Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Why Attending Writing Events is Important—Making a Literary Life (PART ONE)

Guest post by: Paula Gail Benson

 In Carolyn See’s wonderful writing guide Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, she outlines a three step process for making your life a literary one:

(1) writing 1,000 words or revising for two hours for five days a week the rest of your life;

(2) sending a charming handwritten note that does not ask a favor to an author, editor, or agent you admire for five days a week the rest of your life;

(3) once a week, taking an outside excursion to attend a writing class, conference, or a book signing.

   Why does See think these steps are crucial for changing writing from a happy pastime to a true vocation? Because the first step to becoming a writer is to write consistently, whether or not you feel guided by “the muse.” The second is to support the writing community. And, the third is to become part of that community by letting others know you are a writer, and learning as much as you can to improve your skills.
   Going to see successful writers may be an intimidating experience. It can be daunting to approach a writer you admire, but remember, that writer may also feel ill at ease meeting his fans. Writing is a solitary experience. Of course, it’s nice to hear that readers like what you’ve written, but the work itself is done very privately. Writers often are shy about appearing in public or meeting each other. The writer you’re going to see may need your encouragement as much as you need his!

   Consider that your journey to reach the event may contribute to your writing process. Getting out of the ordinary writing environment is helpful, not just to embrace the writing community and learn from it, but also to generate ideas. Travel is a writing energizer. The momentum of movement leaves the mind free to wander its own paths and keeps the mind engaged and encourages creativity. Driving always seems to bring ideas to me, and I frequently find myself pulling off the road to write down bits of music, lyrics, dialogue, or description I’ve just discovered.
    By getting out of your cocoon to support the writing community, you realize how diverse its membership is. Writing is a business that sells a product. The product is offered by booksellers and libraries and consumed by readers. It’s great to buy books online and post reviews, but going to a bookstore or library supports a local enterprise, and enables you to meet and interact with other readers face-to-face. You see how books are arranged and advertised. You hear what librarians and booksellers are promoting. You can listen to what readers are requesting.

    If you are attending an author reading or panel, you get to hear about the road to successful publication. You can listen to the words they wrote to entice their readers, hear when and how others began their writing careers, where they do their writing, what they've done to advance their work, who they consider inspiring, and why they would encourage you to test your own talent.
    Many events offer signings or opportunities for you to meet the guest authors. Be brave and  introduce yourself. Don’t hog the guest’s time, but ask a question that has been puzzling you. Listen carefully to the response. Even if you can’t purchase a book, show the author you’ve read something he’s written, and tell him you appreciate it.

   Similarly, take the time to meet the people sponsoring the event. Thank them for making the arrangements to bring the author to a local forum. If librarians and booksellers see that you are supporting their programs, they will remember you when you need a place to promote your work. Be sure to carry a business card or bookmark to hand to the author, librarian, or bookseller to help them remember you.

    For implementing her three step process, Carolyn See recommends that you place yourself in an author’s shoes—if you were a writer, what would you be like and what would you do? Believe to achieve, or as See cautions, “at the very least, avoid hexing yourself!” What better way of immersing yourself in the world of writing than to venture out where authors and readers gather? 

©2014 Paula Gail Benson

 A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson’s short stories have been published in Kings River Life (, the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable (, Mystery Times Ten 2013 (Buddhapuss Ink), and A Tall Ship, a Star, and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media 2014). Her story “Moving On” will appear in A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman Anthology to be released in late November or early December 2014. She regularly blogs on and Her website is

We hope you enjoyed this edition of our #WW Writer Wednesday Series! Be sure to follow us so you don't miss a single one. We'd like to thank Paula Gail Benson for yet another terrific contribution, be sure and check back in two weeks (November 19th) when she brings us Part Two of her infomrative piece on Writing Events and the Literary Life. 
You'll want to stop by next week - November 12th - for a piece of Flash Fiction - The Intruder by Ellie Dias. We will be publishing Ellie's debut book, Big Red: How a 95 Pound Suitcase Taught Me Simplicity, in September 2015.
                                              ~The Black Cat

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