Eight hundred writers in one place

I have so much going on lately that I have trouble with simple questions such as “How are you?” or “What’s new?” So, do you want to hear about the writers’ conference, my big fall, or my first experience with hypnosis? That’s the thing about blogs. As a professional writer, I naturally want to build interest in my writing and publicize my latest endeavors. (Did I mention my cover story in the new SeaPort Magazine? Or that I’m working on a book on childless women? Or that my husband has Alzheimer’s and I have lots of article ideas about that?)

Okay, the conference. Almost every year, I attend the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland. For the last few years, I have been the board member representing the Oregon Coast branch, so I need to show up. I have been going to writers’ conferences since 1973, when I got out of my VW Bug, saw the other attendees and thought “They’re all so old.” Well, now I fit in. WW approximately 800 writers and wannabe writers into the Portland Airport Sheraton from Thursday night through Sunday afternoon, name tags swinging from lanyards around their necks. In addition to lots of workshops and guest speakers, the big attraction at WW is the opportunity to pitch one’s books to agents and editors.

So much emphasis has gone into marketing these days. Everyone is talking pitch, platform, market, audience, etc. I know how important these things are, but oh, for the good old days when we just worked on crafting a good story or poem. I didn’t pitch this time. I took some workshops and skipped others to stay in my room working on my book. The Sheraton is a great place to work. I can spread my papers out on that beautiful mahogany desk with minimal distractions and just think and make notes and write. I don’t have to worry about the dogs,the dishes or even making my bed. I dealt with notes that have been gathering dust since 1999.

The workshops I took were good, too. My favorite was the two-session class from William Powers, who has turned his adventures in foreign lands into books and articles in places like the New York Times and the Washington Post. He also shares his words on National Public Radio. He really got the creative juices flowing and made us promise to get our queries written and sent within the next two weeks. He shared plenty of marketing information, but he also told personal stories and talked about writing from the heart. If you ever have a chance to read his work or take a class from him, do it.

Another favorite part of the conference was Chelsea Cain’s keynote speech at the banquet. (I loved the chocolate cheesecake, too). Cain wrote a column for the Oregonian for years, but now she has gone into writing thrillers and went from being pregnant and two weeks away from having to beg for rent money to a million dollar-plus book deal with her novel Heartsick. She’s funny and inspiring and beautiful. I’m so jealous, but so inspired.

The next WW conference is already being planned for the first weekend in August 2010. But there are lots of other conferences. Look for the one that fits your needs, and if you can afford a little time for information and inspiration, go.

Gosh, now there’s no room left to write about falling or hypnosis. Stay tuned.

Author: Sue Fagalde Lick

writer/musician California native, Oregon resident Author of Freelancing for Newspapers, Shoes Full of Sand, Azorean Dreams, Stories Grandma Never Told, Childless by Marriage, and Up Beaver Creek. Most recently, I have published two poetry chapbooks, Gravel Road Ahead and The Widow at the Piano: Confessions of a Distracted Catholic. I have published hundreds of articles, plus essays, fiction and poetry. I'm also pretty good at singing and playing guitar and piano.

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