Tag Archives: writers conference

Thoughts on the Sixth Jot Writers Conference

The sixth Jot Writers Conference has come and gone. It turned out to be another great event. Just over 30 writers filled the presentation space at Lowry’s Books and More. I met loads of new writers and enjoyed hearing about their different projects.

This was our first event at Lowry’s, which turned out to be a solid venue for writing-related events. It’s a sprawling used book store, (You could spend hours there. Trust me.) and the event space is part of their in-store cafe, which smelled of cupcakes. Used books and cupcakes. What’s not to love?

To make an already  fun night even better, the owner, Tom, sprung for free pizza and soda — for the whole conference. One of the goals of every Jot Conference is to get writers to meet each other. Most writers are typically shy and introverted, so it’s not always easy to make sure everyone has met someone new. But nothing gets people to loosen up and mingle a little bit like free pizza. (Okay, perhaps free drinks would do the same, but you get my point.)

My favorite part of the evening was an interview I conducted with Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma, one-time editor of Catapult Magazine, and editor of the new journal, Topology Magazine. Kirstin is one of the first editors who published something I had written (see the links to Catapult in the writing tab above). I’m grateful that she, her husband Rob, and the rest of the Catapult crew took a shot with me back then (circa ’08 and ’09). Every publication is an honor, but there’s something about the first couple that are especially meaningful. It was a thrill for me to interview her at a Jot Conference and express my gratitude.

One of these days we’re going to ask someone with an eye for photography to come to a Jot Conference and snap some photos. Until then we have my iPhone pics. The first is of Josh Mosey, who talked about character development through the lens of Norse mythology.

JOT VI_Mosey

Bob Evenhouse gave a talk on the basics of blogging. There were a good number of writers in attendance with questions about blogging, so I was glad we had this topic covered.

JOT VI_Evenhouse

Thomas McClurg spoke on self-editing, and more specifically, being willing to make cuts to your writing which empower readers’ imaginations to run wild. As is typical for Thomas, his presentation was thoughtful with a touch of understated humor. (I was in the back during his presentation, so, this image is the poorest of the three. We really, really, really need to get a real photographer to a Jot Conference some day…)

JOT VI_McClurg

(I didn’t get any pics of Matt Landrum presenting or of the interview with Kirstin, unfortunately.)

The next Jot will be held in Grand Rapids. We’re planning on holding it in March, though the where, the when, and the who are not set in stone yet. I’ll blog about it as things are finalized in the next few months. Hope to see you there!


Posts about previous Jot Conferences:

Reflections of the Fourth Jot Conference

Jot Writers Conference: The iPhone Pics Report (first conference)

Some Thoughts on Jot: the GR Writers Mini-Conference (first conference)


A reading event at the Breathe Conference

Last spring I attended a wonderful conference for undergraduate writers. It was Taylor University’s Making Literature Conference. I went to numerous workshops in which undergraduate writing students read original essays, fiction, and poetry. I enjoyed being back in a college classroom, among students, and around a generally academic atmosphere.

I attended two workshops during that conference that featured multiple writers. They read short pieces aloud which were thematically related (e.g. “Mixed Prose: The Body”). The sessions were typically 50 minutes long and featured three different writers. After all the pieces were read, the writers then participated in a Q and A session with the audience.

I found these sessions to be enormously meaningful. Watching another writer overcome their nerves and step out on a ledge (as it were) was inspiring. I found myself rooting for the students to read their work well. And the Q and A sessions afterward were encouraging and insightful. As an attendee I walked away charged up to go do my own writing and to feel more confident about sharing it with others. I imagine that the presenters felt their own confidence get boosted as well.

writers conferenceI liked these sessions so much that I pitched two of them to the Breathe Conference planning committee–and they said yes!

If you’re attending the 2015 Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and if you’d like to have an opportunity to share your writing publicly, please read this post on the Breathe Blog and submit your work. The full details are included here. I would love to see you at one of these sessions.

If you are introverted the way many writers tend to be, it will be a challenge. However, I can assure you, it’s one worth taking. And don’t worry. You’ll be among friends.

Panel questions for a writer’s conference

Today I’ll be attending the 2014 Maranatha Christian Writer’s Conference on behalf of Discovery House Publishers. In addition to giving a workshop, the conference organizers have asked me to sit in on a panel discussion. They sent us the questions we’ll be asked ahead of time.

I have written my answers and have posted them here as means for preparing for the discussion. I can’t be sure that I’ll get to say all of this today, as panel discussions ebb and flow in real time, but I thought there might still be some value in recording these answers. If you’re interested at all in my thoughts on the future of publishing, or if you are considering self-publishing or non-traditional publishing, then this post is for you. Enjoy! -AR

1. We’ve seen a lot of changes in the world of traditional publishing in recent years. What do you think the most important changes have been, and how have they affected authors? What additional changes do you think we might see in coming years?

The power of social media to sell products has changed publishing books, at least in part. Social media puts greater pressure on authors to help promote their work and to continually create new things to read. Social media, by its very nature, is personal and personality driven. Corporations (like publishing brands) are at something of a disadvantage. For instance, readers are more interested in following their favorite author on Twitter than they are in following the author’s publisher. This makes the author the promoter of their books in ways that authors were not before. 

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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.

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Panel Discussion at the Jot Conference

JOT II is right around the corner (next week Friday, September 13th, to be precise…) At this JOT my writers group will be hosting a panel discussion. We, the Weaklings, will be the panel. We’ve never done something like this before. To be honest, the whole thing feels a little pretentious. We certainly don’t mean it to be, and I hope on the night of JOT it doesn’t come off that way. But I thought I’d tell the story of the panel discussion here, just in case anyone thinks we’re getting big heads. :)

The last JOT totally surprised us. We couldn’t believe 60 people showed up to hear us talk about writing. It was a jaw dropping night for us. We made new friends, we connected with old ones, and everyone that came was so responsive to our presentations. We didn’t count on any of that happening. Honestly, we would’ve been happy if just five people had shown up, much less 60.

Something else we didn’t count on was a common question from attendees. All four of us were asked the same thing by different people:

“How can I find / start / join a writers group?”

None of us knew that question was coming and so none of us had a very good answer ready. As we debriefed after JOT, and as we talked to other writers in other groups, we realized that there really isn’t one way to answer this question. Like so many other situations in life, how you join or start a writers group is different for everyone.

After talking about it for a while we decided to have a panel discussion on the topic of writers groups during JOT II. We want to take a few minutes and try to provide a quality answer to this question. We’ll tell the story of how we got started writing together, what the benefits are to being in a group, and how to fight against the indefatigable tide of “real life” that makes you think you’re “too busy” to be in your group.

If you’re in the greater Grand Rapids area I hope you’ll consider coming to JOT II next week. It’s fun, it’s free, and you’ll meet a lot of other writers in a very casual, easy-going setting. See you there.





A video recording of my JOT conference presentation

I know I’ve been talking about the JOT conference on this blog a lot lately. I promise, this will be my last post about JOT for a while…

The video below contains my entire 15 minute presentation and the Q&A time that followed. It is entitled “Three Things Publishers Like to See on Book Proposals.” The audio was taken from the live mike in the room, so turn up the volume on your computer.