Recently, I had the opportunity to go to a writing conference called "First Pages: Workshop for Beginning Writers" at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. It was the first one hosted there, so the full-day experience was kind of small and personal.
I really liked this conference, and I would just like to point out a few things that I learned.
In the morning, we had an "elevenses," or break time, and got to know each other. By the end of the day, we were all friends and very comfortable with each other. It was nice to talk to other writers and share my experiences and struggles with them, because they understood completely.
Matthew J. Kirby was there with his wife as the host of the event. I've read one of his books, "Icefall," and I loved it a lot. He spoke a lot, and gave a lot of classes during the day that I attended.
Kirby, who writes middle-grade children's books, first talked about what a story is and how to convey it. He constantly pointed out that writers hardly ever know what they're doing and we just have to trust the characters. This is something I completely agree with. Not all writers hear voices in their head; I do not. But like Kirby said, "All characters are people. You have to remember that."
I also attended a class on world building and one on self-editing. All the classes were really small, so they were really relaxed and easy to attend. Since all the writers were at different points in experience, we all shared short stories to help each other out. The small, personal classes were really important to me to be able to learn and absorb everything I could. I really liked that the goal was to teach us this one time, so that we wouldn't have to go again. The goal wasn't to get money — it was to teach us.
At the end of the day, author Lindsey Leavitt, who writes books for tweens, teens and kids, spoke to us for the keynote address. She talked about her rough journey and displayed a long string of rejection letters. Even as she talked about them, she smiled and joked about the crappy time she had had.
Leavitt also said something that stuck out to me. She was talking about the things her therapist said, when discussing why she hadn't been writing. She said, "Maybe you aren't ending anything because your endings haven't been so happy lately."
Despite the awful things Leavitt had been going through — a divorce and hardly any publishing — she said she was still writing. Whether it was a letter to her mother or a note in her kids' lunch, she was writing — because she is a writer, and so she will write.
The author told us that writers all feel the need, the innate desire, to create, and sometimes we feel embarrassed to admit that we are writers. This hits so close to home for me. I love writing, but when people ask, I don't say that.
I think it's time we all be proud of the things we create. Creativity is an attribute not known to many, and those who have it must hold it near and dear to their heart.
So to end, I would just like to say one more thing: My name is Taylor Jenkins. I am a writer, and so I will write.