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Writers in the Park, Part II

by Tif Sweeney

Writers in the Park:  Part I  introduced you to the third annual event hosted by Saint Louis Writers Guild; however, it only gave you a peek into the morning sessions.  Today, I highlight the final sessions, allowing you to experience just a bit of what information was shared during the afternoon in the park.

The third session provided attendees with the greatest number of choices of the day:  (1) Margo Dill of Saturday Writers presenting “Everything You Need to Know You Learned in Elementary School:  Improve With the Basics,” (2) Niki Nymark of Loosely Identified Poets talked “Poetry,” (3) David Lucas of Saint Louis Writers Guild discussed “Writing the Fight Scene,” and (4) Jody Feldmen shared “Secrets to Writing a Potential Winner.”  The decision was a difficult one, but I eventually chose to go with the basics with Margo Dill.  Dill, being a retired teacher, discussed the 6+1 traits of writing that are taught to students in many elementary schools.  Breaking down the first six points, with the +1 being publication, she brought practical ideas to the forefront on improving our writing on a daily basis.

  1. Ideas:  Make your idea stand out and be unique.  Exercises to assist you in digging deep include free writing, word webs, critique groups, and online forums.
  2. Word Choice: Find more descriptive nouns and verbs instead of using adverbs.  Avoid your story reading like a “JC Penny catalog.”  Rid your work of the redundant words.
  3. Sentence Fluency:  Avoid habits that will inhibit your sentence flow.  Do all your sentences have the same beginning word?  Do your sentences have all the same number of words?  Read your work out loud or have someone else do it.  Does it sound real or stilted?
  4. Organization:  Remember to always have a beginning, middle, and end.  In the beginning, catch the reader’s attention quickly, set the tone of the story, and start during a pivotal time in a character’s life.  When ending, tie up your loose ends and/or leave your readers thinking.  Consider alternate ways of organizing, including Part I, II, III, etc. like a play or alternating character points of view.
  5. Voice:  Ensure that you know your character and it comes through in your story.  Do your research, read and write in your genre, find examples of authors or characters that have worked for you.
  6. Conventions:  Use proper grammar.  Have your work edited by not only yourself, but others as well (for example, critique partners/groups, editors, and so on).

Dill’s reminders of basic writing was one of my favorite presentations of the day.  I enjoyed getting back to the basics, remembering that the elementary fundamentals are the foundation behind a successful story.

In the final workshop of the day, more local writers came forward to share their knowledge: Bob Baker of the Saint Louis Publishers Association discussed “10 Things I’ve Learned After 20 Years as a Published Author.” Ben Moeller of the Saint Louis Poetry Center talked “Haiku,” and Faye Adams of Writers Society of Jefferson County and Loosely Identified Poets wrapped up with “Young Writers Awards Contest and Kids Poetry Workshops.”  I decided to listen to Bob Baker share his experiences after being a published author for so many years.  Here is a brief look into a few of his tips:

  1. Don’t let a lack of experience or knowledge stop you.  Give yourself permission to succeed! (Get lots of experience writing though!)
  2. Find some way, any way to get involved in your chosen field.  Interact!
  3. Don’t focus too much on money and sales; rather focus on developing a fan base of readers and building a community.
  4. Don’t become a victim of the perfection curse.  Concentrate on quality, but do not keep yourself from getting anything done at all.
  5. Embrace new tools and technology a little at a time.

For Baker’s full top 10 list, you can visit his website The Buzz Factor and subscribe to his e-zine for a free printable document!

The Third Annual Writers in the Park was my first workshop, but it was one that has me hooked!  I was reminded of the basics, I learned from those in the field, and I was able to commiserate with fellow writers.  I left influenced, inspired, and simply desiring to write.  I believe the day was a complete success!

For more information on the authors and contributors from Writers in the Park, check out the following websites:

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