Take-aways from a Great Conference

Energizing and Inspiring Take-aways from a Great Conference

Post by Cole Smith

I’m home, still glowing from the annual West Virginia Writer’s Conference. It’s always so good to see other mountain-state scribes, and to spend time in a space that’s devoted to creativity and craft. When I come back home, I want to carefully record all the special moments from the weekend. For me, these are the best take-aways from a great conference:


Many years ago, I went to a poetry reading. As the poet recited his work, my brain started coughing up ideas. I stealthily wrote a few down, worrying that the poet would think I was plaigiarizing.

Since then, I’ve heard several creatives talk about how great work inspires them, how it gets their own ideas flowing. It’s almost like a creative elevation takes place. The synergy buzzes from person to person.

It’s like that at a fantastic conference. In fact, it’s a little spooky. Surround yourself with a group of like-minded people and see what happens! Just be sure to have your note-taking app or pen and paper ready to jot those ideas down.


I’m not the most tech-savvy writer out there. I like pen and a spiral notebook for outlining. For my last novel, I used a length of blank wrapping paper taped to my office wall. Low-tech, over here!

So when someone lets me in on a time-saving, simplifying short-cut that doesn’t require a ton of training, I’m listening. Tips like social media management strategies, marketing advice, and how to organize ideas are as valuable as rubies for me.

Also, I went to this year’s conference stumped with a POV problem. Wouldn’t you know? Different POVs came up in one workshop, and I got just the direction I needed to sort out my issue. That kind of organic solution can be better than a bunch of opinionated replies in an online message forum.


Each year, I always meet new, interesting people. I’ve set an intention to try and maintain that synergistic momentum through the summer months. I friend, follow, and email when I return home—soon enough that people will actually remember me! Then, because I’m such an introverted nerd, I set reminders each week to stay in touch with friends, both new and old. This one habit has made such a huge difference in both my social and creative lives!

A writer’s conference can start your summer off on an inspiring note. If you get an opportunity, GO! Take lots of notes, and see what you can immediately incorporate into your writing routine. You won’t be sorry.

What’s your favorite conference? What valuable take-aways came with your experience?



Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.

Cole Smith

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The Party (Conference) is over…

Stephen Buehler author

by Stephen Buehler

February 25th-28th I and along with 699 other authors/readers attended the Left Coast Crime Mystery Writers Conference in Phoenix, AZ.

LCC 2016 booklet

I met many new friends, renewed acquaintances with people that I only see at conferences and hung out with old friends. I sat on a panel, A Brief Dance with Death: Short Mystery Fiction – moderated by our own Sarah M. Chen and the audience seemed to get a lot out of it.

LCC - 2016 - Short story panel
Dale M. Berry, M.H. Callway, Sarah M. Chen (m), Stephen Buehler and Mysti Berry

Travis Richardson, Sarah M. Chen and I also hosted cocktails for the Author/Reader Connection and talked to three attendees that wanted to know more about short story writing. I also spoke with (maybe ‘buttered-up’ is a better word) the editor who I hope will buy my book after I turn it in. I would love to work with her.

As you may remember from my last post, The Branding of Stephen Buehler, I talked about Author Speed Dating, where authors get to sit with a table of 8, pitch whatever they want and 2 minutes later, get up and pitch to another table. I felt I succeeded in getting my name and brand out there. The event wasn’t as crowded as was hoped for as it was the first event of the whole conference and attendees were still arriving. I demonstrated my magic trick with my business cards and learned from that too. I learned that my trick was difficult to follow for people that early in the morning and I hadn’t made it completely clear they they were about to witness a magic trick. When I put one card behind my back and asked what card I held in my hand in front of me (there were 2 different cards) people couldn’t remember. Sometimes they were too excited and distracted with the package I had handed them when I sat down and other times the trick was just too quick for them. The concept of doing a trick was right but next time I’ll do something that astonishes them without making them think. The rest of my pitch, about what I’ve written, was entertaining and I think plenty more authors/readers know who Stephen Buehler is and that was my goal.

