Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference in British Columbia with my dad and daughter. We and about 600 other people spent three days and evenings listening to great presentations by established authors, and talking with each other about every aspect of writing. It was fun, incredibly informative, and energizing. (If you want to go next year, bookmark the website and put a reminder on your calendar to register in May or June - it sells out early!)
As I was reflecting on the experience this morning, it occurred to me that the reason this conference is so successful (25 years and counting) is that the entire experience from beginning to end is built on a growth mindset. The underlying assumption is "You can be a writer." Not necessarily a best-selling writer, or even a full-time professional writer, but a writer. And it's not just puffery; each day is jam-packed with very specific expert advice and tips on how to improve, and opportunities to sit down one-on-one with published authors and have them review your work ("Blue Pencil Sessions") with honest but constructive, specific feedback. Each and every presenter was positive, encouraging, and happy to share their techniques and strategies, whether in a presentation or if you just happened to end up in the elevator with them. (For those of you who enjoy the Outlander series, you'll be glad to know that Diana Gabaldon is just as friendly, personable, and incredibly smart as you imagine her to be.)
The people in attendance represented authors and potential authors of every level and genre, but the underlying mindset was universal. No matter where you are, you can be even better - and here's how. I came away challenged not only as a writer, but as an instructor and presenter. I want to make sure my work consistently reflects the same strong and positive mindset.
*This title is adapted from writer/performer Mary Robinette Kowal, who provided an amazing keynote delivered through one of her puppets, and her fuzzy companion referred to itself as a Metaphor Made Manifest. I am still unpacking the layers of emotional complexity of her writing, her performance, and the impact of using an imaginary intermediary to connect with the participants. I will also admit right here and now that I am already contemplating how I can get away incorporating a puppet into some future presentation, and I apologize in advance for so shamelessly stealing from her.