2 and a Half Lessons I Learned From Attending a Writers Conference

Palace of Versailles - Grace Wynter
I don’t like long blog posts because blah blah blah…right.  So this week you’ll read about the first two and half life lessons I learned while attending the Atlanta Writers Conference, and next week I’ll post the rest.

 

Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first writers conference. While there, I was reminded that so many of the lessons I’ve learned about writing transcend the practice of writing and apply to life in general. Sometimes these lessons aren’t new, but serve as reminders of the life we want to live. From the humbleness and approachability of a New York Times best-selling author, to the “butt in the chair” mentality of the just-published, never-been published, and everyone in between, I learned something from everyone I came across. Here are just 2.5…

 

Lesson 1: People do judge a book by its cover. When you’re the author of the book, that can be a great thing – if the cover says everything you want it to say about what’s on the inside. But as readers (and observers of life), we should be wary of judging a book by its cover alone. That judgement (the conclusions we come to about that book) is only skin deep, and we might miss out on some wonderful content just because the packaging doesn’t look the way we expect it to.
It’s a great metaphor for how we look at people who, at first glance, appear different – even very different – from us.  By focusing only on outer appearances, we bring all our history and baggage (often unfairly) into the judgment process and by so doing, miss out on potentially life-changing conversations and relationships.  Great covers are great to look at, but be prepared to value a book, not for its cover, but for its content.

Lesson 2: I’m not one to strike up conversations with strangers, but I find that (particularly at a writers conference) people will talk if you will listen. I didn’t want to take the easy way out and hide behind my phone or tablet so I took the opportunity to sit with people I didn’t know.  Every time I did, I was inspired by their stories of tenacity and perseverance. In the span of two days, I had conversations with:

  • A couple in their 80s who’ve been married for 6 years.  They first met in the 10th grade, reconnected 55 years later, and are now working together on a book. The book tells her story, which includes a close friendship with a black woman in a time when those kinds of friendships could have gotten them both killed, and tales of touring with Hank Williams, Sr. as his fiddle player.
  • A woman writing a novel based on the true story of her grandmother who ran a brothel and was arrested for murder.
  • Victoria Thurman, an author who self-published her first book and spends her days working a stressful job and her nights writing amazing scenes for her next book. Oh, and Victoria dresses like her book’s protagonist, Delilah Dunnfield, when she does book signings.

And the half lesson? Being in your creative space can be a lonely place. But it doesn’t always have to be. I think when we engage with others, it broadens our vocabulary, giving us words and languages we may have not otherwise spoken.

Photo: I took this picture while I was visiting the Palace of Versailles in France. I was having a hard time selecting a photo to go with this post, but when I saw this picture I remembered how packed with tourists the palace had been that day.  Somehow I managed to get this shot of an empty hallway even though people were all around me. The road might seem lonely at times, but often the people you need are standing right outside of your shot. Go find them if you need them.

Next week: Part 2 – Even after 20 years it’s not too late, Claire Cook, and handling haters.

 

 

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  • Emily

    Love this! Wish we’d connected at the conference.

  • Grace

    Thanks, Emily! Sorry I missed you at the conference. Hopefully we’ll get to meet at one of the group meetings.