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Writers cultivating their writing grow at Berries, Bridges and Books Conference

NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Erica Spindler opened the conference.
NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author Erica Spindler opened the conference.
Mary Beth Magee

The 2014 Berries, Bridges and Books Writers Conference, sponsored by Creative Minds Writers Group, kicked off in Hammond, LA on Saturday with a rousing presentation by N.Y. Times and USA Today Erica Spindler. Since her first publication in 1988, more than thirty novels and novellas have sprung from her imagination.

“Nobody understands an author like another author,” Spindler stated. She spoke about the changes she’s seen in the business through the years and acknowledged she enjoys coming to conferences to support local writers.

Her strongest advice to aspiring authors? Love what you do, follow your muse and learn the craft so you can “write the most amazing story you can.” She recommended joining a writing group for encouragement and feedback on work but guarding against letting other interests, such as social media, distract too much from work time. Spindler often takes her computer to a coffee shop and writes there for hours to escape the distractions at home.

Women’s author Christa Allan spoke on using social media as a marketing tool. Armed with statistics about the various outlets, Allan shared techniques and strategies for getting the benefit from social media without being overwhelmed by it. Her suggestions included creation of a Facebook Author page, even before the book is published. By tweeting and retweeting about writing and other authors as well as your own work, authors can promote themselves by promoting others. Another way to use social media as an interest-building tool is with a Pinterest board about your book: research, images, cover reveals and so forth.

Lynn Shurr shared her experiences as an electronically published author, explaining the different variations available with epublishers and how epublished books differ from self-published books. As Shurr provided a list of checkpoints to note in any contract offered, she used her own experiences as examples. Among her tips: if you choose to epublish use a reputable epublisher, and run a search for any proposed title to make sure you don’t get lost in a sea of books with the same title.

Lunch time entertainment came in the form of columnist Dave Berwick, who shared some humorous stories about his early years and a journey through the Panama Canal.

Following lunch came a choice of four breakout sessions. Mystery author N.S. Patrick spoke on the finer points of mystery writing; Deborah Lynne shared tips for romance writers; Chad Thompson discussed the young adult market and Berwick talked about non-fiction writing.

“I WANT TO WRITE! But, Where Do I Begin?” offered a teasing glimpse into Kathryn Martin’s presentation. She shared some of the trials and tribulations of beginning writers. Likening writers conferences to “coming home to family who understands,” she urged writers to connect to other writers and take advantage of the learning and networking opportunities available at conferences.

The day wrapped with the reading of some entries from the Page Turners Contest sponsored by the Creative Minds Writers Group, hosts of the event. Following the selected readings, President Nancy Bourgeois announced the winners. Mary Ella Sterling won for best children’s entry, Vickie Hawkins for best young adult entry and the grand winner was Deborah C. Horst for best adult entry.

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