How Do You Get There?
Yesterday afternoon I returned from my back to back conferences. I’m always amazed at the invigorating (and tiring) experience of going to these conferences. While almost no one believes it, editors and writers lead a pretty normal, quiet life. We sit in our offices and face the same struggles as anyone on the planet yet because of our connection to publishing, we are involved in writing books or magazine articles or other material. Occasionally I get to attend a particular conference or teach at a conference. At that time, I meet new people and form new relationships (some of which are only that time and others are lifelong). The Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop at the University of Dayton was an exceptional conference. It has a maximum of 300 participants and is held every other year. This year’s conference sold out in a matter of weeks. Over the next few entries, I’m going to recount some things I learned from this conference.
While some people may ask the question, there is a common unverbalized question from experienced and new participants in a writers’ conference: how do I get to where you are in your writing life? It’s easy to see how people create this question. They are listening to published authors or syndicated newspaper columnist or others who have achieved a certain level and been asked to tell others about their experience. After many years of going to these conferences and listening to these stories, I have gained one common fact: the journey is different for every single person. Yes, there are insights and methods for you to try. There are ways to improve your craft of storytelling but the actual route is different for each person and let me include two fresh examples from this conference.
At the height of her career, Erma Bombeck’s newspaper column was syndicated in over 900 newspapers and reached an estimated 35 million readers. Because of this history, I met several conference participants who were newspaper columnists and interested in syndication for their own work. One of the workshop leaders was Craig Wilson. For many years, I’ve read the material from Craig Wilson, a USA Today columnist on the front of the Wednesday Life Section. I listened to Craig teach his workshop, It helps to be human: Tips for making your writing life-like! and it was excellent. Craig’s column appears in one of the largest circulation newspapers in the United States. Many people want to know how he became a columnist. He wrote a column for years at a smaller newspaper before coming to USA Today and during his workshop, he made clear his column is unusual for his newspaper. He was in the right place (a feature writer for USA Today) at the right time with the right editor (the editor of the Life Section). If you want to follow the same path, it’s hard to hear that advice but part of the key from my perspective is to be writing and be out there. Syndication of a column will never happen if you aren’t writing a regular column for a newspaper or a publication (any size). It has to begin at the beginning.
Another speaker at the conference was Jodi Lynn who spoke about How to get syndicated … or self-syndicate. I wasn’t able to attend her workshop but I sat beside Jodi for several hours during a book signing. During this time, I learned about Jodi’s new book which has just been released, Syndication Secrets. This book looks packed with practical and seasoned information. I brought it home and look forward to reading it in the near future.
As for the answer to the question I posed with this entry? For me, it’s a matter of trying different types of writing to see which takes off for you. It’s a matter of continuing to grow in your knowledge about publishing and how the industry works. And most important, it’s a matter of learning your craft and working at it every single day.