possibilities

One year ago on Memorial Day a neighbor who lives across the street knocked on my door and pleaded with me for the third time to please take her dog. She had grown allergic to him, and she knew I had recently lost my dog in a traumatic freak incident.

I was not ready to take on another animal and felt unworthy of the task, but I finally and reluctantly agreed to keep him for two days to see how things went. She left the dog and sent her son scurrying over with a kennel, bedding, food, toys, and snacks, and all you animal lovers out there can guess the rest of the story. The dog never left my house again.

The funny thing was this: I was not ready to take on another dog. I was still traumatized over my loss. I did not want a male dog and knew nothing about grooming and caring for a poodle. It was not love at first sight, although he was a sweet, cute thing of about fifteen pounds. His weight was about the only thing that fit my idea of what a dog should be. He needed a home, though, and in truth I needed another dog to heal my broken heart, and within two days we fell into a rhythm of mutual trust that gradually grew into deep love.

What does a dog story have to do with writing? Sometimes we resist the very thing we need, and we think our reasons are logical and reasonable. We refuse to learn new writing techniques or to comply with convention. We resist attending a workshop because we think we know enough already or we think we can’t afford the fee. We avoid joining a critique circle or asking fellow writers for feedback. We procrastinate sending our work out to a potential agent or publisher. If we’re lucky, though, something keeps knocking on our door and telling us we need to follow through, just as my neighbor kept returning and asking me to take her dog. Yes, if we’re fortunate, we open ourselves up to possibilities, and once we are open, all doors and windows are open, and what we need will come to us.

Last year I was closed to the idea of taking on another dog, but I relented, and now I have the most loving dog in the world, a dog who insists on cuddling with me when I watch TV, who curls up in his bed in my office, and who keeps me company all day. This loving creature looks up at me with large dark eyes that tell me he loves me more than anything in the world. I never thought it possible, and it would not have been, if I had not opened myself up to the possibility. Open your heart to possibilities and see what happens to your writing and your life. A year from now, everything could be different.

One more note: Write In Style, my book on creative writing, is nearly out of print! Don’t hesitate any longer. Get it now, while it’s still available through Amazon. For easy ordering, see http://zebraeditor.com/book_write_in_style.shtml.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

New Port Richey Do It! Write! Conference

I've been back from the New Port Richey, Florida, conference since April 20, and I would have written about it sooner, but I had to hit the ground running, the moment I returned. Well, forgive the cliche, because it's not even true; I couldn't run. I developed a painful condition in my foot that made walking difficult, so walking through the airport wasn't much fun, but as soon as I returned home, I faced three deadlines, all within a few days of each other.

Now that I have met all the deadlines and cleared a little space on my desk and in my mind, let me tell you about the great conference I attended. It took place in a library that supplied meeting rooms for the whole group as well as small, quiet rooms for one-on-one conferences. The conference bookstore comprised an elevated circular table on which presenters and attendees displayed their books. The setup worked perfectly, because attendees walked around the table, picked the books they wanted, continued around the circle, found the authors to sign the books, and continued in the same arc to the cashier, to pay for their purchases. For such a small space, it worked perfectly.

We have been hearing financial gloom and doom in all forms of the media, and perhaps the news kept some people from spending money on their dream of becoming a published author. As a result registration had been a little lower than the promoters had hoped, but it wasn't down by much. Eager writers and learners filled almost every seat, and no one was short on enthusiasm. In one day some ten or more sessions educated writers on a wide variety of subjects, and no one left feeling short-changed, not even the speakers.

As the keynote speaker, I chose to talk about how how to make a living writing. I have supported myself with words for more than three decades, and I trust that anyone who is willing to be flexible, educated, and open can do it, too. Later one of the other presenters told me I could be a motivational speaker, because my talk was inspiring. Hmm. I hadn't thought of my talk as motivational, only educational, but if I motivated one person in that room to quit a boring or stressful job and enter the world of freelance writing, I succeeded in my mission.

By the time the event drew to a close in the afternoon, many people had met a literary agent face to face for the first time. Most had learned a great deal about how to catch the eye of a publisher or agent. All had learned ways to make their writing stronger, better, and more marketable.

I watched as people trickled out of the library, all with smiles on their faces. We all felt as though we knew each other; we'd been in close quarters, eating lunch, changing rooms, listening to speakers, and wandering around the circular table in the bookstore. I think all of us made new friends. I know I did.

At one time in my life my huge ego made me think I could give every talk offered at any writers conference, but I've grown since then. Now I enjoy having a free period or two when I can slip in and hear at least part of what the other presenters have to say. Even after all these years of writing, editing, freelancing, book doctoring, attending seminars, and giving seminars, I still learn something new, every time I attend a conference.

Good writers never stop learning. I hope you'll find a conference to attend this year. You can never predict what good things may come of it.