|Edgar Degas The Dance Lesson c. 1879 Painting|
Image, courtesy of the National Gallery of Art
In many ways, writing is like dancing. Both are creative arts. Both take practice, dedication, and learning from others.
Writers get cramped hands and fingers rather than the sore feet and calves of dancers. Some writers enjoy the spotlight, while others dance to a different drummer. Writers and dancers don't always get the parts they hope for -- and they often feel the sting of rejection while producing their art. Yet, dedicated writers and dancers are persistent and hopeful.
Like confession, both writing and dancing are good for the soul. Writers and dancers enjoy the freedom of expressing themselves and sharing their gifts with others.
Over the years I've learned a great deal from writers who've shared what they've learned with me. In that same spirit, after attending a writing event, I think about what I've learned that might benefit other writers.
So, here are ten lessons learned (or relearned) during the launch of Well Versed 2013, sponsored by the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild.
1. Be prepared/Be flexible. I don’t like to read in public, especially if it’s an emotional piece. The night before the launch I practiced reading my essay out loud and ran off a copy in large print so it would be easier to see. However, shortly before heading out the door I received some news that caused me anxiety, so I wasn’t comfortable reading. But I’ll give it a try next time.
2. Carpool. Because the launch was 90 miles away, several contributors from this area carpooled. We saved money by chipping in for gas. As a bonus, chatting during the drive helped pass the time and I got to know the other writers better.
3. Contribute. One carpooler brought snacks to share during the launch. My small contribution was donating back to CCMWG the fee I got for being a contributor to the anthology, which helped with printing costs. Next time I’ll also bring a snack.
4. Socialize. I’m not great at small talk, but I chat with people I know and make an effort to introduce myself to others, especially someone standing or sitting alone. To break the ice, I ask what they write and where they’re from. I talk about the weather, something they’re wearing, or the food.
5. Compliment. It takes courage to read in front of a group. After someone reads, especially if they’re sitting nearby, I compliment them after they sit down. After a reading, I seek out contributors and ask them to sign my book.
6. Bring business cards and a camera. I carry business cards in my purse to exchange at these types of events. I usually bring a camera as well. Because the batteries on my camera weren’t fully charged, I used my cell phone for pix, but the photos didn’t turn out very well. Fortunately, other writers brought cameras and shared their photos.
7. Don’t forget your pen. Having a pen that works is a must for a book launch. When I handed my pen to another contributor and asked him to sign my book, he asked me to use his pen instead – and keep it. Etched on his pen were the name and contact information for his editing business. What a smart marketing tool!
8. Advertise. The gentleman handing out pens knew that a book launch is an opportunity to spread the word about his business. It’s also a good time to advertise a book release or event. Shameless plug: I’m a presenter at a retreat this fall. During the launch I placed fliers with details about the event on a table. I also handed fliers to writers, while telling them a little bit about the retreat. (I’ll post details about the retreat later.)
9. Mind your manners. Before heading home, I thanked the editor of the anthology, the newsletter editor, the president of CCMWG and others. I suspect most attendees did the same. One sour note: While I was in the snack line, one person kept reaching across my plate grabbing food. He also didn’t use a fork or spoon to pick up food, just his bare hands. I don’t want to be like that guy.
10. Share. If I take photos, I post them, and I appreciate it when others do the same. I also try to blog about the event so others can learn about the organization and submission opportunities. (Note: Deadline for 2014’s issue of Well Versed is October 13, 2013—I’ll post more later.)
How about you? What have you learned by attending these types of writing events that you'd like to share with others?