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Post-Conference Reflections

The much-anticipated, long-awaited Write2Ignite conference has come and gone. The recovery Sunday is now behind me, and the reality of a return to work faces me. But before I delve into the writing again, I must pause to reflect and review what happened at the conference.

The Attendees

The experience levels of the attendees varied widely, from successful authors with double-digit numbers of books published to never-before-published wannabes. I fell somewhere in the middle, having published a lot of articles but few books.

Conferees ranged from those with broad, far-reaching platforms (hence, more books published) and those who had no clue what a platform was. (That word platform was ubiquitous in conversations and presenters’ talks, but more on that momentarily.) Again, I was somewhere in the middle: I know all too well what a platform is, but I’m desperately seeking ways to develop mine and still preserve my introvert’s comfort zone. Not an easy task!

Because a second track of the conference was focused on teenage writers, the ages of conferees ranged from barely teens to middle-agers to retirees. Unfortunately, I no longer fit into either of the first two age brackets, sinking more precariously deeper into the senior category, but I was by no means alone in that area.

In two areas, I was decidedly in the minority. First, I’m a male, and males were in noticeably short supply. I think I could count my fellowmen on one hand, and that included one of the presenters and a publisher! Second, I’m a writer of nonfiction, and I was floating (or sinking) in a frothy sea of fiction authors.

The Presenters

The options of workshops available was great, with four or five different topics being covered during each time slot, so I had no difficulty finding something to attend that promised to be helpful to me. I attended the following workshops.

  1. “Is My Manuscript Ready for an Agent?” by Kim Peterson (no relation to me, but she does live in Knoxville, Tennessee, my hometown). I went into her workshop hoping that I wouldn’t learn something that I had done wrong, because I had already contacted an agency, and they’re now considering one of my manuscripts to determine whether it’s something they can represent. Kim offered a lot of helpful suggestions, including problems to avoid that unequivocally spell rejection by an agent. Perhaps the most useful information was the numerous resources for helping one polish his or her manuscript before submitting it. (I now have a lot more books to locate and add to my already overcrowded reading list!) I was also the winner of a book (alas, fiction) for being the first attendee to enter the room!

  2. “5 Things I Learned in Corporate America that Can Jumpstart Your Writing Business in under 24 Hours” by Tony Snipes. This man was simply amazing in his ability to apply business principles to writing and marketing, especially the principles of strategic planning and goalsetting. His underlying theme seemed to be the biblical injunction to “Write the vision and make it plain, so that others may read and run with the message.” I hope I can successfully apply at least some of what he shared. His enthusiasm is contagious, and I hope I caught a bad case of it!

  3. “The Balancing Act: Write Powerful Christian Fiction without Preaching” and “Create and Maintain a Blog to Build a Readership” by Tessa Emily Hall. This youngster is simply amazing, having published (traditionally, not self-published) the first of her several books at age 16 (she still looks 16!) and now representing an agency and serving as acquisitions editor for a publisher. She was also the keynote speaker for the teen track. I was particularly interested in learning how to increase the readership of my blog, which everyone now says is one of the biggest ways to increase that mandatory broad platform. I need not merely viewers or visitors to the blog but followers. (So if you haven’t done so, please visit my blog site at and click “Follow!” I need your help!)

  4. “Writing Historical Fiction” by Carol Baldwin. I was fortunate in that I came to the room early, before any other attendees arrived and while Carol was setting up. That provided the opportunity to talk informally with her about a project I’ve toyed with in an attempt to broaden my writing into historical fiction. She was quite helpful and encouraging, and I hope to apply to that project much of the advice she offered. She also e-mailed me after the conference to further encourage my pursuit of the project and left the door open for additional help if necessary.

Added Blessing

As informative as the conference was, perhaps the thing that “made” the conference for me was when my pre-workshop conversation with Carol Baldwin was interrupted by one of the conference organizers. She told me that the father of an attending teenager wanted to talk with me. His daughter Katie had seen my book on the Confederate cabinet on my display and was excited by its content. He was going to buy it for her as a surprise, but he wanted to enhance the surprise by having me autograph it for her and to take her picture with me. Now for an unknown author like myself, a tiny little fish in a vast ocean of better-known and more widely published authors, that’s heady stuff!

I met and talked with Katie while autographing the book for her. Lo and behold, she, too, is from Tennessee. Sweetwater, a town a little south of my old hometown, and she has relatives who live in Halls, the little community north of Knoxville where I grew up. And the relatives’ name is McCloud, a name with which I was very familiar growing up about a quarter mile from (where else?) McCloud Road.

Katie is only 13, but she is ambitious, has a fantastic knowledge of American history, and loves to write. She’s taking college-level classes already, hoping to cut her costs for college. Before the next workshop was over, her father had e-mailed me an award-winning essay that she had written. It exhibited a fantastic grasp of using dialect and vernacular, to say nothing of its historical content. And to cap it all off, in the closing general session, when the representative of EA Publishing announced winners of a contest they had sponsored, Katie’s name was among them. I felt like standing and cheering for her. The winners’ essays will be published in a book. And she’s only 13. I love it when young people are ambitious about learning and writing about our history.

So that was my weekend. Now if only I can turn the knowledge gained into applications to my own writing. And you can help with part of that task by visiting my blog site and becoming a follower. The blog comes out twice a week, every Tuesday and Friday morning. Follow it, and you’ll get notifications of each new post when it comes out. I hope you’ll find the blog worthwhile and maybe even entertaining. (And thank you in advance for helping “grow” my platform!)

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