Yesterday was the culmination of six months of organization and hard work. From an inkling of an idea, we changed the format of our writers conference entirely this year. Holding a two hour session in the morning, followed by a Q&A panel and then two separate presentations in the afternoon.
With a change in venue, we were able to set up a classroom style presentation room, which was conducive not only to the attendees but the presenters as well.
We were once again fortunate in our presenters. Each one not only gave excellent orations but were insightful in the Q&A panel utilizing registrants work as the basis of discussion, after critiquing the submissions. Yes we work them hard! But we are extremely grateful.
IPPY award winning Toronto author, Lisa de Nikolits flew in especially for our conference – quite a coo wouldn’t you say? Lisa is an absolute delight and a good friend of mine. Her presentation was 8 Components of Story Writing and it was incredibly helpful to established and novice writers. With only a short coffee break at midway, Lisa managed to enthuse her audience for the whole two hours.
The session after lunch was held by Judy Schultz, who is a nationally renowned travel and food writer, the author of ten books, and the winner of numerous awards including the Robert Kroetsch Book Prize for her fiction novel, Freddy’s War. She is also a very charming, generous woman and has graced our conference before. Judy’s presentation was Non-Fiction – 8 Guidelines, which was not only helpful for non-fiction but also fiction writers. Techniques of writing are interchangeable through any genre or style.
Our third and last session was held by Natasha Deen, who is currently our Writer in Residence. Natasha is hilariously funny and had the room in fits of laughter while giving great information on 8 Steps to Utilize Your WIR. I know that many of the attendees will be submitting work to Natasha, me included.
The Q&A panel included the presenters above as well as Karen Probert, who is a founding member of the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County and the author of Fragments of Lives. Karen continues to be a vital member of the Foundation as the Past President and the Library Liaison. Her insight into the writing craft is splendid.
Registrants and volunteers also enjoyed a wonderful lunch, browsed trade tables and bid on Silent Auction items. There were also displays celebrating the Writers Foundation’s timeline and another highlighting the members past and present. These exhibits were part of the Strathcona County 120 year anniversary celebrations.
With another successful conference under our belts we can breath a sigh of relief…for a short while anyway!
Thank you to everyone that attended and made it such an inspiring and enjoyable day.
Peruse – definition: 1) a. to examine or consider with attention and in detail ; study; b. to look over or through in a casual manner 2) read; especially : to read carefully or thoroughly.
Over the last several months I have been working on the Conference Planning Committee of my writing group, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. This is our fourth conference and it is always well received. Here are the details – just in case you are planning on coming.
A writer‘s conference gives you the opportunity to learn and network both of which are valuable to the novice and experienced writer. You should consider –
* does the content fit your needs at this stage of your writing? * do the benefits outweigh any costs that might be paid? * what do you hope to gain from your attendance / participation? * does it offer more than bragging rights – are you going just to say you’ve been to a conference or rub elbows with so-and-so? * does it offer a range of opportunities?
When deciding if a conference is worth the time and effort, a writer must look at, not only the cost of going but the benefits gleaned from the experience. Writing is a lonely activity, for the most part, and a chance to make a connection with others who share your passion is a great opportunity but also a big investment. By investment we are not only referring to the fees accompanying conference registration but also the time it takes to attend a conference. Both must be considered thoroughly – would your money be spent wiser elsewhere, or would it be time better spent, say, writing?
The content offered by a conference will either meet your needs or it won’t, depending upon the stage of your writing and the expectations you have for your writing future. “Never stop learning” should be a component of every writer’s life and it drives your decision when you select the workshops you might attend and the value they have to you. Consider if they are introductory, mid-level, or advanced – or are they general enough / specific enough to offer you something to ‘take home.’
The whole purpose in attending a conference should be to further your writing journey. If you are going, just to say you’ve been, or perhaps a chance to slip your unsolicited manuscript into the hands of an unsuspecting editor, think again and reconsider your actions and your reasons for attending. What do you pay? A writer only has to peruse the listing of the many conferences hosted throughout the year and the country to realize that costs vary, with some be out of reach for the emerging writer, or someone on a tight budget. Consider again, the benefits in relation to the cost.
Check out the conference programs and who is hosting the function. A conference about speculative fiction or sci-fi fantasy may intrigue some writers but not everyone writes in this genre and although the fundamentals of writing and character development or plotting apply to any genre, a whole conference geared toward this particular style of work, might not benefit all writers.
If you have to make choices, it might be more appropriate to find a conference geared directly to the type of writing you do or one that offers a range of events, displays, and workshop choices. Most include a trade area with vendors who sell their products and services. Don’t look at this as just an opportunity to spend your money. Consider the value in the research and network aspects of it – meet new people, explore ideas, invest in your experience – it might open up doors to the future of your own writing career.
1. Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?
Farley O’Charlie McBarley is my favorite character. Not because he was the main character in my first children’s book, but because of what he stands for. Farley was bullied by his third grade classmates. Although he was belittled repeatedly and made fun of, Farley handled his situation with class and dignity. And, the bullies were enlightened by the end of the story. I relate to this character because I, too, was bullied as a child and as an adult. My son Jason and my mother were both bullied too. Bullying is a serious, atrocious issue that hits close to home for me.
2. Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I write Christian and children’s books-fiction and non-fiction.
3. What do you enjoy most about writing?
I love to pour my heart into a book, even if it’s a warped, wacky, fun, entertaining children’s book. When I’m writing, I give it my all.
4. Have you got a favorite place to write?
I usually write on my computer, mainly because it’s faster. If I had grown up back in the Samuel Clemens‘ days and before, I don’t know that I’d be a writer today. Writing by longhand is not for me, tedious at best.
5. Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
I have to be inspired to write. I don’t usually just sit down at my computer and type. Every resource book I’ve read says I should write 1,000 words every day. That doesn’t work for me. I write when I’m inspired. I may write two children’s books in one day or I may go weeks and not write anything at all. This system may not be popular, but it works for me.
6. What inspires your stories?
Lots of things inspire me. My Christian faith is the basis of everything I do. I even implement that faith into my children’s books by writing clean, wholesome material that is suitable for the entire family. My childhood has been a huge factor in one of my recent books, Mud Puddles and Muscadines, a short story collection about my childhood escapades growing up on an ol’ dirt road in rural Arkansas. Also, I was a substitute teacher in our local school system for 10 years. While all of my characters are fictional in my children’s books, those years certainly gave me much material from which to draw for ideas.
7. What are you currently reading?
Today I will finish Terror By Night by Terry Caffey. One of the weirdest things I’ve ever had happen while reading a book is to not know anything about the book prior to reading it and then open the pages and read about real locations that I have either lived at or visited. That has happened to me with the last two books I’ve read. It’s kind of surreal.
8. Do you have any odd habits or childhood stories?
My family might tell you differently, but I don’t think I have any odd habits except I don’t usually eat my meals on a plate. I eat my food from a little cereal bowl. I guess that counts as odd to most folks. I have several childhood stories. I’ve written about many of them in Mud Puddles and Muscadines. One story I haven’t written about yet is when I was in the 10th grade and my basketball team was playing in the first round of our district tournament. This was back before the girls played full court. We played six and six then. I was a forward, one of the three players that made the points. I don’t know what happened, but I scored 52 points out of 60 in that game. I couldn’t miss. Our local radio station was covering the game and saying all kinds of nice things about me. Of course, I found this out after the game. I’ve been called a ball hog due to scoring so many points, but it seemed I couldn’t miss that day and the idea was to win the game and advance to the next round of the tournament. I was serious about my ball playing. I didn’t know how many points I had scored until the game was over. But let me just say my coach was thrilled with my performance that day. According to the last official statistics I’ve seen, I am still one of the highest scoring female basketball athletes in the state of Arkansas. You won’t be able to find this information anywhere. You have to take my word for it. To get listed on the Arkansas Athletic Association’s web page as such, I had to provide the correct paperwork to prove how much I had scored in that game. Our gym had been remodeled and they threw away the scorebooks that would have backed up my statement. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.
9. Do you have any pets?
Oh yes. We have two miniature horses, Shorty and Belle that are actually my seven-year-old grandson’s horses. We have a Red Heeler dog named Jill who loves to be loved. And, we have a cat named Miss Kitty who adopted our family about two years ago. We don’t know where she came from and we don’t know what kind of cat she is. I’m not even sure that Miss Kitty is a girl. Let’s just say she hasn’t had any kittens yet. But as far as pets go, she’s a good one. Very gentle. Those are the actual pets. We own a small farm, so we have Black Angus cattle, Dorper sheep, ducks and geese. We used to have goats and donkeys, but not anymore. I hope I never see a goat or donkey on this land ever again. Too much trouble.
10. Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one?
I don’t belong to a writing group that meets regularly. However, I am a member of the Southern Breeze chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and I attend their conferences.
11. What age did you start writing stories/poems?
I began my writing career at the age of nine. Just before I got on the bus for my one hour ride to school, my daddy handed me 2/3 of a Country song and told me to see if I could finish it. I had never written anything in my life. But, I wrote the second verse to that song by the time we arrived at school. When Daddy read what I had written, he liked it. That song was written 50 years ago and Daddy never changed a word that I had written. Since I had never written anything before the song, I didn’t know that I might like to write. But after the song was finished, I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment and realized I enjoyed the written word. I had been an avid reader since the first grade, but I never realized I might like to write until Daddy showed great confidence in me by handing me that partially finished song. That first song led to me being a book and songwriter today.
