Sunday, April 29, 2012

Konferences, Keynote Junkie and Kids!

I've been a super, fantastic, marvelous really, really bad blogger lately!

I've been busy presenting.

The joy of writing is that you get to emerge from your sasquatch cave and go out into the sunlight and hang out with students who read your books! And teachers and librarians who appreciate your books! It's a whole lot of awesome and reminds us why we spend countless hours in the cave devoid of human contact.

I presented two sessions at a school. They were already reading Dead Frog on the Porch so I read a chapter later in the book, which is a treat because I usually read from the beginning, then I talk about where I get my ideas, and put the students through a writing exercise. The writing exercise really engaged them.

Then I was invited to present at two conferences: the Calgary Youth Writers Conference and the Foothills Young Authors' Conference in High River River. There was 1100 students at the Calgary conference and I presented two sessions on writing with humour called: What's so funny? Exercising your funny bone.  I introduce the concepts of writing with humour and then make the students write until their fingers bleed (hyperbole much!). The High River conference had 450 students attending and I did two sessions there as well.

At both conferences all the presenters attend an autograph session (read: hundreds of kids running around the gym getting autographs) great fun and a great ego boost!

Both conferences are the result of dedicated school boards, teachers, volunteers and the students willing to give up a Saturday to learn about writing.      

What I realized about myself these last two weekends is that I'm a Keynote Address junkie. I love listening to the stories of how the keynote presenters got published and the ups and downs of their writing careers, I love the inspiration and I love to see how the kids react to their stories. I wasn't disappointed at the two conferences. At the Calgary conference authors Jacquline Guest and Michele Martin Bossley were the keynote speakers, and at High River it was Sigmund Brouwer who presented a rock and roll keynote and had us singing in our seats. Great fun.

Now, once rejuvenated, back to the sasquatch cave to write.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Grabbing the Silver parachute of opportunity

I was lecturing motivating a friend the other day about her job search, and I told her to stop waiting for that silver parachute of opportunity to float down to her and solve all her problems.

Alright, if I have to explain the silver parachute then you’re living in a deeper, darker sasquatch cave than I am. Hunger Games? You’ve heard of it right – read the book, watched the movie …. Well, if you’re the one person on the planet who hasn’t here’s the dealio with the silver parachute: at a crucial point in the Hunger Games – a fight to the death for teens (no and I’m not talking about who gets control of the remote!), a silver parachute drops down with whatever life saving substance the competitor needs. It is courtesy of the sponsors – read: outside forces that exert control on the character.

So, I was all: ‘don’t wait around for that silver parachute of opportunity – you have to create your own opportunity – a silver parachute isn’t going to fall on your head with a job’ … and so goes my lecture motivational speech.

This is true for writers as well. No one is going to knock on your door and beg you to sign with them (unless you’re already a best selling author with the initials J.K.). You have to create your own opportunities, continually work on improving your craft, increasing your network of writers, doing your homework on publishers, editors and agents, and pitching to editors and agents at conferences.

Then it got me thinking about the silver parachute. 

There are two types of writers who are waiting for the silver parachute. The ones who are waiting for the 80s to return when there was lots of grant money, publishers that marketed books, and book sales fell on the writers head from the sky. Apparently!

That silver parachute isn’t going to fall anytime in any writerly universe no matter how dystopic.  

The other type of writer is the one who sees the silver parachute descending and takes every opportunity to capture it. They grab that parachute, crack it open and scoop out whatever life saving salve is in there. 

Some writers can't see the silver parachute descending due to the blinding light of their dreams of getting published. I’m talking about writers who have opportunities come their way but don’t follow up on them, and I don’t mean in a stalker way, I mean in a professional, this is my career sort of way.

This includes improving your writing skills every opportunity you have, doing your homework and being prepared when you go to conferences, perfecting your pitch and taking that pitch appointment no matter how much you are shaking in your Birkenstocks, and learning all you can from your writer friends and their experiences of getting published. For example, if someone mentions they are presenting at a conference ask for the contact information and follow up with a letter of introduction. 

See the opportunity there and grab it! It won’t always be as obvious as the silver parachute, but keep your eyes peeled, opportunity is out there … and you don’t have to kill another writer from another district to get it.  Okay, enough with the Hunger Games analogies already!    

And may the odds be ever in your favour - okay I had to do that!