Sunday, July 21, 2013

On Writing and Dancing

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?


  1. It helps to have someone British when it comes to reading your story aloud. Any story--no matter how inane an essay might be--sounds lovely when read in an English accent.

    (Not that any of them were inane. I was just impressed by the British husband's delivery...)

  2. Yep. The gentleman with the British accent did a fine job reading a long story.

    Can you fake a British accent and read for me next time?

  3. These are great points! Thanks so much!

  4. I think I know your fall retreat. Seems I just opened up a professional journal last night, and found your smiling face amongst the pages. I will talk it up with my colleagues when I go back to work. I don't know many of them that are writers, but they will be impressed that I met you a while back! I'm such a namedropper!

    As for had me fooled. I thought you were great at socializing.

  5. Hi Karen,
    You're welcome. I always find helpful information on your blog.

    Hi Val,
    Guilty as charged. That would be great if you would talk the retreat up with your colleagues when you return to school. I was honored and surprised last fall when the managing editor of the association newsletter invited me to speak at the retreat this year.

    As far as being comfortable socializing, I'm awkward at it, but practice helps.

  6. Very nice post. You were one of the first bloggers I "found" and now I can't remember what lead me to you. But I know you are a helpful person and share writing info in abundance! Thank you.
    Will you be going to OWL in August? The fall is going to be hectic for me I think, but I will look at that Well Versed info when you post. Have a good week coming up.

    1. Hi Claudia,
      Thank you! Most likely I won't be at OWL. That's the first weekend of school for the grandkiddos. I hope you look into Well Versed. It's a neat little anthology.
      Have a great week!

  7. Good post, Donna! I'm not great at small talk and I tend to be shy, but I find it so much easier to approach people and chat at a writing conference or a book launch, etc when everyone there is interested in the same things I am. :)

    1. Hi Madeline,
      You're right about that! It's easier to chat when there's a common interest.

  8. The launch was fun. I like to hear you read, but I didn't feel up to reading that day either, so I understand. Reading with an accent certainly does help the attention level of the audience! I'm with Val - You are geat at small talk, always engaging and generous with your inclusion of people. I have consiously tried to pattern myself after you, since I am extremely shy and awkward.

    1. Hi Marcia,
      Aww. You're so sweet, and I try to follow your lead when it comes to being patient.

  9. Your ten tips are truly tremendous, and not the ones typically put on "writer lists". That makes them even better. Thanks, Donna!

    Critter Alley

  10. Thanks for sharing the valuable info, Donna! I'm glad it went well overall. The only tip I can add is to do what you did, and blog about it right away so you don't lose the excitement and momentum from being part of a live group. You have no idea how many notes I've taken and didn't take the time to write them up immediately. After a while, I can't remember details, and the moment is lost.

  11. What an exciting event for you--and good tips, too! (Though I can't see you being shy--I imagine we'd gab for a while if we met at a conference!)

    And prayers for your sis-in-law's continued recovery as well as the donor family.

  12. Congratulations again on this publication. Your trip sounds like it was a lot of fun. You are amazing.Great pointers here.

  13. Hi Pat,
    You're welcome. Glad you enjoyed them.

    Hi Mary,
    How true! Keeping the momentum going is important. If I don't write my thoughts down right away I tend to forget them.

    Hi Cathy,
    I'm sure we would gab at a conference. And thanks for prayers for my sister-in-law. She is doing remarkably well considering what she's been through. And God love the donor's family.

    Hi Linda,
    The trip was fun, and you are so kind!


  14. Great advice and great book launch!

  15. Good list, Donna. I wouldn't have thought being a writer was as much like being a dancer, although I do complain of aching legs and feet a lot. :D

  16. Wow! What a great article! My daughters are dancers, I'm a writer and my husband was a journalist. Thanks so much for posting. I also shared this story on my Facbook page.

    Great News - I've been asked to "Share My Story" for a Cancer Support Group website! I was contacted by a representative that found me on twitter and loves my blog! I'm working now on writing a 400-500 word story about my cancer journey as a survivor of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I'll send you a link when it's put on their website. Have a great weekend!

  17. Hi Tammy,
    Thanks. It was great to see you there.

    Hi Pat,
    Same here.

    Hi Leslie,
    That's wonderful news! Please let me know when your story is posted.

    Happy weekend everyone!


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