What I learned at #AWP17
I feel alone when I am one in a crowded room. But I am not. I am a part of something like a drop in the water or the fine line of a sentence to the whole. We are all a part of something.
"You are not alone," the editor says on stage. "That's why we come here."
But I have just stepped in, stepped away from the screen, away from the room where it is quiet and still and the story mills. I always feel a shift to the internal, the emotional, and become quiet in large settings like this one. Perhaps processing to much, listening to deeply, and wanting to understand on the inside what it all means for me.
Anyways, here's what I learned at AWP to share with those who couldn't join. My biggest takeaways:
1. Focus on moments. There is power in the events you write. Worry about editing into sequence later, especially if a novel or larger piece of work feels intimidating. From a discussion on writing flash. This tip is especially helpful for me. With larger pieces, I tend to not write literally but follow the character and feel their tensions.
2. Use real emotions. I had recently learned this tip. When writing fiction, infuse your work with your emotions so it comes to life. Imagine that time you felt heartbroken or insecure or anything? This was a discussion on what can be learned from non-fiction into fiction writing. Other tips included learning how to use ideas more into one's fiction work. For the essayist, the idea rules, and then so does the telling. For the fiction writer, drama rules, but telling can have it's place too.
3. On Editing: trust the gut. It was wonderful to hear one of my favorite pulitzer prize winning authors on stage, someone who's inspired me to push and write and strive for innovation in art. And it's always humbly to hear they go through many of the same struggles to. For this author, she shared that she receives advice widely to try to determine what's working for others. However, many others emphasized you have to trust your gut when it comes to feedback and accepting advice.
4. Structure, say what? It was odd and frustrating to hear from a couple different discussions that structure just falls into place after a few drafts. I would have loved more feedback than that. However, I agree too. It's hard to know when structure of larger narrative will form. There seemed to be no strategies, just keep writing through a few drafts and it will show itself to you.
5. On Publishing: it's business. That was a theme that I heard over and over. Remember that when you do get an agent or a contract it is a business relationship with certain professional expectations. In this way, I feel good. I have learned a lot about business, marketing, sales, publicity, on my own through my own business. Writers must remember this is all important too if you want to ship a book to market.
6. On Life: No squandering, no letting up on yourself. Two full time authors who have been able to make a successful living at writing shared on stage how they balance that in their life. One, a young mother, says she has learned not to squander a single moment. The older writer with no kids said she learns to watch out for her own self. She knows when she gets tired or wants to stop or start a new project, and keeps here eye out for these distractions. Both good tips.
After this my notebook was left behind and because we were at a writer's conference actually returned. I am grateful, but have no other notes to share with you.