Reflections on the fourth Jot Conference

The flow of events

Last night The Weaklings put on the fourth Jot Conference. We had 82 people show up, and judging by an unofficial “raise your hand if this is your first time at Jot” poll from the stage, it looked like about one third of the audience were new people.


Our friend, Alison Hodgson, spoke first and provided three practical tips for writers: (1) Start writing; (2) Don’t stop; (3) Create your own “You’ll rue the day!” list, which is something of a black list you keep for recording the names of people who discourage you in your writing. Alison is a humorist, so I think this last tip is a joke. :-)

I spoke next and talked about lessons I’ve learned from my first year as an acquisitions editor. The talk seemed to be received well. My year as an acquisitions editor has been one of the most exciting of my career so far. As I told the group last night, I have a long way to go on the road to becoming an editor of substance. However I have learned so much and was delighted to share what I know thus far.

After my presentation Ellen Stumbo spoke on the value of vulnerability in your writing. Ellen is a blogger, journalist, and an aspiring author. She was also kind enough to drive from Wisconsin just to participate in Jot. I think I can speak for all of The Weaklings and the other Jot friends (ahem, Ann, Amelia, and Susie) when I say that Ellen seems like a kindred spirit. During her presentation on vulnerability she spoke about “what vulnerability is not,” (mainly, it’s not a confessional of every wicked thing you’ve ever done) which struck me as an important point to make.

We typically end Jot Conferences with an interview. On Friday we interviewed my good friend and co-worker, Sam Carbaugh. Sam has a new book releasing about the history of the comic book industry. What makes his forthcoming book unique is that it is written for children. There are many other books on this topic, but all of them are geared for adults. Sam’s interview was a highlight of the night and a great way to end the presentation time. As is usually the case with Sam, he was funny, warm, insightful, and a little nerdy. ;-) The crowd was laughing throughout. We were excited to get him on the stage, not just because he is a friend, but because Sam is working in two spheres of publishing that lots of folks are interested in: children’s publishing and comic books and graphic novels.

After the conference was finished we held three optional and concurrent workshops. One was on poetry, one was on blogging, and the third was on speculative fiction. I wasn’t able to attend any of them, but that’s okay. I like to be available to talk with people at Jot. I know that some folks come because they can’t afford to attend regular writers conferences. Jot is their chance to build connections with other writers and to meet people who work in publishing. I had the opportunity last night to connect with five or six new people and encourage them along in their pursuit of publication. I hope the advice I gave was sound, and encouraging.

Some reflections

The conference went very well. We didn’t encounter any problems as far as I know. As with the previous three Jot Conferences, I am amazed by how blessed we have been in this endeavor. To think that we are given the opportunity to communicate with that many writers in the Grand Rapids area is humbling. I don’t ever want to lose sight of that. We’ve been given the chance to share our love of writing with fellow writers, and most writers need community, desperately. So, it’s extremely fulfilling to provide a space for that to happen and to hear positive responses from others.

Jot is entirely volunteer-powered. We’ve never paid a speaker or charged an entry fee. It works only because people are willing to give their time and energy to it. This is amazing. Writing professionally is hard work and it’s far from lucrative. Journalists and other professional writers will quickly tell you how difficult it is to make a decent living writing. There are also very few published authors in the world who do not have day jobs, or spouses with day jobs. So, to have Ellen drive from Wisconsin to participate, to have Allison and Sam give up whole evenings that could’ve been spent writing or with their families, and to have friends like Susie, Amelia, Ann, and all the others who have promoted, run, or spoken at Jot … to have these people around our group is a tremendous gift. We owe a huge debt to everyone who has helped us make each Jot a free and meaningful event.

Going forward

The Weaklings are full of ideas on how to improve Jot. Some seem like good ones, and some probably are not. We’ll see. We’re already talking about holding another event next March, and maybe something even sooner than that. Among the ideas that we’ve been bouncing around is the thought of helping our friends with book launch events when they have a book published. (It’s the least we can do for all of the help they have given us!) Another idea is to hold smaller, genre-specific meetings in between conferences.

If you attended the fourth Jot Conference, or if you attended any of the first three Jots, I’d love to hear what you think.

What did you appreciate most? What needs to be improved? Do you have any (even crazy) ideas for us to explore?

Thanks for reading and for supporting The Weaklings,







10 thoughts on “Reflections on the fourth Jot Conference

  1. billderooy

    Really enjoyed the mini-conference, and am impressed at how not-mini- it’s become. I had to leave early, so I’m jealous of the time others likely enjoyed in the workshops. NEXT TIME, GADGET!!!

  2. June Dyer

    A friend and I came and we had been discussing several things about writing and things that had affected us in the beginning process. These issues were touched on in great detail and I felt like it was exactly what we needed to hear. I have lots of little things I have written and have attempted to put them all together but the flow was lost. I am encouraged to press on and try something new. Thanks to all of you for giving of your time to help beginners like me. I have been to the last two and loved them!!

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on the Sixth Jot Writers Conference | Tell Better Stories

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