LCC - 2016 Speed dating packet

But all that’s over. I’m home, back to reality. What now? Leaving the event, my hopeful editor reminded me that I have a lot of work to do (as I have to turn in my manuscript soon). So that’s one thing to work on, and probably my primary task to accomplish. Another thing is to establish contact with the new people I met. I made plenty of new Facebook friends but I like to try to do more than that and write each a personal email. Attending a conference always gives me a boost of hope and vigor of achieving my goal of writing and publishing.

But that hasn’t happened yet. When I got home I had to prepare for a 3 show engagement of performing magic the following weekend, which is now over. (Whew!) The magic shows went extraordinarily well and I’ll probably write about that in my next blog. So, for me, now starts the post-conference work.LCC - 2016 - Detective Rules postcard

I know I mentioned that a writing conference gives me a boast but I always feel slightly blue afterwards. Why can’t everyday be a conference day of hanging around authors you admire and respect? Have somebody else make your bed? Not feel guilty about hanging around the bar until late into the night knowing you only have to push a button and let an elevator transport you to your room? Because life is not a conference… though conferences do make life a little more interesting.

How do you feel after a conference?


Stephen Buehler’s short fiction has been published in numerous on-line publications including, Akashic Books. Not My Day appeared in the Last Exit to Murder anthology and A Job’s a Job in Believe Me or Not An Unreliable Anthology.  He is expanding his novella,The Mindreading Murders about a magician into a novel and shopping around his mystery/comedy P.I. novel, Detective Rules. On top of all that he is a script consultant, magician and dog owner.  www.stephenbuehler.com

Get Your Motor Runnin’ – It’s Travel and Conference Season!

Parents and GayleThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

As this post goes live, I am traveling. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and I’m visiting my parents in Montana. If the weather cooperates, I’ll be taking them on a spring-time drive through the heart of central Montana, stopping at sites along the Missouri River, having lunch in a quaint Montana town, and celebrating the special woman who is my mother. I’m looking forward to spending several days with my parents and to reminding my mom how important she is to me. Without her, I may not have become a writer.

As the author of several books, five Chicken Soup for the Soul stories, and numerous magazine and newspaper articles, my writing journey began EONS ago. I grew up an only child in Iowa, living on a small acreage outside of town, with a mother who didn’t drive a car and a father who worked nights at a factory. PICTURE THIS: RECLUSE, NO SOCIAL LIFE. But, we had farm animals, I had pets, I had TV, and I had an active imagination. PICTURE THIS: WRITING BEGINS AT YOUNG AGE. My writing began with crafting scripts for TV shows like “Bonanza” and “Starsky and Hutch.”

Or, if you prefer the Starsky/Hutch theme:

(Never sent a script in until I was about 30 — by then other shows were on, and though I thought I had a great idea to share with producers, the script was mailed back to me.)

Beartooth Mtns. RiverThen, I dabbled in poetry (our little property with nature all around was my inspiration). Then, I moved into short stories. Throughout the course of my writing infancy, with no formal training except junior high and high school English, my mother encouraged me. When I took journalism classes in college and wrote for the school paper as well as for the literary magazine, her smiles and compliments kept me focused and moving forward. After college, I submitted work to local magazines, became the editor of the West Yellowstone News, and continued dabbling in poetry and short stories. Again, Mom’s encouragement was not short in coming, and because of her support, my determination grew to where now, at more than 50 years of age, I am a published author as well as short story and magazine freelancer and newspaper features and column writer. Sharing my appreciation for mom through an in-person visit and going for a special drive and a special lunch is the least I can do for the woman who has been there for me since Day One and encouraged me to pursue the desire of becoming a writer. My mother truly is one of my greatest treasures and best blessings.

rckypark_elkmtnsA few days after I return from that Montana trip, I hit the road with fellow Casperite and Writing Wrangler Neva Bodin; we’re going to the Colorado Christian Writers Conference together. She and I have both attended this conference in years past but it’s been a few years for each of us. I’m looking forward to sharing time and experience with this lovely and talented lady, and I’m also looking forward to all I will learn during conference and then apply those lessons and knowledge to my writing life.

