The Value of Face-to-Face

Writing for Children Blog | craft
June 30, 2016


For the past several years, I've traveled to Pennsylvania to co-lead a
Highlights Foundation Workshop in the late spring or early summer. I enjoy
these workshops, and it's nice to be forced from behind my desk now and
then. Doing them also reminds me of the value of leaving home to receive
instruction and interaction with other writers, so I wanted to talk a bit
about the benefits so you can consider adding a conference, workshop, or
retreat to your writing journey. So these are the top three benefits I've
found to attending face-to-face writing opportunities.

1. Writing can be lonely work, so connect where you can.

As a full-time writer, I spend hours every day sitting at my desk as alone as I can
possibly be. The more quiet and solitude I have, the better I write. But if
I never leave home and talk about writing with people who share my passion,
I find the challenges and frustrations inherent in writing can build up and
swamp me emotionally. It's nice to share my journey with people who
understand. It's good to discover my challenges aren't rare, and don't
reflect poorly on my competence. I like being reminded that the writing
journey is tough for everyone, so I'm not failing when things don't work as I
expect. I'm just on the road with everyone else.

If you want more writing instruction like this, plus lots of tips and great resources, click here!

2. The more you give, the more you get.

I find this to be incredibly true in my own writing life. Whenever I get a
market lead or learn of an editor looking for a specific kind of writing,
I try to pass those on to other writers. When I'm face-to-face with writers,
I can share my specific experiences with publishers, contracts, and marketing,
and I can hear about the experiences of others. In this way, I come to be
better informed about the whole industry in which I work. Without writing
conferences, I would never have become interested in educational publishing,
for instance, an area where I have found considerable success and money. The
more people who associate my name with professionalism and knowledge, the more likely I am to be recommended to new markets. So go to workshops, conferences, and retreats with a plan for sharing as well as receiving. You may not see an immediate return on your generosity, but this is a business where sowing tends to lead to reaping.

3. You learn the journey has a million paths.

If you don't interact with a variety of professionals, it's easy to fall into
the "just one way" trap. Writers who have found success will logically think
their way is THE way to success, and their way may not work well for you. This
can be extremely discouraging. But as you interact with more writers and listen
to more panels and hear more instruction, you soon learn that there is no one true
path. For every writer who says professionals must always do a ton of
prewriting and outlining, you'll meet someone who flies completely by the
seat of her pants and is doing very well indeed. For every writer who says
you simply cannot sell a book without an agent, you'll meet another who has
built a lucrative career without ever being represented. For every writer
who says the big publishers only publish established writers of bestsellers,
you'll meet happy writers publishing their very first book with those very
big publishers.

The truth is that no one has the corner on truth. Planning your writing journey and attending conferences and workshops benefits you. It enables you to look at all the paths and broaden your mind, allowing you to make an informed choice of the one that works for you.

Ready to attend a conference, but don't know where to start? ICL Director Katie Davis is teaming up to bring you Picture Book Summit on October 1, 2016 ,with Keynote Speakers Jane Yolen, Paul O. Zelinsky, and 2016 Newbery Award winner Matt de la Peña. The best part? It's all online. You don't even have to leave your house. For more details, click here.

Jan Fields is a full-time, freelance author and an Institute of
Children's Literature Instructor. Would you like to have a professional author be your instructor in a one-on-one writing class where YOU are the focus? Take the free aptitude test here.

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