My first attendance at a W2I Conference was in March of 2017.I landed a scholarship which helped me enjoy the whole weekend.
I brought a notebook of questions that God answered in every workshop I attended.I still have that notebook with notes.Reflecting on that wonderful weekend, I wonder, should I have been so surprised by how God showed up? I mean, as believers, we know God’s Word is truth and we can recount those scriptures that read, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and all these things will be added unto you.”God does help us have the desires in our hearts as we live for Him.The first thing I gleaned from this conference was a personal renewing of a desire to write about godly things for children and their families.
The second thing I learned about writing, and freelance writing in particular, is that people you meet at conferences can help change your life. Asking a question about poetry led me to meet with Brenda Covert during our one-on-one time.Brenda introduced me to Union Gospel Press and she urged me to apply with them as they were open to new authors.Months after submitting my application, I was offered an assignment.They asked me to write devotions for singles.So, I did.Yes, this was a “paid and published” opportunity for me, a small step into a much larger world of writing and publishing.
A third benefit is learning about various links, resources, and publications where I can continue to pursue writing projects. Currently, I have no assignments with a publisher, but I have been busy this summer entering writing contests and submitting poetry and short stories to magazines. I have been able to re-ignite my personal blog, and I have had some critiques done on a YA fantasy novel I ‘ve been writing for most of my life.So my writing journey continues even to today.Who knows what God may have for me around this corner of my life?
Some of the magazines Diane Buie has been published in.
Diane Buie celebrated when she saw her articles in print. These included devotionals for children and pre schoolers; beginning with ages PreK up to 4th and 5th grades. A few of the submissions to Union Gospel Press were Bible related games or activities to enhance faith development.
What about you: How have writing conferences impacted your writing or creativity?How did attending this year’s W2I Conference in September change your life?
I graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and immediately transitioned into a career in marketing. I’m still learning the ropes of copywriting, but many of the principles I learned in journalism school apply to both copywriting and creative writing. I’d love to share some of those things with you.
One of the first skills I learned in journalism school was how to conduct interviews. In class, my professor had us practice interviewing each other before she sent us to the nearby computer lab to talk to other students — to strangers.
Approaching unsuspecting, and potentially unwilling, strangers was terrifying at first, but over time, the action became easier. By my sophomore year, I was excited to interview strangers.
I’m glad I learned to talk to people and ask good questions early on in my education because so much of the program was based on that discipline. Without interviewing skills, many of my news stories would have been lackluster because people are the heart of a story.
My senior year, I wrote a news story about Main Street Lynchburg, Va., receiving new water lines and electrical systems — not the most interesting story in the world.
But when I added quotes from a quirky barista known as “Coco” and an elderly camera shop owner who thinks the project is “experimenting with other people’s livelihoods,” the story took on a new dimension.
Whether you’re writing a newspaper article or a work of fiction, talking to others will breathe life into your story.
Simplicity is the Key to Good Writing
Most news is written at an eighth-grade reading level. Journalists intentionally write at a lower reading level so news can be accessible to readers. When writing, journalists use simple sentences and words to get their points across.
Similarly, in copywriting, we use plain English. When writing to a diverse audience, it is best to write plainly and simply because your readers may have different levels of education. (Am I the only one who read magazine ads as a kid?)
While fiction writers have a more specific audience, I still believe simple writing is the best writing because it doesn’t distract the reader from the story.
Transitions are Hard
Copies of the Liberty Champion displayed on my dorm room wall circa 2017
Both transitions in writing and transitions in life are difficult.
Traditionally, journalists had to write as simple and short as possible to fit their stories into just a few column inches of the paper. That doesn’t matter as much now with the internet being the primary vehicle for news, but there still isn’t much room for transitions in journalistic writing.
Academic writing is different than journalistic writing. It’s fluffier and lengthier and more formulaic. Every paragraph is supposed to be bookended with an introduction and a conclusion, and every section is bookended with introductory and conclusive paragraphs. And on it goes.
Journalistic writing doesn’t have the time for paragraphs dedicated solely to transitioning from one thought to the next, so I learned snappy words to transition quickly from one subject to the next without giving my readers whiplash.
Similarly, I learned that transitions in life are difficult. (See how I used the word “similarly” to transition my thoughts?)
