I’m very glad I went to the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writing Conference this year. I gained insight into my writing and new ideas for telling stories.
Thursday was a writing critique session. Participants submitted their first 10 pages of a work in early September, and we brought written comments for each other to the session. There were nine of us and the session leader, and most of them were memoir writers. Just three of us, myself included, had submitted fiction. Any reticence I had about not working with fiction writers dissipated when I read my group’s submissions. My fictional characters work through conflicts, interact with other characters with differing levels of success, and (hopefully) grow through their story. Memoirs are stories of the writer doing just that, sometimes in heart wrenchingly relatable ways.
I was lucky to work with such a diverse group. Our ages ranged from a high senior to a couple of self-labeled “old guys.” We came from different parts of the United States and overseas. We had many different careers and life experiences. The alchemy of the group worked. We had commonality in our backgrounds even if the particulars were different. We took different things from each others’ stories, interpreted characters’ motivations differently, and from that we discussed how these nuances made the stories more complex.
We need diverse stories because it opens us up to different experiences. But, diverse stories also show us as writers how we can touch readers in fundamental ways, even if their backgrounds are different from those described in the story.
Friday was the writing conference, and something serendipitous happened during
my first session. Elizabeth Sims, a fiction and non-fiction writer, lead an exercise in a writing method she calls Stormwriting. I’ve used her method before, and darned if a horror story idea didn’t pop up. It was so distracting, I found a gorgeous corner bench to chase down the gruesome little idea through the following session. Now I just need to figure out if the main character is going to get past her little problem, or it will just get worse.
If you live near Florida, I recommend you attend the Florida Heritage Book Festival and Writing Conference next year. And join a writing critique session if you are working on something – the feedback will show aspects of your story to you in new and different ways.