I enjoy traveling. I also enjoy conferences. Alas, the CCWC is likely the only writing conference I’ll attend this year. Wyoming Writers, Inc., has its annual conference in early June, but the non-profit for which I work part-time has a major fundraiser that same weekend, so I’m unable to attend that conference. Another conference I’ve gone to in years past, Get Published! which takes place in Bozeman, Montana, is that very same weekend as well (this is a time I could really benefit from being cloned, in order to take in each event!).

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningOne learns so much at a writer’s conference: craft, marketing, indie publishing, new avenues and new genres to explore. And, we get to meet great people with whom we share a strong interest: other writers, editors, literary agents, speakers, publicity agents. And we all have something in common: the love of words. That commonality, that link, forges friendships and many of those fellow writers/friends become encouragers. We could very easily be competitors, but I find a majority of writers like to build one another up, and that’s a wonderful blessing!

My travels aren’t done after conference. My husband and I have tickets to see Celtic Woman at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado in mid-June, and I’ll be returning to that venue later in the summer to see Christian performers Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and others, and to also hear inspirational author and speaker Max Lucado. I’ve never been to Red Rocks although I live only five hours away, and this summer I get to go twice! I AM EXCITED to experience both events!

Grizzly_YNPMy husband and I also hope to visit his side of the family in the Carolinas sometime this summer (plans are still being formed), as well as take a trip to one of the most beautiful places in the world: Yellowstone National Park. Although I’ve lived away from that unique environment for nearly 20 years, it has never left me – I love visiting the Yellowstone area and I look forward to experiencing the vastness of the park, the beauty of the meadows, and the magnificence of the mountains again this year.

Then, of course, there are the jaunts to our cabin with weekend stays and weekday dinners. Our mountain hideaway is only 20 minutes from our house, so my husband and I can go at a moment’s notice and relax for several hours (or, in my case, write!) before returning home. In fact, we hope to host a belated birthday gathering for “the man” who turned the big 6-0 in April!

Cabin_Oct2014Travel, conferences, friends, family – I anticipate a great summer is in store, and I welcome it with thanksgiving.

What conferences and/or travel to you anticipate with excitement this summer?



Gayle_Cabin_Writing_smallerGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and nature. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from animals and the outdoors. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Walking_FrontCover_small

When Loose Ends Become Knots by Cher’ley

This blog by Cher’ley Grogg


While most everyone else was out celebrating the Fourth of July, I was tying up loose ends and checking reports. It’s bad when you get too busy to check to see if you’ve made any sales.  And even yet, I have close to 1000 emails to sort through.






I’ve redone the cover of “Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” and it is now SGT Final 7 1 2013waiting final approval. I’m going to schedule a give-a-way blast for this novel. It’s a children’s book written for the Tween age group.  It has mostly been sold to and read by adults, but I’m hoping to start marketing towards the youngsters.  The story is set along the Ohio River, in a small town.  Most everyone walks to where they need to get to and this lends itself to lots of adventures. The Dickens children are active in soccer and swimming–both at the pool and in the river. Their Great-grandmother is a spunky senior.  When she’s in her right mind, she’s sharp as a tack. The kids don’t know Grandma, but they are about to.


A big writing conference is coming up.  The short name is C3. Check it out, there’s going to be some famous writers in attendance. It’s being held in September in Maryland. I’ve already signed up for it. Today I received an email, asking for all kinds of information, my bio, my author photo, a list of my books, and all my links. They also asked me to serve on a couple of panels. This will be a new adventure for me, but I’m looking forward to serving.  I plan on selling my books there, so that takes some preparation too.

I got caught up on a couple of blogs. I still have some more that are in dire need of attention. I don’t try to blog every week (present blog being the exception), I don’t even manage a monthly update, but I do strive for a quarterly post. My goal for this week is to clean up my email inbox, none of which is spam and to get a few people to sponsor me on their blogs for my free book give-a-way.  This will take some preparation and with a little luck I’ll have great success.  I’m excited and nervous.

truck penelope Between working, marketing and tying up loose ends, I’m trying to finish a book and two novels. No matter if you’re getting ready for vacation, changing jobs, retiring, or thinking about school starting, you have loose ends.


