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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What a lovely accent you have

This post by Jennifer Flaten

Recently, Grammar Girl posted one of her Quick and Dirty Tips on using accents and dialects in writing. It got me thinking a) if I ever really start writing dialogue I need to keep these tips in mind b) as a reader I’ve encountered both good and bad examples of these tips.

In the best books, I can hear the dialogue in the character’s voice in my head. It is seamless, like a movie as I am reading I am “hearing” it in my head. Posh British accents, low and lovely southern drawls all conveyed with just a few words to describe the speaker.

English: The main reading romm of Graz Univers...
English: The main reading romm of Graz University Library (19th century) on 2 Sep 2003. Picture taken and uploaded by Dr. Marcus Gossler. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This probably explains why I am so often disappointed by a movie adaptation of my favorite book. If  the author describes the speaker/narrator/main character so that I “hear”  Antonio Banderas’ voice in my head as I read the story I am going be sorely disappointed if the movie has Bruce Willis in that role. In my case, it is not only a case of “not how I pictured it in my head”, but “not how I thought he would sound”.

In the worst, the accent or dialect is distracting. Take for instance Loch by Steve Alten. It takes place on a Loch in Scotland. Yep, you guessed it; one of the main characters “spoke” in a Scottish accent through the entire book.

It was rendered phonetically throughout the entire book (a big no-no according to Grammar Girl). It truly distracted me from the story and I tried to figure out what the character was saying. This is also a case of the story not being good enough for the reader to put up with a quirky dialogue.

Of course, I understand you can’t make every reader happy, but in this case do you agree with Grammar Girl. If you use dialects/accents, how do you use them?

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