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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Find an Editor to Fit Your Budget

Find an Editor to Fit Your Budget


Cole SmithPost by Cole Smith


You’ve run through your manuscript so many times, you can’t keep all the revisions straight! Which version of the restaurant scene did you decide to keep? Is the dog’s name Frisco or Elmo? And which of your characters’ bad habits need to go? (Mine are always leaning against things!)


It’s time to pass on your work to new eyes, someone who can tell right away where your story sings and where it, well, hits a sour note.


But if you’re on a tight budget, professional editing can get pricey. And the lower you keep your costs, the sooner your book will pay for itself. So how can you find an excellent editor without sacrificing quality? The solution may already be in your network:



College students

Reach out to a local English professor and ask for recommendations. Many students are looking for a side gig that’s flexible enough to fit around their course schedule. And you’ll get the benefit of a reader who’s passionate enough about books to study them full-time! Ask for a three-page sample edit, and be clear about your deadline. It’s a win-win. You get an affordable editor, and the student gets to flex his or her editing pen and list the job experience on a résumé.



Former English teachers

Speaking of English professors, we all know teachers aren’t paid what they’re worth. Maybe you know an English teacher who’d be interested in helping you out while earning a little side income? I have a couple of excellent teachers who’ve been thrilled to hear from a former student, and who’ve helped me comb through articles, stories, and chapters. But be sensitive. Teachers are natural helpers. It’s important to respect their time. Don’t send them your four hundred page novel and expect them to drop everything for your project. You’re approaching as a partner, now, not a student in need of after-school tutoring.



Members of your writer’s groups

If you’re a member of a local writer’s group or regional organization, you can offer to swap editing services with another writer. Again, ask for a three-page sample, and be up front about your expectations. Listen carefully to make sure the collaboration is a good fit. If the other member writes gritty police procedurals with lots of gore while you write Amish romances, it may be difficult to exchange objective editing. But if you both write in similar genres, your personalities mesh well, and you have compatible work habits, it’s a green light to proceed.




A great editor is essential, ensuring your work is gleaming, cohesive, and irresistible to your readers. Don’t take shortcuts in this stage! But a tiny budget doesn’t mean postponing your dream. With careful networking, you can find the right editor for your project without overspending.


Do you have other low-cost editing solutions? Post them in the comments below!



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. Her novel, Waiting for Jacob, is available in paperback and ebook formats here.


Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook and Pinterest


Waiting forJacob





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