I just got home from the South Carolina Writers Workshop conference and let me just say, I am inspired. Now, I learned a lot from the critique I received and from the workshops I attended, but it was two women - Rachelle Gardner and Joshilyn Jackson - in particular who re-lit the fire for fiction in my gut.
I've followed literary agent Rachelle Gardner's blog for awhile now, even linked over there a few times here at The Shellshank Redemption, so I was very excited to meet her and learn from her in person. She didn't disappoint. Her workshop, "First Lines, First Paragraphs, First Pages: How to Create a Terrific Opening," was excellent. Those beginnings are what draw readers in, are what makes them want to read more. She talked about how "voice" can't be taught, how it must be found. It's the expression of "you" on the page and it takes courage to put it there. Everything she said clicked, and I came away from the class excited about stories and their telling.
Joshilyn Jackson's newest book, Backseat Saints, was on my to-be-read list anyway, but when I saw she was going to be at the conference, I bumped it up. I wish I had read it sooner, like the moment I left the store with it. I wish I had read all of her books sooner. I bought her first one at the conference, read it, loved it. She is that good. (If it sounds like I'm gushing, it's because I am.) Her workshop, "Headspace & Heartspace: Writing is Not a Business, Publishing is Not an Art," reminded me why I write and how I can write better. Write the book only I can write and write it to the best of my ability; write what matters to me and be true to it. I don't have room here for all the great things she said (now, she should write a book on writing!), but one particular piece rang so true it stilled me inside - give up the idea that publishing a book is the goal. The real goal is to be a novelist and any work done toward that goal is worth it and is not a waste of time. Amen. Just...amen.
Okay, I'm done gushing and being a groupie...for the moment.