Me, Trish Wilkinson and Ondine Kuraoka, excited and worn out on the final day of the conference.

If you ask a published novelist how to get published, he’ll share his secret–Write. “Keep your butt in the chair,” he says.

There is no magic to it. No coveted shortcut to crossing the street from under-published to in-print. Writing is the only true passage. But it’s a solitary journey. Fortunately, we loners can join others who share our writer’s path at conferences.

Along with some members from my writers’ group–Pageaday Writers–I attended the Southern California Writer’s Conference (& Retreat) this past weekend. I love the retreat part. From Friday afternoon through Sunday evening, I learned, learned, learned. Not just writing skills, techniques and tips, I learned about myself as a writer.

Throughout the weekend–as authors, editors, agents and friends offered valuable information–I discovered, rediscovered, understood and re-committed myself.

My brain, fired up with promise and challenge, was on overload by the end of the conference. I couldn’t possibly write about all the inspiration I found, but here are a few gems to give you a sense of the weekend…

Author Judy Reeves encouraged us to write from the senses. When you wake up, before you start your day, take note of sensory detail – how the blanket feels, the sounds outside your window, the smell of coffee coming from the kitchen.

To make your work more powerful, Maralys Wills, author of “Damn the Rejections, Full Speed Ahead” instructed us “to end your sentences with the strongest word.”

Author Frederick Ramsay reminded us to approach each writing day expecting to be surprised.

Best-selling novelist T. Jefferson Parker cautioned us to notlet others steal your writing hours.

Editor Jean Jenkins turned a light on for me when, in her “Rewriting Novels” workshop, she simply said: “When going into flashbacks – one had to get in; one had to get out.”

Jean also offered the most truthful moment of the weekend for me, during a one-on-one critique. In response to my waves of self-doubt, she asked: “If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?” Her candid question hit me between the eyes with a truthfulness I hadn’t allowed myself. Writing is what I do. It is the core of who I am. Whether there’s a paycheck attached to the end of my project or not, I write. I see the world through words.

Thank you SCWC and Jean Jenkins, for helping me reaffirm my writing commitment. For sharing a roadmap, and adding a few more shades of color to my writing basket.

“Any number of how-to books combined may not give a writer the one priceless bit of clarity that can make the difference between being published or not. Rejection by an editor or agent seldom yields the reason as to why a manuscript doesn’t grab them, and almost never reveals how it can be fixed to ensure that it ever will.

Founded and run by professional writers the SCWC provides veteran and emerging talent with authoritative guidance to help distinguish those manuscripts that are ready for market consideration, having facilitated nearly $4 million worth of first-time authors’ book and screen deals. With extended one-on-one evaluation of advance submissions and dozens of read & critique and practical information workshops to choose from, the SCWC is among the only conferences specifically tailored to empower writers of every level with the vital tools, networking and industry prowess needed to sell their work.”

–Southern California Writers’ Conference

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