By Jodie Cain Smith
It was that time of year again, that magical season when one hundred or so writers gather with a select faculty to geek out about the craft of writing for two and half straight days at Myrtle Beach. And the 2014 South Carolina Writers’ Workshop did not disappoint.
But first, bring on the usual conference trappings.
I am now properly carb-loaded for a marathon thanks to the mass catering proteins with all the flavor and texture of wet cardboard. Too bad I don’t run. Or eat fish off of a buffet.
The hotel had its annoyances, put in place to remind us that Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.” My room phone was possessed by the devil and rang throughout night one until I ripped it from the wall. O.K., so maybe I merely unplugged it, but I did so with gusto after learning the importance of tension in my Friday session.
And of course, the class hijackers were in full swing, ready and waiting to commandeer a session. Yes, I know he knows everything there is to know about computers and the Internet and blogging and she re-reads Edgar Allen Poe’s complete works before bed each night, but for the love of Pete, I paid to hear the actual expert speak!
Now, for the good stuff, the classes!
My fears of being bored, maddened, and humiliated were unfounded. Although the class topics were familiar, the information was not.
Scott Lax’s character development offered insight into the mind of a successful author and his process. The marketing class, Promoting Yourself: It’s a DIY World taught by the delightful Barabara Claypole-White, offered fresh ideas and practical, realistic solutions. In The 12 Dos & Don’ts of Crime Writing Ann Collette taught me to keep it real, keep it simple, and keep it moving. I wish I had met Joan Edwards, instructor of How to Add Pizzazz to Your Blog, two years ago when I first started my blog. I want to wrap her in a bear hug for the information she relayed to me regarding controlling spam, finding free photos, and creating usable content. But I won’t grab her while yelling, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” She seemed rather shy, and I wouldn’t want to discourage her from teaching strangers again. Finally, the last panel, Discover the Depth in Your Writing, led by Aurelia Sands provoked more deep thought with questions such as “Does my character like mayonnaise?” and the suggestion to take a personality test as my character in order to understand her better.
Clearly, I had a lot to learn and much more work to do, but by noon on Sunday, I felt energized and up to the challenge. That energy, that desire to conquer the world, is the best takeaway from a conference like this. After all the networking and note taking, the exchange of ideas and business cards, I now feel I have a huge community of writers and industry professionals pulling for me, hoping for my success. And that is the cherry on my conference sundae.