I recently spent eight fabulous days at the Eckerd College Writers’ Conference: Writers in Paradise, under the tutelage of some of America’s finest authors. Set on Eckerd’s idyllic waterfront campus (some of us took a boat ride into Boca Bay as the sun set late one afternoon), we attended readings, social events, lectures, panel discussions, and intensive workshops over the course of the program. I was privileged to be awarded the Sterling Watson MFA Fellowship to attend this exciting conference, and doubly privileged to have a chapter of my novel workshopped by eleven brilliant authors, including multi-award-winning author and conference co-director Les Standiford.
As you might imagine, in a conference of this lauded measure, one receives a plethora of great advice and inspiration. It’s a serious writer’s job, then, to apply that advice to her manuscript and to carry that inspiration into her work. (Check out my brief essay on how to do that here.)
If you have the opportunity to attend a conference of this high caliber, I strongly recommend it. Until then, here’s a tiny taste of some of the advice and inspiration shared by the masters at Writers in Paradise. I hope you’ll support these generous spirits by attending their readings, buying and sharing their books, and reviewing their outstanding work.
On the craft of writing:
“Every good story is personal.” –Les Standiford
“Let suspense hook the reader, but don’t show them the hook.” –Dennis Lehane
“We can’t know who you are, until we know what you’ve lost.” –Andre Dubus III
“Don’t shroud the opening in secrecy. Tell the whole story in the first sentence.” –Les Standiford
On the writing habit:
“The ones who make it are the ones who stick with it. They’re the grinders.” –Stewart O’Nan
“Sculpt your entire life around getting your writing done. Don’t waste time. Write. Write. Write.” –Ann Hood
“We need special language to commemorate our lives: weddings, love, death, inaugurations. We need poetry.” –Aimee Nezhukumatathil
“Writing is an act of humility, and it takes its own time.” –Ann Hood
On researching story details:
“Go where the story takes you.” –Gilbert King
“Writing is problem solving.” –Sterling Watson
“Start from ignorance. Admit you know nothing.” –Stewart O’Nan
“Always be particular. Writers will do anything to weasel out of being specific.” –Les Standiford
What success means to you as a writer:
“Success means being able to continue writing. I don’t want to be publishing, marketing, or finishing a book. I want to be writing. That’s where the reward is.” –Stewart O’Nan
“Writing a poem is devastatingly difficult; it’s also a privilege. Writing is a privilege.” –Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Do any of these words of wisdom speak to you or your process as a writer? What is the best writing advice you have to give?