World Rocked at Writers Workshop

I attended the Southeastern Writer’s Workshop on June 17th through the 22st at Epworth by the Sea on Saint Simon’s Island in Georgia. It is an experience I will never forget. Their motto is “writers helping writers” and it felt more like getting together for a family weekend than anything. They were so welcoming and helpful—just what this writer needs.

Sitting in the first few sessions it hit me that this was the first time I’ve ever sat in a room with only people who enjoy my passion—writing. (Which included my sister, Pam Mather.) The whole conference was, of course, wrapped around writing. Lessons on the craft of writing, a talk from a publisher, an agent, and a handful of experienced writers. They are all willing to talk to me about what they know and help me. What an encouraging atmosphere they’ve created. 

I submitted a manuscript for evaluation by another author and the same manuscript for the Hal Bernard Award for Novel. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous about my writing than when I was submitting. I had just completed the first draft of my young adult, fantasy, romance novel in May and no one has read it (except my teen daughter and a few of her friends.) I wasn’t sure if it was any good or even polished enough to be submitted for an award. So I wasn’t very hopeful about winning.

Each day at the workshop held new lessons, new ideas, and new challenges.

Day two I had a one-on-one meeting with the publisher speaking at the workshop—Deeds Publishing. What a great conversation I had about publishing and where I should go from here. Day three I met with the agent—Loiacono Literary Agency. I learned some valuable information there too. Day four was the best one-on-one, with an award winning novelist: David Fulmer. He’s written ten novels and had verbose opinions about the craft. His classes were invaluable and our conversation afterward was amazing.

I am an introvert with a side of social anxiety, so going to a conference with fifty people I don’t know, was challenging. My initial goal was to introduce myself to every person at the workshop. (I know extroverts will think that is nonsensical, but think about the nearest introvert you know who is socially awkward. There I am.) I achieved my goal of talking to everyone by the second day for two reasons: they were all so welcoming and some of them were pretty weird too. I fit right in.

The ultimate challenge came when I had to read a four-minute excerpt from my unpublished manuscript. They were taking sign-ups from the first day and I looked at that sheet with a little bile in my throat. But the day before the event someone held it up and said something like, “I should say Open Mic night is mandatory, even though it’s not, but you will get more out of it than you think.” They passed it around the room. I put my pen to that paper, closed my eyes and just signed it. My signature was a bit messy but my reading was fabulous. I was so nervous and shaky standing in front of all of those people reading my baby aloud. They are only the second to read/hear it. Their faces as I descended the stage were all I needed: nods and smiles and clapping. I felt like a champion!

Then the last night was the awards night where I would find out where I placed with my first draft young adult story. During the week, I met the evaluator for the award and he is an amazing writer. He writes thrillers set during natural disasters. Very serious and intense novels. I did not think my book would be something he liked. He called out third place, then second place, then first place he said, “Child of the Sky” and I thought, “Isn’t that my book title?” Then he said my name and I thought, “Hey, that’s my name!” My heart was pounding and I could barely breathe as I accepted the very first writing award of my career. The Hal Bernard Memorial Award for Novel. What an honor! 

After putting myself out there, meeting every person, reading my manuscript aloud, and winning an award for it, I was floating on a cloud. It was rather surreal. When I returned home the reactions of my family were more in the arena of “of course you won!” My heart is full and I have a world of people who love and support me. What more could you ask for from a writers conference?