Guest Blogger Wendy Hinman Reports on the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference

A SHOT OF INSPIRATION

Wendy Hinman

The energy level at a writing conference is addictive. I always learn so much that sets my head spinning.  By Saturday night of the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference, I am not sure whether what kept me awake most of the night was the thoughts ricocheting around my head or the coffee I drank during the afternoon sessions.  Regardless, I turned new ideas over in my mind until I’d watched the clock crawl through the hours between 10pm and 5am.

Like most writers I am absorbed with concerns about how my words will reach a wider audience than my writing group.  And like many writers, I blundered my way through a morning pitch session and miraculously managed to generate mild interest from the New York agent across the table.  The agent’s question “What is the takeaway for the reader?” haunts me still.  It’s an important question.

The agent’s lukewarm interest confirmed to me yet again that the concept for my book is intriguing, but its success ultimately hinges on whether my book can deliver on its promise.  The agent was Jeff Kleinman, who represents New York Times bestselling author Garth Stein, an author who surely delivered a satisfying “takeaway” in The Art of Racing in the Rain.  We learned through the struggles of a family, reflected in the eyes of a wise old dog, that some things are worth fighting for.  It is that inspiring message that leaves us readers feeling satiated.

In his keynote address, Garth Stein drove that point home when he reminded us of a writer’s responsibility to the reader. Until your book is read, it is just a doorstop.  When readers bring their hopes and fears to your work, it comes alive.  Readers invest significant time and emotion into our work in the hopes that our words will help them make sense of the chaos.  They read a book for the wisdom it imparts, for how it might transform their lives. If your book delivers on its promise, it will resonate in a reader’s mind for years to come.  And if we affect one reader, she will live differently.

Writers have the capacity to transform our world one reader at a time.  It is a heavy responsibility.  We have to dig deep and be brutally honest to uncover what our story is truly about.  We writers can learn about craft, the techniques for making our stories better, but it is that honesty that brings characters alive, gives us our voice, makes the story believable and moves the reader.

The writers’ conference provided inspiration.  Doing the work is up to me.

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Wendy Hinman is currently writing a book about her 34,000-mile, seven-year adventure to 19 countries aboard a 31-foot boat with her husband.  She is still married and still happens to like him. She recently won an award for her travel writing from Traveler’s Tales.  http://wendyhinman.com.##

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5 Responses to Guest Blogger Wendy Hinman Reports on the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference

  1. Deirdre says:

    Fabulous! Your blog made a difference in my day, as an inspiration and reminder of “the bigger picture” inhabited by words and readers. Each of us tosses a light stone into the pond, often forgetting how far the ripples can go.

  2. Phil Rink says:

    The things that we write are really letters to the future – letters to our great-grandchildren. We need to write to an audience, for sure. I totally reject “writing because I have to.”

    But the agent, or, indeed, the publishing industry, is not the audience. They are one of the gatekeepers. At PNWA last year, Andrea Hurst urged us to pitch our book as leveraging off a current book. Turn that on its head, and it’s appropriate to ask an agent, or a publisher, “what similar materials have you represented/published?” Increasingly, their answer may be “nothing” as they battle over the sure things and proven markets while ignoring fresh voices and new viewpoints.

    It is very important to know your market and honor your story’s arc before you publish, but not publishing because you can’t find an agent/publisher is not longer valid. The more niche your story the easier it is to find a market on your own, and the less likely you are to find success on traditional paths.

    I think. I’m trying, though. Big hat, some cattle.

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