Transitioning from being a high school student with an interest in creative writing to a journalism student dedicated to fact-based writing was difficult. At first, I felt like my creativity was being stifled because of the blandness of journalism compared to the freedom of creative writing.
But as my education progressed, the blandness transformed into a challenge, and I learned to write true stories creatively.
Again, I’m going through a transition from a journalism student to a copywriting professional. My creativity often runs dry because the copy I write is predetermined by my clients. I don’t get to choose my projects or conduct the research myself — it’s all provided.
Yet I’m learning to incorporate creativity into direct mail pieces and monthly offer emails. And I’m beginning to realize that creativity is not unrestrained. It’s a tool I can apply to everything I write, whether it is client-provided content or a short story from my heart.
Writing is Easy. Editing is Hard.
I never had a hard time sitting down to write my first draft. After completing my research, transcribing my interviews, and framing an outline, the first draft flowed onto the page in a few minutes.
Going back and editing is the hard part. Now, I don’t mean checking for grammatical errors. I mean cutting out unnecessary words and sentences, rearranging the flow of the story, and sometimes going back to the drawing board.
Usually, my first drafts ran long — around 1,200 words. At my college newspaper, we had a limit of 750 words per article so everything would fit into our 16-page paper.
That meant I had to cut out about 450 words every week. That’s a big chunk of text (and work)!
The hard part of editing my own writing is admitting to myself that the first draft isn’t perfect. Over time I learned that a first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect!
Once I accept that my writing isn’t perfect the first time around, I can usually effectively cut out a few hundred words. Before submitting my work, I wait a day and reread the piece with “fresh eyes.”
Don’t Waste your Mistakes
You’re going to make mistakes at some point in your writing career, and that’s okay. Whether it’s misspelling a name or overlooking a grammatical error, know that you can learn from your mistakes.
During my time with the school’s newspaper, I made my fair share of mistakes. So I kept a document of my common mistakes on my computer. That way, I could refer back to it when writing my stories.
I also worked as a copy editor for the school’s newspaper for two years, and during that time, I made some embarrassing mistakes (like overlooking a misspelling on the front page). Making a checklist of things to look for when reviewing your work (or others’ work) is a great way to cut down on mistakes and improve your writing and editing skills.
What have you learned on your writing journey? I’d love to hear about the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below!
Photo by Jim Smith
EmilyBabbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing and specializes in residential undergraduate enrollment. She has done extensive research on Generation Z and has written for school-aged audiences in her work as a promotional writer and through contract work with Growing Leaders, Inc. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, taking photos, and cooking. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website, EmilyMarlene.com, or connecting with her on LinkedIn.
Emily will be blogging for Write2Ignite on the first Thursday of every month. Her next post will be published on Nov. 7.
We prepare, plan, and pray for a year and then quickly the conference is over! As a team, we are thankful for each attendee and presenter and are already looking forward to the 2020 conference on September 18-19. SAVE THE DATE! More details to follow.
If you weren’t able to attend, here are some snippets and photos.
“I took many notes via pen and paper. I have been looking over the notes and am excited about all the valuable wisdom the presenters shared. What a great conference!” Melissa Henderson
Melissa Henderson with Tony Snipes
“My first-time experience with Write2Ignite2019 was supportive, inspirational and well worth my time. Networking and meeting new friends is always a plus at writing conferences, and there is nothing a writer loves more than coming away with new ideas and fresh inspiration. I am thankful for the people I connected with who either shared similar interests or encouraged me to think outside my own box.” Linda Phillips
Linda Phillips, Karen Wallace, Vijaya Bodach
“Everybody was engaged when I spoke about writing a controversial book. It was gratifying to speak with several people privately about their own stories. I am going to develop it some more because it’s an important topic. It was a great conference and I love our shared vision.” Vijaya Bodach (See Vijaya’s blog post about the conference here.)
“Once again our wonderful God has supplied our needs and multiplied our efforts. Through extra staff and volunteers, an amazing NGU college intern (Charissa Garcia), and His Spirit infusing grace, patience, and love, we saw an outpouring of enthusiasm for learning and practicing the disciplines and craft of writing and publishing. We have a growing list of writers and others asking to present at next year’s conference, from as far away as Australia!”
Deborah DeCiantis working during the conference. (Did she ever stop working??)
“Although not a writer by trade, I consider writing much the same as breathing in that I need to do it continuously to stay alive. The W2I conference afforded me the opportunity to confirm again and again how essential it is to show rather than tell stories to build bridges instead of walls within our relationships.
