Lessons from a Conference

I recently returned home from teaching at the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, held in Portland, Oregon. It was a grand time of sharing and laughter, learning and listening. Here are the main lessons I brought home with me from this time spent in the company of fellow writers:

1. Even with all the changes, there’s still a lot to celebrate in the publishing world. From contracts with traditional publishers, to the creation of new publishing houses, to the new opportunities open to writers ready to step up, this seems to many to be the optimum time to be a writer.

2. The right partnerships have never been more important. From agents to publishers to editors, marketing gurus to website creators, cover designers to indie advisors, surrounding yourself with the best publishing team is, quite simply, imperative. Proverbs 15:22 is an excellent motto for today’s writer: “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.”

3. If you do nothing else, you MUST find a way to engage your readers—and to do so as early in the process as possible. There are so many avenues available to writers today through the Internet that it can be overwhelming. But here’s the good news: You DON’T have to do it all! Take them a few at a time, experimenting to see which ones match your message and personality best. All it takes is finding one or two that really capture your readership, and you’re on your way to solid reader engagement.

The most important lesson of all, though, is this: Community is vital. If you’re feeling confused, lost, discouraged…you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in very good company. Many writers are facing struggles, some having to do with writing, some having to do with life. But all affect our ability to be creative, to meet deadlines, to do what we need to do. But what I saw at the conference, over and over, was the restorative power of shared tears and laughter. Especially with those who truly understand what you’re dealing with. Just stepping away from the pressures for a brief time and talking, praying, laughing with someone is the best medicine possible.

I found that at this conference, as did many others. But you can find it in smaller groups, too. In a critique group or even just a critique partner. In a regular coffee group made up of writers. We don’t always have to talk about writing…sometimes we just need to talk about life. Doing so will lift our spirits and remind us why we’re doing this in the first place. To minister to others.


11 Responses to Lessons from a Conference

  1. Avatar
    Jackie Layton August 31, 2016 at 3:54 am #

    Hi Karen,

    It was so good to breath in God and spend time with other writers last week at ACFW. Thanks for reminding us we need that community. You’re right there were sweet time of laughter and tears and even sweeter times when we prayed together.

    Have a great day!

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    Richard Mabry August 31, 2016 at 6:04 am #

    Karen, Thanks for sharing these lessons. I certainly agree with your points–especially #3. It’s been a sticking point with me for a while.

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    Ann Coker August 31, 2016 at 6:09 am #

    Do you have advice for getting into the field of editing? In the 2nd to last line of your piece, that should be lift, not life. Sometimes I think my best gift is editing instead of writing, especially writing a book.

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    Robin Patchen August 31, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    “Community is vital.” So true. I would be lost without my writing friends, those close by and those I only know via email. I’d have quit this writing thing a long time ago if not for the people I get to walk this journey with.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser August 31, 2016 at 6:37 am #

    Great and hopeful post, Karen, thank you.

    If I could ask a question I ought really to understand…what specifically constitutes ‘engagement with readers’?

    Irealize that I’ve made a lot of assumptions…website/blog hits, blog comments, FB and Twitter followers…but these seem, with the exception of blog commenters, simple and blind numbers.

    If I had to hazard a guess, the best snapshot of engagement would be something calling for an investment on the readers’ part; even something so simple as signing up for an newsletter.

    Or an I completely missing the mark, and making things a lot harder than they have to be?

  6. Avatar
    Jan Cline August 31, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Good words, Karen. I’m so glad you are addressing the need to share our confusion, discouragement, joy, and doubt with fellow writers. It’s a tough business and we need each other. You are a blessing.

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    Miralee Ferrell August 31, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    Excellent advice, Karen. I saw you at OCW but didn’t get a chance to give you a hug. I especially appreciate the advice about surrounding yourself with a strong team, and engaging readers. Well said.

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    Sheri Dean Parmelee August 31, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

    Karen, thanks for an outstanding post. I just returned from my first conference where I learned a tremendous amount of information about writing! Meeting with other writers is so very encouraging, especially since we may be experiencing some of the same issues. Great post!

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    Traci August 31, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

    I had absolutely the same experience at OCW. What a wonderful blessing of community! So many people to learn from, share with, and chances to grow and be challenged towards excellence. I felt so blessed to be there.

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    April McGowan August 31, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    Oregon Christian Writers is such a loving, supportive, encouraging environment. Community is key, especially on those days when the critical voices inside us tempt is to walk away or despair in this writing life. We need the voices of others urging us forward, praying for us, cheering for us.

  11. Avatar
    Patti Iverson September 1, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    I love you Karen!

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