12. Do you have a book published? If so what is it called & where can readers purchase it?
Actually, I have eight books that have been published. Walk Softly (You’re Steppin’ On My Heart!) is my collection of 100 Christian poems. My children’s books are: Filthy Farley O’Charlie McBarley, Food Fight Frenzy, Quirky Kids’ Zoo, The Year Santa Refused to Wear Red/The Sound of Hope (co-written with my son Jason Brannon), Snowman War (co-written with my son Jason Brannon) and Has a Donkey Ever Brought You Breakfast in Bed? And, I have one short story collection about my childhood escapades titled Mud Puddles and Muscadines. All of my books can be purchased at http://www.amazon.com and other online stores. Folks can also ask any bookstore to order my book for them.
13. If you could meet one favorite author whom would it be and why?
I don’t know that I have one favorite author because I read such a wide variety of books. The closest I can come to answering this is that I’d like to meet a best-selling author and pick their brain. I’d like to know how they got to the point of being a best-selling author.
14. If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?
I would live in a big log cabin (house) on a hill surrounded by lots of trees in the Carolinas or Colorado. If I could afford a house that expensive, I’d own a vacation home in Hawaii or Florida too. Wishful thinking!
15. What’s your favorite movie of all time?
I’ve always said that Holiday Inn is my favorite movie. I love all of the different holidays that are celebrated at the inn and the music is amazing. I could watch this movie every day of the year and never tire of it. However, the past two years The Christmas Card has gotten my attention and I’ve watched it more times than I can count. You asked for my favorite movie, but I must say that Alex and Stephen Kendrick are making some incredible movies that I love (Facing the Giants, Flywheel, Fireproof and Courageous). I can’t wait to see what movie they do next.
16. Where can readers find you and your blog?
My website is http://www.patbrannon.com/Home.aspx I’m all over Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pbrannon1 and I’m on Pinterest and Goodreads. I’m working the kinks out on my new Twitter account. Let’s just say the best way to keep up with me now is on Facebook. I’m a FB fanatic, but I love interacting with my friends. I’m a people person all the way.
17. Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?
I have several more books already written, most of which are children’s books with 400 words or less. The next book I want out is about my seven-year-old grandson Elijah Nic. The title is Elijah Teaches his Friends the ABCs. It’s another rhyming picture book that is fun, yet educational at the same time. Parents and teachers should love this one when it comes out.
18. Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?
I would have to say my mother is my best supporter. She is always there with an encouraging word and she’s there when I get news I’m not thrilled about. She shares my joys and tries to lighten my sorrows. My two sons are totally incredible too. My son, Jason Brannon, is an accomplished author in his own right. We co-write some together and he is my main technical person. He gets lots of phone calls and texts when I run into computer problems. LOL! My son, Shawn Brannon, is my toughest and best critic. He is very direct with his opinions. That’s okay with me. I need honest folks around me that are not YES people all the time. If I need to change something in a book, somebody needs to tell me.
I am going to apologise as my blog post today will be late! I am attending a seminar : Digital Tools: A Workshop for Writers & Editors.
So as they say ‘watch this space’…! By the way today’s word is Verdant ; definition ‘green with growing plants’ so feel free to take your own spin on it in my absence.
As I drove to the seminar through a stark white and grey winter scenery I remembered today’s word – verdant. I have come to admire the resourceful Albertans I live among, who manage their harsh weather on these prairies with block heaters for their vehicles, winter tyres (tires!) and covered malls. Life does not stop for minus something stupid temperatures or massive amounts of snow. It is all taken in their stride, as natural as the seasons themselves.
Alberta Legislature (Photo credit: ericzchu)
The first time I saw a Canadian in T-shirt and shorts at only +2 I was totally nonplussed. What were they thinking it was still freezing? However, five years later the +2 does feel warm after minus 35…it’s all a matter of perspective and experience. Once the warmth arrives no matter how slight it is taken advantage of. It may come as a surprise but our summer’s are hot but short in comparison to the long winter months. This is the time Albertans go all out to enjoy it. Every day is spent outside for as long as possible in an extensive range of activities from gardening to sports to hiking to barbequing. Gardens, or yards as they are referred to here, are resplendent in a multitude of colourful flowers, lush lawns and patio furniture of all shapes, colours and types.
Our first spring was a real surprise as it seemed the trees and plants sprouted green shoots overnight and within a few days bare branches and earth were obscured by foliage. Every living thing hurries to enjoy the summer – human, animal or plant.
In short it is a life lesson – make the best of what you have while you have it.