Monthly Archives: September 2012

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Attending a writing event is a great way for writers to learn, network, and make some friends. And with so many options offered, it’s easy to find something that suits your needs or wants. But before registering for a writing event – which may or may not involve a fee – I have one recommendation: know what you’re signing up for.

I learned this recently, when I attended a writer’s workshop that was led by a local author. While I was expecting a lengthy presentation on the topic, followed by some writing and discussion, I got a brief presentation, a bit of discussion, but mostly writers doing exercises, reading from their manuscripts, and critiquing each other’s work. Yes, workshop implies work – and in this case, lots of it.

No one can predict exactly what will go on during a writing event, not even the event coordinator (who, in my situation, led me a tad astray), but knowing something about the typical format in advance helps. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of writing events available and what you might expect to get from each one:

  • Conference – an organized, day or longer writing event that involves large-group presentations and smaller, breakout sessions. Keynote speakers, book signings, manuscript critiques, social hours, and meals are often included.
  • Workshop – a hands-on learning session where participants perform writing exercises, discuss writing issues, and share their work for feedback.
  • Round table – implies an open discussion, where everyone has an equal voice; there is no leader or “head” of the table.
  • Forum – a general term that refers to a place where writers congregate to discuss, ask questions, get information, or conference, online or in person; sometimes a presenter leads.
  • Critique group – a meeting with a group of writers to read and analyze each other’s work.
  • Class – a course of study on a particular aspect of writing, led by an instructor.
  • Presentation – a writing professional speaks to a group, sharing expertise on a topic or experience; often includes a question-and-answer period.
  • Reading – a published author reads from his or her work; may involve a short presentation.

If you’re still confused about the format of an event, contact the person or organization hosting the event and try to get answers to your questions. And be sure to find out if preregistration is necessary and whether a fee is involved. Writing events are great resources for writers, but to make them worth your time and money, do the research first.

(Image by Rick Audet)

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Duluth_Skyline_-cOne of the greatest things about living in Minnesota is the endless writing ideas the state has to offer. Now I don’t consider myself a travel writer by any means, but I do write about regional topics more often than not – and maybe even more than I realize.

You know that age-old advice, write what you know? Basically every writer who follows that advice writes about their region. And it isn’t necessarily in the form of nonfiction. In fact, writers often set their fictional stories in their town or region. Or, they create a character that comes from their geographic area or travels there. Sometimes, it’s as simple as using memories of growing up in a specific place and incorporating those memories of time and place into a story.


Here’s a bonus for writing about a region: one piece of writing often leads to another. For example, I wrote an article on the Chippewa Indians and how they brought wild rice, a classic Minnesota food item, to the region. That led to two more articles on wild rice, how to cook with it and its health benefits. Those articles made me think about other Minnesota history and native food topics.

So whenever I think I’ve run out of writing ideas, I think of my region. I can write the obvious travel pieces about the fabulous Minnesota lake vacation spots or the great golf getaways or the phenomenal bed-and-breakfasts. But those topics just skim the surface. Minnesota’s rich history and culture, interesting people, ever-changing climate, incredible shopping, and varied industries contain hundreds of ideas to research and write about.

Certainly Minnesota isn’t unique. Every region contains a wealth of ideas for writers. A visit (online or in person) to the local history center, the Chamber of Commerce, the public library, or the state tourism website will prove it. On the other hand, so will a simple journey down memory lane.

(Image: Duluth, Minnesota, by Derek Bakken)