I had the pleasure and privilege to attend this year’s NCWN Spring Conference held on the UNCG campus. This was my first NCWN conference so I had no idea what to expect going in, only that I knew there was a class-act staff of writers and lecturers assembled for the day’s event. I had preregistered for Marketing with Imagination, Writing About War Panel Discussion, Lunch with Author Peggy Payne and Speed Pitch. In addition, I signed up for the “Open Mic” event after lunch and figured I’d give it a try knowing that any public speaking would be as much a learning activity as it would be a performance.
The morning began with the delightful class of “Marketing with Imagination” hosted by Piedmont Laureate Carrie J. Knowles and Peggy Payne. Ms. Knowles spoke about marketing and how we should commit to at least 20% of our time to it each week (I must state that Ms. Knowles has one of THE BEST author websites I have ever seen!!!). We learned that selling our stories should not be something we feel as if we are “Bragging” about; rather, we should think of this as something we are doing for our children. We also learned that we should focus on what our themes were in our books or publications in order to find respective audiences. It was here that I found the dichotomy similar to what Ms. Payne had found with her recent book, “Cobalt Blue“; the confusion of the religious aspect of the book with the secular attraction. This paradox was something I had already felt but now hearing it from someone else who was very successful made me realize that I had to become more attentive to groups that might not understand the story behind the action. Ms. Payne recommended I keep trying to reach the groups that were obvious audiences until I found the right denomination and from there, expand. Another classmate suggested even changing the genre description from “Religious” to “Inspirational” since my book was obviously very much the latter. As the first class ended, my head was already spinning with ideas and plans and we still had a whole day’s worth of activities ahead!
The next part of the day’s event included readings by the entourage of distinguished staff. This was a wonderful insight into each of the author’s lecturing today and their works. It was deeply rewarding to hear each read from their own work. One of my favorite’s was Peggy Payne, whom had taught in the first class and would be the same author I was to eat with at lunch; some things need naught be explained. At lunch we sat quietly eating outside in the bright warm sunshine. Considering the winter we had just survived, everyone was soaking in the glory of the sun’s radiance. We eventually began asking Ms. Payne questions and as I listened to her respond, I realized here was someone I had never met or known little about before today, but was very impressed by her conviction to writing and the faith behind her works. As I said before, some things need no explanation and I’ll leave it at that.
Following lunch we ran through the “Open Mic” like a wild mustang full of oats; each author only getting five minutes to read. Foolishly, I thought I might be able to read most of my short story, “The Farmer in the Bull”; boy, was I mistaken. I read the words on the paper extra fast, which was something I don’t like doing, but felt compelled to share all of the tale. Needless to say, I was only on the second page of the five page story when the timer expired. Luckily, it was on a line that seemed as if I had planned the act. Inside I was hating myself for not sticking to the plan and reading the prose from my sequel, spellbinding as it might have been; I chose what I chose for sake of trying to lighten the atmosphere, and so I did; at least I garnered a few laughs; success.
After the “Open Mic” we went to our next afternoon class. I walked into the room for “Writing About War Panel Discussion” and immediately realized I was in a room filled with Veterans like myself; although, the majority of these men were combat Veterans, something I had never had to experience. I was immediately humbled by their stories and discussions. The panel who led the program were admirable writers of their own. Author Robin Greene led the discussion along with author Paule Stroebel, a young combat Veteran himself, had not been long since he himself was wearing the army uniform. Dr. Raynor was far too young to have done all the deeds and accomplishments listed in her Bio, but here she was, sharing her ambition and life’s mission with us; having been inspired by her father’s war journal at a very young age. Although the class wasn’t what I had expected, I learned a very important lesson during the session in that sometimes the things we fall into often teaches us more than what we had planned; so it was with the “Writing About War Panel Discussion”.
Finally, my day ended with “Speed Pitch”. I had originally planned to pitch my existing book, “Bruecke to Heaven“, but after talking to other authors during the day, I decided to pitch my sequel. I thought, “Hey, at least I’ll get some professional feedback immediately. What could be better?” Suffice it to say that by now, after learning so much, hearing so many stories, thoughts and ideas, my brain was nearly numb. I had a rough draft of my “Elevator Pitch” in my head so the one minute time limit didn’t bother me; at least not until I sat down in the first chair and began to speak. My face must have had a look of complete shock as I sat transfixed facing the editor and trying to formulate words our of my mouth. All I could hear was “Bla bla bla bla”. I apologized and tried to start again but by then the bell had rung. I was laughing by now as was the editor who was supposed to critique what she had just heard. She was a real trooper and we worked together on the what, where, how aspect of my sequel during the allotted three minutes enough that by the time I got to the fourth editor, my brain was actually producing a pitch that could have made sense, if only everything didn’t seem to be blurring together. Granted it was a great exercise, but I should have known by the end of a day’s conference my brain was going to be flat-lining and all hopes of sounding sharp and practiced on a pitch I had never given was at best, a shot in the dark. The silver lining to it all was that I got to meet a lot of great people who genuinely cared about writing and helping each other to become better.
This may have been my first NCWN Conference, but the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll hopefully plan more in the future.
Thank you to NCWN staff, volunteers and lecturing authors for a splendid day of learning, sharing and fellowship!