I should be working on my classes. I used to tell my children (still do), “We work and then we play.” But then, sometimes I remember Jack and Jill and fall back on another favorite platitude: “All work and all play make Jayne a dull girl.”
All that to say I’m taking a break from reading assignments about gender differences in communication to share a few notes from this weekend’s Big Dream Conference. Held in Pawleys Island, SC, the three-day event was so informative and inspirational that my head is still abuzz with the things I want to write, revise, and experiment with.
At The Petigru Review launch party Friday night, the keynote speaker, Peter Steinberg, set the tone for the next two days. Although I didn’t intend to take notes, I soon found myself fumbling through my conference bag for a pen and notebook. Every word he spoke was enlightening for this novice, but I’m going to mention only three points this morning. And yes, novice is the correct word to describe how I felt after exposure to so many different poets, writers, agents, and editors this weekend.
- Every page needs to be as good as the page before and after it. That might not resound with you right away, but think about it. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “It was slow going in the beginning, but then it picked up.”? (not sure about the correct punctuation there and am too preoccupied to investigate it) A story, poem, article, story, or book should pull the reader in right away and keep her there. Incidentally, Peter wasn’t the only presenter who mentioned this sterling advice during the conference.
- Write, rewrite, and then rewrite some more. Admittedly, my personal acquaintanceship with writers is limited, but all of them stress this point. One friend says she’s a slow writer. Translation: “I realize the importance of every word and turn of phrase, and getting my story into the minds and hearts of readers is paramount.” A couple of speakers recommended putting the work away for a few days, weeks, or even months between revisions, sage advice that I’ve heard many times.
- Be a voracious reader. Put another way, be a voracious reader even while you’re working on a project. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. It’s that simple,” wrote Stephen King. I’ve always known this at some level, but until attending conferences I didn’t realize that it wasn’t enough to simply read. I had to study too. Sentence construction and variation, scene description, and language usage are all there to observe and absorb.
Do I feel daunted by all I learned this weekend, not only by the agents and editors but also by the 100+ attendees who have different voices and stories? Not really. Encouraged, yes. King also advises writers and would-be writers that “the magic is in you.”
It’s time to take a break from working and writing. It’s time to read, and I think I’ll start with a recent issue of “Poets and Writers,” a publication recommended by a couple of people on a panel yesterday. Then again, I’m looking at a stack of books I recently purchased at a Friends of the Library sale, and one in particular is calling my name.