“Daniel Blackaby’s book beautifully illustrated by his wife, Sarah, Two Thankful Turtles, is a refreshing, other-worldly, look at differences among siblings that frames the strengths of each twin without using the more common hook of unfavorable comparisons (building bridges not walls).” Karen Wallace
Karen was excited to find this book for her grown son, Trevor.
“As a first-time writing conference attendee, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, Write2Ignite went above and beyond my expectations from the first session on. The chance to talk and interact with authors and editors who were truly interested in me and who gave me advice or tips on pursuing my own career in writing was awesome. I really can’t say enough good things about Write2Ignite. I’m very thankful that I was able to attend this year and I hope to attend next year as well!” Charissa Garcia
Charissa Garcia, an English major at NGU and our college intern enjoyed the beautiful weather along with Olivia Rollins, a fantastic teen writer.
“This year at Write2Ignite, I really enjoyed getting to listen to and socialize with different presenters. My favorite session was on learning about developing characters with Carol Baldwin. I also learned about persevering in a topic with Tessa Emily Hall.” Kathryn Dover
Carol Baldwin brainstorming a sensory fantasy world with the teens.
“At this year’s Write2Ignite, I learned a great deal of information, including world-building, painless editing, and completing query letters. I gained valuable knowledge and wisdom from the presenters and especially loved meeting them in person. I also enjoyed getting the chance to talk with other aspiring authors about writing. Overall, I really enjoyed attending Write2Ignite and I can’t wait until next year!” Olivia Kirkland
Olivia Kirkland with Tessa Emily Hall.
“I was truly honored to receive the award. But the best part of the conference was connecting with and learning from everyone there, from the presenters to other first-time attendees. I hope to keep up with and see them again next year!” Tina Hartig
Brenda Covert awards Tina Hartig with the Editor’s Choice Award made possible by Christian Book Proposals.
What did you learn at the conference? Leave a comment — we’d love to know!
Do You Wish You Had Been There?
THEN SAVE THE DATE FOR NEXT YEAR![spacer height=”20px”]
Find inspiration for success, and encourage those who aren’t quite ready to advance!
Need peer contacts for critiques and pep talks?
Connect with others for fun, fellowship, and common interests!
Short on time?
Friday afternoon and evening, Saturday 8:15 – 5, one short part of a weekend to take time for yourself, cultivating your interests, talents, and creativity, mastering new skills, meeting new people, and taking steps toward the vision of excellence you’ve imagined.
Last Thursday we shared some of our Write2Ingite staff picks. Here is a sampling of what our attendees are expecting.[spacer height=”20px”]
I’m looking forward to my first Write2Ignite conference. I’ve heard great things about past conferences and know I will pick up some much-needed tips. I also plan to meet friends I’ve made in an on-line writing group for the first time!
Jarm Del Boccio
I am looking forward to perfecting my craft, camaraderie with fellow authors, critiques and connections with publishing industry professionals. All this, hopefully, will lead to more creativity and direction from God as I listen to his still small voice in my life!
Having spent most of my 38 years of writing for publication focused on nonfiction, I am venturing into the world of fiction. At this year’s Write2Ignite conference, I’m eager to learn how to develop and strengthen my plots and create better characters by attending sessions presented by Nancy Lohr and Kim Peterson. I hope to learn better ways to market my efforts from Tony Snipes, who is always an interesting and helpful presenter. I’m also looking forward to hearing keynoter Edie Melson, whose blog I’ve followed for quite some time.
I am looking forward to meeting others at Write2Ignite and learning from them how they use their gift of writing to glorify and enjoy God, and to encourage others to do the same. I’m excited to ride over and back with a couple of writers, and the time that gives us to get to know one another better. It is a new wonder for me!
I am looking forward to connecting with writers of faith. Hoping to learn more about how to write for adolescents and teenagers about hope and faith.
The Write2Ignite conference has been my annual writing vitamin shot for years. Education and encouragement through its scheduled events and camaraderie in between, fill my cup–but there’s more. Each year I’ve received an unscheduled, tailor-made surprise from God, who knows my heart’s needs. Only He knows what it’ll be this year, but I can’t wait.
Stay tuned for Part III. Next Thursday you’ll hear what our faculty is looking forward to!