Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the Jambalaya Conference in Houma, LA. And yes, we were served delicious Jambalaya for lunch. For those of you that have never tasted Jambalaya, it's yummy. It's a dish made with rice and several different meats like sausage, chicken, shrimp or whatever meat the cook decides to throw in there. It's sort of similar to gumbo except it's thick, not soupy.
Are you hungry now?
This years conference was well worth the money. Plus, I was honored to have been asked if I'd like to have a table to sell my books at. Of course I jumped at the chance. And below is, Demore one of my new cutie pie fans! Isn't she just adorable? To top off her cuteness, she was so excited to get one of my books. She truly put the cherry on top of the day for me.
The conference had some amazing speakers like Heather Graham, a NYT and USA Today bestselling author; Cherry Adair, New York Times bestselling author; Dianne de las Casas, an award winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month; David Schwartz, author of over 50 children's books. Those are just a few of the speakers.
My very favorite of all was the keynote speaker, Adriana Trigiani, a powerhouse New York Times best-selling author who is beloved by millions of readers around the world for her hilarious and heartwarming novels. And that ain't no joke, folks. This woman had us in stitches the entire time. But at the same time, she was very informative and compassionate. I could've listened to her all day. She not only had a hilarious comeback for every question anyone asked, but I learned more from her than all the other speakers put together.
One of the things I liked most about her, besides her humor and the fact that she bought three of my books (squeeee!) was that even though she has many published books, she's been a writer on The Cosby Show, Different World and other TV productions, she never once bragged about herself. She wasn't there to tell us all about what it took to write her books, she was there to give us productive, useful information and honestly help us. I admired that tremendously. Too many speakers that I've listened to at conferences such as this, only want to talk about their own books and you leave whispering to yourself, "What a waste, I didn't learn a thing!"
Adriana did preach on a few pointers, which we all need:
1. If you want to be a writer bad enough, you must allow yourself three or four hours a day to write. She actually used to get up at 3:00am before anyone in her house was up, and use that time to write. We can have all the excuses in the world but the bottom line is... it's up to us. We are worth it and we need to keep telling ourselves this.
2. We deserve the best tools we can get to help us with our craft. For example, an updated computer, a nice notebook, a pen we enjoy writing with etc. All of these things help.
3. Always keep a notebook with you so you won't miss any inspirational opportunities. (I think most of us do this anyway)
4. Give yourself a philosophy. In other words: What am I trying to say that matters? Remind yourself over and over why you are writing in the first place.
5. Keep a master list of ideas. (I myself have a huge list that is ongoing on my computer.)
6. Don't be in denial of your gift!!
Dianne de las Casas was another speaker who was there to teach, not brag. She talked a lot about writing your children's books according to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or Accelerated Reader (AR). If we don't do that, chances are teachers can't bring our books into the classrooms. You can find out about your own States CCSS by Googling it.
One of the biggest pointers I got from Dianne was that you should NEVER talk down to a reader... always talk up! I never really thought about that but definitely will from now on.
It is my feeling that all of us writers need to attend as many conferences about our craft that we can. Normally, if you find a conference in your area, the cost is very reasonable. Even if you only learn one new thing, that's one thing you didn't know before! Plus these events are great for getting new contacts, meeting new friends, selling our books, and most of all they can really "re-fire up our writing motors!"