So how are things going for you? What kind of loose ends do you have?

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. 

Stamp Out Murder”.

The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to my WEBSITE

In Praise of Short Shorts

This post is by Doris McCraw.

doris curiosity

I confess I love writing short shorts.  For those who are wondering, a short short is a story of 6 to 500 words.  It is a great exercise in writing. I have always loved short stories and this shorter form is such a wonderful challenge.

Can you write your memoir in six words?  Try it. Mine could be Acting, Mississippi River, Friends, Mountains, Home  or Birth, Illness, School, Forgotonia, History, Peace.   Type  ‘six word memoir‘ into search engines.  You will find a plethora of options.  There is even the story of Ernest Hemingway being challenged to write a story in six words.

Try putting your current story in less than 200 words.  It will help you focus and give you a great pitch for editors.  It also helps clear away unnecessary pieces that do nothing to push the story forward. I have used this form when pitching both books and screenplays.  It was at a screenwriters conference that the concept first came to my attention.  The idea was to use the first words of ‘what if’ and then continue your pitch. For example: “What if in 1879 a brothel owner moved her family to a decent town and her husband kills a young man who came knocking at the door late at night. Will the truth come out about her during the trial and why was a young man knocking at the door that late?”  Do you think you have the editor’s attention? That is the story in about 50 words.

There are also wonderful newsletters and websites devoted to short short and the longer short story. Some of the ones I enjoy are:




For those who like the longer form, short story and novellas have gained a resurgence in recent years. This is possibly due to the short attention span of younger readers along with less leisure time for adults.  The e-reader probably also plays a part in this resurgence. As it has become easier for the new writer to get their work out there via the digital market, the short story seems to be the form of choice.  Of course the Ray Bradburys and Louis L’Amours always wrote short stories in addition to regular length works.  For anyone who would like to see a master, read any Harlan Ellison short story.  He is amazing, although not to everyone’s taste.

For me, the haiku I write are a poetry version of the short-short. I have seventeen syllables to make my point. Each word, each syllable is so important to create the piece. You can visit: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com to see examples.

Ultimately that could be the fascination I have with this story form.  Each word is important, unlike the essays written in school. To tell the story effectively each word needs to be chosen with care.  You use adverbs and adjectives to move the story, not add filler. I love the challenge and for that reason praise and love the short short story form.

For those who are adventurous stop by: http://angelarainesshorts.blogspot.com for a look at some of my early efforts at short story writing.

Until next time, happy writing and give the short short story a try.

Networking and Committment


Doris McCraw


I just returned from a lovely weekend it Albuquerque. I spent it with the wonderful members of Women Writing the West. WWW.WomenWritingtheWest.org  

I am now busy rushing to return to work, but wanted to share my thoughts on the weekend.

Perhaps you wonder why would I drive all that way, about 400 miles just to spend time with people I barely know. Because I want to get to know them better. For me networking has been a natural part of my life. I do enjoy people and listening to their stories. Not only to I get to know someone better, their lives and experiences can be great learning tools. Let’s face it, we don’t have time to make all the mistakes we need to learn. It makes sense to learn from those of others and they of yours.

At a writers conference I can and do learn from the trials and tribulations of my co-writers and they learn from mine. We also get to share in each others joys and triumphs. Many friends I have met over the years with the various organizations I spend time with have become mentors and for me someone who does what I aspire to do.

It does take time. You have to be committed to doing your due diligence and they say. Getting to know and letting others know you can create a lifetime of joys. It also can become the lifeline you may need when your progress as a writer and creative have hit a ‘brick wall’.

If you are committed to a life as a writer/creative then don’t just take and say me, me, me but find like minded people and network and share, share, share. Everyone will come out ahead, for you are helping each other on the ladder to success.

For my Mon-Fri Haiku: http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com

Visit my website: www.dorismccraw.net