Sunday, October 7, 2007

Brainerd Writers Workship & Program

This past Saturday, October 6th, I traveled to Brainerd to attend the Brainerd Writers Alliance (BWA) Workshop and Contest Awards Program. Held at Central Lakes College, the morning session offered a panel discussion with Corinne Dwyer, from the North Star Press in St. Cloud, Seal Dwyer, from Sun Ray Printing, Dee George, a freelance writer & editor, and Donna Evans, with Echo Publishing in Pequot Lakes. Gary Midge, with BWA, hosted the question and answer session. The four panelists had a wealth of information regarding the local/regional publishing and writing industry, and provided many helpful tips for the attendees.

Following lunch, the program turned to the winners of the annual contest. First, second, and honorable mentions were invited to read their works in front of the group. It was quite a thrill for me to read, "One More Chance", the First Place winner in the Short Fiction category. The story is taken from a revised version of the first chapter of the new book I'm writing. As a "lonely writer, working at home," it's easy to question which projects are worth pursuing, and having the diligence to keep at it when the doubts and discouragement creep in. Let me tell you, having this story win first place in the BWA contest is truly an affirmation from God to "keep at it!" There were many wonderfully written pieces read in the afternoon, and it was a fun chance to put faces to the names I see so often on the email notices.

A big thanks to the BWA writers for hosting a great workshop & program!

Meeting a Mentor

It's funny sometimes how life comes together. In 2000 when I decided to take a bold step of faith into the world of freelance writing, I really didn't have a clue where to start. As I thought more about it and pondered my direction, I was drawn to the comfort and safety of my hometown, Wadena. My sisters had shown me a small periodical called LakesAlive, which featured stories and articles in and around the Detroit Lakes/Wadena areas. Dee George, who was editor at the time, responded to my very first query letter, and even more importantly, agreed to have me write an article about my sister and brother-in-law's gardens. The article, "Discover wine & waterfalls at Wadena's Lee Gardens," was published--I must say--after a fair amount of editing from Dee. More importantly though, Dee took the time to mentor me, to show me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.

Following that first article, Dee continued to guide me and published several subsequent articles. One was a feature article about the annual White Earth Pow Wow north of Detroit Lakes, a simple trip that for me turned into something much deeper. See, for the past three years I'd been denying a Voice telling me to write a book about a Native American man. The man had an incredible life story, but I didn't have any connection to him. And so with all of my great logic and justification I continued to deny the Voice...until the White Earth story came out.

The simple act of Dee's acceptance triggered something deep and powerful within myself, something called confidence. Any of you who have followed my writing journey know the man was Paul LaRoche, a complete stranger until I found the courage to contact him. The book, of course, took several years to complete, but since it was released in 2006 so many incredibly wonderful things have happened that I'm amazed each time I look back. And to realize all of that started with a little bit of encouragement from an editor in a tiny town in north central Minnesota, someone who took the time to give me a chance.

This past Saturday I had the chance to finally meet Dee George in person. We both happened to attend a workshop sponsored by the Brainerd Writers Alliance. Dee is now a full-time freelancer, busy querying and writing articles for numerous magazines and newspapers. It was fun to reminisce with her and I thanked her for her gracious spirit. She shared how someone had done the same thing for her when she first started writing, and so it goes forward, from one person to the next. Right now though, I simply want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to Dee.