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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reading With Writers at the SCWC


   Lounging around two linen-covered banquet tables, Thriller looked over his shoulder while Comedy laughed and Young Adult chewed over vampires during a drama-filled weekend at the recent
Southern California Writer's Conference.

   One of two annual SCWC events, this 2.5 day conference was held late September in Newport Beach, (the other takes place every February in San Diego.)

   Spending quality time with others who “get” my passion for writing was well worth the price of admission, no, scratch that, it was priceless.

   There was no need to explain why I write – only compliments and suggestive comments on what I write.

   And, no one ran away or excused themselves from the table because of that one time when they’d heard how writers can be lonely creatures who live in dank, dark basements.

   Another important part of the conference, at least in my humble experience, was meeting other struggling writers and listening to the successes of the (gasp) Published Authors.
   It was great to meet people like
John DeSimone (Director of the Orange County Writer’s Conference); Ara Grigorian, a VP with Technicolor and Jay Antani, another stay-at-home dad who thought raising a son and writing from home would lead to the immediate publication of “The Next, Great American Novel.” We both thought that was going to be a piece of cake...

   Yuh, right, the only piece of cake I ate was humble pie – after I realized how hard it is to keep an infant happy/content/awake/asleep/full/clean.

   With dozens of ninety-minute workshops, presentations and lectures scheduled each day, my favorites were the "read and critique" sessions, especially the “Rogues.”

   If you’ve never heard of a read and critiques, the premise is as simple as it sounds: Take about five pages of your work, give a CliffsNotes version of where in the story you’re going to read, say what genre it is, and off you go.

   When you’re finished, it’s generally time to grab your pen and start taking notes, as your fellow writers first offer words of encouragement (you hope) and then give their suggestions where the story could be improved.

   Instead of the usual ninety minutes during the day sessions, the rogue read and critiques began at 9 p.m. and didn’t end until the last person’s sample of work was dissected and discussed. While I missed the all-time record of 6:02 a.m. by several hours on both nights of the conference, the two daytime critiques I attended and the two rogues were a great chance to speak (and hear) the words I wrote spoken by someone else (not related to me.) Then, there's the feedback.

   As we all have opinions, this feedback can run the gamut of “I didn’t get it,” to “I really got it and want more.” The best part is when there’s a collective agreement that yes, your “baby” is fine and your story is going in the “write” direction.

   During rogues, every moderator has their own ground rules and I wanted to offer a big thanks (for their time and efforts) to
Judy Reeves; Marilyn Friedman and Matt Pallamary who led the various merry (then tired) band of readers.

   This might seem like a no-brainer, but as an aspiring author, I one hundred percent recommend that writers of all levels attend at least one writer’s conference. Don’t use distance as an excuse, and if cost becomes an issue, turn it into a pet project and save for the chance to do the write thing.

  As always, I value your time and appreciate the few minutes we spend together. Mahalo and regards,


“Aloha to learn what is not said, to see what cannot be seen and to know the unknowable.”

– Queen Lili‘uokalani (1838–1917) the last reigning monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.


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