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Positive Presentations–and a Pet Peeve

As followers of this blog know, I attended the Write2Ignite Christian writers conference last week. I think (though I have never seen this stated in the conference literature) that the conference name indicates what the organizers think the purpose of our writing should be: to ignite, inflame, or light up our readers in the Christian faith.

I suspect, however, that for many attendees a better name might be Ignite2Write, because they often leave the conference inspired to write, either to begin writing (the wannabes), to resume (those whose passion for the craft has waned), or to improve (those who realize that each of us can do better).

At least that’s what the two conferences I’ve attended have meant to me. Last week’s sessions included for me (1) reminders of some things I already knew but needed to have reinforced, (2) new information to which I’d never been exposed, and (3) encouragement and inspiration to try new forms of writing.

Lori Hatcher, published author and editor of Reach Out Columbia magazine, offered basic reminders about the importance of good self-editing to make it easier for an editor to accept our manuscripts. For some attendees, her workshop might have been new. For a few, it might have brought back memories (or nightmares?) of English class. But because of my editing experience with Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., and freelancing, it was a review. But we can ALL benefit from such reminders.

I attended two workshops and a general session conducted by Edie Melson, published author and publisher of The Write Conversation blog site Because I’ve contemplated doing some fictional writing at some point, her workshops on creating a fictional world (setting) and writing for the young adult market were helpful as I look in that direction. Her general session dealt with social media. Although some of it was light years ahead of my understanding, it was insightful and worth thinking about.

Similar to Melson’s workshops, Kim Peterson‘s (no relation) workshop dealt with developing a strong cast of secondary characters for one’s fiction writing. A bonus was the time I had before the session talking with her about the many changes that have taken place to my old hometown, where she now lives.

Tony Snipes, always one of my favorite presenters because of his contagious enthusiasm, told about his two-year experiment with an art-driven FaceBook project he’s been conducting, sharing the saga of the fictional Portsmouth Aeroshipbuilding Company It’s amazing to see what creative people such as Snipes are doing with their talents, and it inspires me to make the most of my own talents, limited though they might be.

Nancy Lohr, acquisitions editor for Journey Forth, gave the keynote address. She pointed out the importance of Christian writers’ presenting absolute and unchanging truth in a way that is “winsome and relevant and infused with” biblical principles. There must be truth in our hearts before we can communicate truth to others. We should write from our own giftedness rather than trying to write like someone else. (The illustration she used for this point was David’s inability to fight Goliath using Saul’s armor.)

And Andrea Merrell, author/editor and assistant acquisitions editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, spoke about turning pain into prose, writing about the trials in our lives. We all suffer pain, so we all have a story. Our job as writers is to tell that story in a way that engages our readers.

The tough part of attending such a conference is coming from such an environment of learning and inspiration and re-entering the “real world” to DO what we’ve been inspired to do. And that leads me to the pet peeve I mentioned in the title.

When I was catching up on the e-mail I had missed during the conference, I received a convincing offer that was too good to refuse: a FREE e-book on a writing topic. A book on writing that made promises to greatly expand the reach of my writing efforts.

Caveat emptor! If it sounds too good to be true, . . .

Eighty-three pages it was. Hardly a book in my estimation, but it was, after all, free. When I downloaded it, I discovered to my dismay that each of those few pages contained little more than a simple PowerPoint slide. Some pages consisted of only one or two words. Giant print. Little substance. I had been had! But at least it was free. You get what you pay for.

And people who call themselves authors are cranking out such gimmicks faster than one can download them. And it makes a mockery of honest, hard-working writers with a real message who labor for many months, often many years, to get substantive books written and published.

That leads me back to Lohr’s keynote about truth. We writers (and marketers!) must be truthful about what we’re giving our readers. If we don’t, they’ll never trust us or read our work again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me!

Now that that pet peeve is off my chest, it’s back to work for me.

What about you? What is the best writing advice you ever received? What is one of your pet writing peeves?

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