Select the Conference Best Suited to You

You’ll usually find listings for upcoming writers’ conferences on the Internet by state or topic. Various local writers’ guilds or libraries should also have listings. You can often find the conference theme, speakers, special events, location, and costs on these sites.

1. First, think about your top three reasons for attending a conference? Be intentional in choosing those conferences that match. Conferences are sometimes genre specific (Children’s books, YA, Sci-Fi, Romance, History). Most offer a variety of topics. If so, this is a good place to explore other genres or just focus on sessions that interest you.

2. Study the speaker bios and their session listings in the schedule. Workshop descriptions give you an idea of content, speakers experience as author/agent/publisher and their industry involvement.

3. Most sessions are open for everyone—however, the most popular fill up early. Handouts may be limited. If offered, register for specific workshops.

4. Registration is often required for “Pitch” sessions with agents or publishers. Sign up early to ensure you have an appointment. These sessions offer a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with professionals in the industry. (Series 4 will focus on how to successfully “pitch.”)

5. Bring your best smile and wear your most comfortable walking shoes. May sound frivolous but a lot of walking is needed especially when the conference is spread out over a large hotel. Smile, make eye contact, show interest in other writers, and practice your response to the inevitable question, “And what do you write?”


Marilyn H. Collins—author, workshop leader, publisher, writing coach, editorial services Contact:       
Copyright © CHS Publishing, Marilyn H. Collins, 2017.

Turn Memorabilia into Story

We all keep treasures from our travels, places we've lived, or reminders of our childhood. Maybe you kept your first Valentine from someone special, the old revolver your great great, granddad passed down through the generations to you, or quilts and tatted doilies made by early women in your family.

My treasures are a shelf clock with a beautiful chime, the pie safe that stood in the farmhouse first used for venting pies and later stored canned goods, a beautifully, hand-painted bowl from Prussia, or my Dad's Bible well-worn from teaching the Men's Sunday Class. One of my favorite keepsakes are the doorknob and silver box from the old farmhouse. The door in the picture is a photograph by Nancy Hartney (

Your treasures can form the basis for a short story or hold a well-loved space in a memoir, novel, or mystery. Turn into story the seashells from your trip to the beach, the Navaho rug hanging in your office, the tool box belonging to your Dad, or your childhood toy truck or doll.

Use your passion for these keepsakes to add richness and believability to your characters, settings, or story plots.


The Best Writing Space for You

Does your Muse find you anyplace with a pen/pad, laptop, or desktop computer? Or do you find inspiration in a special space--at the library, outside in the park, on a plane, or in your office? I'd love to know what works for you and why.

I write mostly in the solitude of my office--well, almost solitude. My loyal Shih Tzu, Mimi, often shares the space. She adds her own levity to the silence. In this creative space, words seem to flow, characters show up often with their own names, background, and special personality. However, if I've been intense for too long, Mimi gives me the I-need-to-go-out-look. Often just the break I need. 

I mostly write nonfiction. I can easily get lost in the overwhelming research maze. For organizing lots of stuff or editing my own work or that of a client, I find the white noise--people milling around and talking--in Barnes & Noble or Starbucks most conducive.

The habit and expectation of how and where we write--that special space--preps us to do our best work. Be intentional about your choice of writing space and see if your work doesn't go more smoothly. It's worth a try.

Why I Love Old Barns

An old barn half hidden in weeds struggles to hold board and soul together. Its brave story catches my imagination. Birds now nest where hay once filled the loft and tiny creatures scurry about below finding tiny morsels of grain left from long ago.

I get out of my car with camera in hand, climb over the broken fence, and pause to take in this amazing slice of history. I step from the warm outside sun through sagging doors into the cool quiet. A sanctuary that’s survived beyond the years of hope and purpose. The now slatted roof and leaning sides takes perseverance to a new level. She no longer holds within her arms warm, lowing animals, wake each morning to the early clang of milk pails, or the soothing words of a farmer as he greets each cow by name—but she is still beautiful and stands with pride.


Rows of jonquils growing on a country hillside bravely carry the dreams of people who once lived there. Their joyful yellow faces planted row on row still give pleasure nodding in the breeze.     

A legacy of laughter and tears soaked into this soil—all that’s left of generations who loved, laughed, wept, and one day had to leave the land—their hearts lingering in the brown earth beside the daffodils.

My sisters and I caught fireflies in the dusk on this very hill. We looked for the first star to appear, waved goodnight to the thin slice of moon just appearing over the moon trees. We listened to our Daddy’s stories of boyhood adventures out West. Felt our Mother’s reluctance to break the evening’s enchanted spell by going inside, turning on lights, making ready for bed.

Raising their faces each year to the sun’s warmth—the jonquils write my memoir.