Top 5 TakeAways From A Writer’s Workshop

Cat High Five        

Image by Tori Cat from Creative Commons

This past weekend I attended my third consecutive Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University. This year, we were taught by the likes of William Kent Krueger, Jess Lourey, Jane Friedman, Erik Deckers and Daniel Jose Older. Several agents were also on hand to hear pitches. So since this was my 3rd year, I decided to share five nuggets from this conference:

5. It’s not always about you. I attend writers conferences to be around people who actually get what I’m doing. I’m excited to meet accomplished authors and agents. I’m excited to talk about my work. But since I wasn’t pitching anything this year, I was able to just sit and ask other writers what they were working on. I was surprised by some of the things I learned from them, especially those who self-publish and what they do to market themselves. The marketing aspect of it scares the bejesus out of me. But listening to what they’re doing– successfully– makes it a more palatable idea. Like author Daniel Jose Older stated in his packed session on Writing the Other: “To write you have to listen; to listen you have to shut up.”

4. Social media ain’t going away anytime soon. Okay, so it has been only a year that I’ve been blogging or active on social media, period. I’d been on Facebook, but that was just to see where everybody I went to elementary school with ended up. But Jane Friedman always updates us on the trends and importance of social media if we are to be successful writers. This year, I tweeted sessions and actually got retweeted and/or connected with other people because of the tweets! Go figure!

3. Try a bit of everything. I enjoyed stepping out of my historical fiction box this go ’round. I attended a poetry session and learned how to give better critiques. I don’t have to know all the terminology (’cause I don’t). It’s okay to say how the piece spoke to me. Now I don’t have to just sit there like a bobblehead because I don’t want to say something stupid. I also went to a couple of speculative fiction sessions, but that had a lot to do with the presenter.

2. Take advantage of extras. This year, I didn’t do the extra critique or pitch sessions. I should have. I felt so left out. It’s nice to have a well-known published author sit down with you– and only you– to discuss your work. Their advice is invaluable. And if your stuff is any good, they’ll tell you. Talk about having a massive high for the weekend!

And speaking of a high…

1. Daniel Jose Older. Okay, so I’ve mentioned him a couple of times in this post, for good reason. Have you ever seen this man? Gorgeous! I mean RIDICULOUSLY gorgeous! The pictures do not do him justice. And it wasn’t just me. I’ve never been so tickled than to see a room full of gray-haired women who, just a few hours before, had said they wrote Christian chick-lit and then packed his sessions on speculative YA fiction (See #3). I swear, I was waiting for a pair of panties to land on the podium. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an excellent and engaging speaker. I even bought his book Salsa Nocturna. Honestly, it was just to have a reason to say hi and get an autograph (and I did, yay me!), but now that I’ve started reading it, I’m glad I did– buy the book, I mean.

I made this number 1 because the highlight of the conference really was my ten-minute breakfast conversation with him on the last day. (Whew, I’m still fanning myself!)


About Michelle McGill-Vargas

Michelle hails from Gary, Indiana where she enjoys writing historical fiction, flash fiction, and short stories. Her writings have appeared in "Lutheran Witness", "Splickety Magazine", "The Copperfield Review", and "Typehouse Literary Magazine." She served as vice-president of the Indiana Writers' Consortium. Until the day her historical fiction manuscripts get published, she pays the bills as a special education administrator with a background in deaf education. In October 2018, she will be a contributor to Concordia Publishing House's quarterly devotional series "Portals of Prayer." Visit her blog at
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3 Responses to Top 5 TakeAways From A Writer’s Workshop

  1. Gail Galvan says:

    Hi there Michelle…read your post top five from the workshop…really cool….I attended twice and like you, got very inspired…it was in the day of Alan Garinger and R. Karl Largent…have to look up this “gorgeous” hunk-writer you are talking about…take care and write-on! Gail Galvan

  2. Pingback: To Be (Or Not To Be) A Socially-Conscious Writer | Michelle McGill-Vargas

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