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Writer's Life at a Conference

My Folder of Materials for SB Writer's Conference

As a writer on my own, the writing life is quite solitary. We all write but then there's the business of writing. Hours go by as we are wrapped in concentrated focus. Writing takes us to places like stream of consciousness, other worlds, recalled memories, and hopefully, magic when we get it just right. I'm in a few writing groups via Zoom and it's helpful to be in the company of other writers going through similar things. We exchange ideas, goals, challenges, and resources. I've had the privilege to attend the Santa Barbara Writer's Conference via scholarship again this year where I had the pleasure to be faced with humans in real time.

In a mix of familiar and new faces, the opening banquet brings all the attendees together. It's such a breath of fresh air to be in-person. It's also intense and all-consuming. I found myself wondering what day it was and thought the pool reception was a different day. I was kindly told I was mis-informed. In workshop, if you want to workshop your work, you get on a list. As a writer who writes memoir, reading in front of your co-writers and the workshop leaders puts you in a vulnerable position. No matter how many times I've read in front of people, I get nervous. My heart races. I have to remember to breathe and get through it. That said, I got chocked up during one of my readings. I managed to get control and carry on.

Feedback can be a mixed bag. Mostly, I received smart comments and suggestions. In only one workshops did thigs go a bit awry. Generally, the workshop leaders set clear ground rules because the bottom line is, we want to be constructive, respectful, and begin with what's positive in the story. One smart edit in the memoir workshop led me to a minor change to the beginning of an essay that resulted in a sharper opening. I learned a great deal from listening to the readings and paying attention to the feedback.

It amazes me just how different everyone's writing style and imagination is. All the stories are

incredibly varied. For example, I don't read sci-fi, fantasy, or magical realism but to hear what it takes to create futuristic worlds and creatures is fascinating. I asked a writer who created this kind of world if she has dreams that shows her the alien futuristic world she so visually writes about and she replied, "All the time".

It was rewarding to hear the feedback I received. Reading our work out loud makes such a difference to our work. One of the workshop leaders stated that my 1st 4-pages gave him the feeling

of moving through water and that my words were poetic. It was my hope to achieve this in my writing. In another workshop, one of the writers attending said she felt like her hand was held through a beautiful and touching story. The reason this is important is that most writers (most especially me) are insecure and sensitive. The lesson being that I need to move through life as if I'm riding the ocean waves I refer to in my own writing. Inch by inch, I'm getting better at it. The camaraderie between writers is beneficial since we share common concerns, fears, goals, and hopes for our work.

I've had nine essays from my book published but I don't know what the future holds for getting my book published or what the path ahead will be as a writer. I only know that I'm meant to be

expressing myself in this creative medium despite the challenges or emotional swings. It's all part of the choice to be a creative. There are times when I think I will put it aside. It's such hard work and yet, here I am. Writer Conferences give us a boost and motivation to keep moving forward as artists and for that, I'm very grateful. I admire people that have always known exactly what they wanted in life and clear on a career for themselves. I thought I was when I left my island home near Miami to Atlanta where I studied and pursued a career in fashion, but I have reinvented myself several times over since that first big job dressing 33 windows at a high-end department store in Houston. But I discovered that I worked for pennies regardless of the talent and hard work it took. Cocktail waitressing loaded my pockets and I moved to LA where I began a reinvention in the movie biz. It went on from there to my own business and more. In many ways though, all of the life experiences have influenced my writing and memoir.

What career did you set out to do and how has it evolved? We all ride waves from Tsunami-like to soft rolling ones. And some of us feel as though we've lived several lifetimes in this one depending on just how high those waves have been to survive and thrive in this crazy, beautiful world.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne

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My life has had endless ups and downs, but I love your metaphor of the ocean and its waves. It brings together the emotional and the physical, the discrete segments of time and the timeless movement of our lives. Thanks, Valerie, for inspiring us with your creative gifts!

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You made my day, thank you!


My life's journey has been so random and varied... I am often embarrassed to even mention half of it... still. Much of this stuff is about how we finish, much less than about how we begin... at least it seems that way to me.


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