Writing and getting a book published are really less than half the battle.
Since my memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On was published in 2011, I’ve spent most of every day marketing to keep my book in the public’s eye. I maintain a blog, Choices. I tend two Facebook pages. I’m connected through LinkedIn and Twitter. I speak at book clubs and library events. I sign books at book fairs and at our local indie bookstore. I’ve participated in virtual and live book tours. I also write regularly for several websites. In addition, I’ve been on panels and led workshops at writers conferences.
I recently co-led, with Eleanor Vincent, author of Swimming with Maya, A Mother’s Memoir, a workshop at the Story Circle Network’s National Memoir Conference, Stories from the Heart, in Austin Texas. Once the conference was over, I reflected a bit about what we had to do to propose our workshop, the guidelines we followed in preparing our presentation, our workshop’s content and some of the pluses and minuses of the entire experience.
Hopefully these words will encourage other authors to participate in writing conferences, either as a panelist, lecturer, or as a workshop leader. It’s a great way to get your name and book out there and to network with other writers like you.
Responding to the Story Circle Network (SCN) Request for Presenters’ Proposals
First, Eleanor and I decided on our workshop title: Telling Healing Stories: Writing a Compelling Memoir. Then we did the hard work of responding to the proposal request. Since I had spent many years working on proposals in the aerospace industry, I knew the most important aspect to responding was to adhere to the request explicitly, to answer every item on it in the order given. Also, not to be disqualified, we had to get the proposal to SCN on the due date – September 15, 2013. SCN’s request asked for our presentation title, goals, method, and benefits. It was a short request that needed meticulous attention.
Happily, we got notice that our proposal was accepted on November 31, 2013. Only 20 were accepted out of 60 proposals received. We were also told they’d be back in a week or so with suggestions for changes. We didn’t receive any. The next step was to accept the offer to present via email in a week. We also were required to register for the conference by December 31, 2013 to confirm our presentation and get the presenters’ discount.
Responding to the SCN Presenters’ Guidelines
A few weeks later we received SCN’s guidelines to presenters that reminded us to:
- Know our audience
- Know what visual aids we’d need
- Deliver on the promises we proposed
- Maintain control of the group
- Include writing and sharing by participants
- Teach, don’t pitch
As we developed our workshop’s content we continually reminded ourselves to prepare a presentation that followed our initial proposal. The guidelines warned that our participants would be asked to review our performance, and if we deviated from our plan we would be marked down. Even on the morning before our presentation, Eleanor and I sat down and checked off every item on the guidelines and were confident we would deliver on our promises. As a result, we did not receive any black marks.
Our Workshop’s Content
We developed a workshop that consisted of:
- Introductions – we introduced the workshop and ourselves and then asked our audience to each say their name, what they are writing and what they wanted to get out of the workshop
- Craft talks about plot and theme
- Short readings from each of our memoirs
- Opportunities for our participants to write in response to prompts geared to their writing process and/or something important to their healing process
- Opportunities for our participants to share in small groups and with the full audience
- A short question and answer period at the end
- We also handed out a list of resources consisting of Books, Magazines, Blogs and Websites, Networks applicable to Telling Healing Stories. I’ve posted the list on my blog Choices. Click here to take a look.
Once we prepared our craft talks and lists of prompts we developed a timetable of what we and our participants would do in our hour and a half time limit. I think we revised the timetable four or five times – the last was in real time while we were in the workshop. The audience introductions took ten minutes longer than planned so we had to scramble immediately to make up for that time.
Pluses and Minuses of the Entire Experience
We received some great comments from our participants at the end:
“It totally fulfilled what I wanted to get out of this workshop,”
“The list prompt really opened up my writing,”
“It was the best program of the entire conference.”
Of course, kudos always feel good. However, I, for one, felt this was a good start. I still have a lot of work to do to perfect my presentation and delivery, and hopefully I’ll get some more practice. That’s another factor in book marketing. An author must become adept at public speaking – something I had never trained for. I had to wade right in.
Another big plus is the networking opportunities being at a writers’ conferences. It’s wonderful to be among other writers and hear their stories. I also personally met several people who I only knew online in the past.
I think the biggest minus was the hour and half time limit. I would have loved to have given our audience more time to share their writing. We sensed they were really opening up, and sharing experiences is so helpful to others. Otherwise the workshop went very well. Having over 35 people in the audience at nine in the morning on a Sunday made us feel it was all worthwhile.
Please, could you let me know your writers' conference experiences, and what you’d like your workshop leaders to pay more attention to?
LEADING A WRITERS' CONFERENCE WORKSHOP by @madeline40 http://goo.gl/dU5h11 #Authors #Writing #WritingWorkshops
During her 30-year professional career, Madeline Sharples worked as a technical writer/editor and proposal manager in the aerospace business and wrote grant proposals in the nonprofit arena. She started to fulfill her dream to work as a creative writer in the last few years. Her memoir, Leaving the Hall Light On: A Mother’s Memoir of Living with Her Son’s Bipolar Disorder and Surviving His Suicide, was released in a hardback edition in 2011 and released in paperback and eBook editions by Dream of Things in 2012.
She also co-authored Blue-Collar Women: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994), co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 and 2, and wrote the poems for two photography books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy (Paul Blieden, photographer). Her poems have appeared online and in print magazines, most recently the Story Circle Network’s 2013 True Words anthology.
Madeline’s articles appear regularly at the Naturally Savvy and Aging Bodies websites. She also posts at her blogs, Choices and is currently writing a novel. In addition, she produced a CD of her son’s music as a fundraiser to help erase the stigma of mental illness and prevent suicide. It will be released this summer.
Madeline studied journalism in high school, wrote for the high school newspaper, studied journalism at the University of Wisconsin, and received a B.A. degree in English from the University of California at Los Angeles.
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