I can see it in the eyes of the participants about 3 p.m. every afternoon. People invest a great deal of time, energy and effort to attend a writer’s conference. During this mid-afternoon period, most of them have reached their maximum absorption rate. Last week at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference, I was a part of this process. I taught the continuing class on the nonfiction book. Each writers conference is different in their pattern. At Blue Ridge, we taught four hour and fifteen minute classes. As I mentioned in this post, I use a lot of handouts in my teaching. I use handouts for several reasons. 1) It allows me to reinforce the points that I’ve made orally. 2) It allows me to give additional information beyond the classroom for added value and benefit. 3) It reinforces the fact that we can’t learn everything about the nonfiction book in a few hours at a writer’s conference. The classroom time mostly points people in the right direction and helps them understand some of the dynamics of publishing.
I sent my handouts ahead of time to Blue Ridge and when I arrived, they were waiting in my classroom. This conference allows each faculty member to have the same room for the entire week. I had five large boxes of handouts waiting for distribution. After the third day, one of the participants turned to me and said, “It’s great you give out so much information through these handouts and your teaching. I was here last year and I don’t remember getting this much information. Were you here last year?” I confirmed that last year I also taught this session yet I change change/ improve and add to the handouts. “I must have made a different choice for my continuing session,” she replied.
Other people have told me about taking these handouts home and organizing them and using them extensively throughout the months and years ahead as they work on different parts of the nonfiction book. Throughout my teaching, I use different illustrations and even add personal experiences from the last few months into my speaking. Also I include recent statistics or publishing information that I’ve picked up from my reading. Each of these morning continuing classes were packed with almost every chair in the room filled. In a couple of these morning sessions, people had to find chairs from other rooms and bring them into my session or sit on the floor.
Twice I taught workshops in the late afternoon. These sessions had few attendees but were recorded. My afternoon sessions had only a handful of participants—read less than six. Many people purchase the tapes of these sessions and even if there were few people in the classroom, the workshop went ahead as planned. With the conference director, I questioned the value of these sessions. She instantly said, “Well, what are we supposed to do, Terry? Plan a nap or hike or something? People pay good money to come to this conference and you can’t have a blank schedule—even if people don’t go to it, at least they had the possibility.” I didn’t have a creative alternative answer to this situation. I knew for a fact that late in the day, people are on information overload so they are ready to return to their room and rest or shop in the bookstore or something different. I know for my part of the conference, I built a lot of value into the teaching sessions. It was a great opportunity for me to help people learn about various aspects of book publishing.