As I touted the Southeastern Writers Association annual workshop (June 16-20 on St. Simons Island, Georgia) to a fellow writer recently, he interrupted me by saying he thought it “presumptuous” to assume that a professional author could “teach” writing to someone.

That took me aback, but in way, I suppose he was correct.  I’ve listened to enough writers over the years to know that no single author has all the answers.  In the end, each of us who has become professionally published has learned the craft by “putting our butt in a chair and fingers on a keyboard”—to repeat what one of our 2017 workshop instructors, Debra Dixon, has often said.  Writing, for most of us, is a trade learned by doing.  And doing and doing.


images-1There is an abundance of guidance available–books, blogs, hand-outs–that illuminate the steps or “rules” to becoming a successful writer.  Be warned, however, as NYT Best-Selling Author Steve Berry says, “The first rule is, there are no rules.”

Similarly, there’s a plethora of material out there for novice writers, whether wannabe novelists or nonfiction authors, that expound upon the snares hidden along the path to publication.  That is, the mistakes that can be made.

But there is one mistake that beginning writers make I think is key.  I know, because I made it.


It wasn’t an easy decision for me.

I had to burn a week’s vacation and shell out several hundred bucks just to mingle for five days with 75 people I’d never met before. While I’m not shy, I’m not by nature exceptionally outgoing. Thus, having to hang out with a bunch of folks I didn’t know was well outside my comfort zone.

Not only that. This was to be at a writing conference. The people there would be–GULP–real writers. I knew for certain I’d be exposed as the Great Pretender, a shameless charlatan. My work would be sliced and diced. I’d become the laughing stock of St. Simons Island.


Some of my friends, non-writers, knowing I’d just returned from the Southeastern Writers Association Workshop, asked me what goes on at such conferences.

First, I must explain, there are different types of conferences. Some, such as the one sponsored by the Southeastern Writers, focus on teaching the craftsmanship of writing. Many, like those held by the Atlanta Writers Club, are designed to put authors in touch with literary agents and publishers. Still others, usually bigger gatherings—-the Willamette Writers Conference, for instance—-are a combination of both, sometimes with film agents thrown into the mix.


I’ve just returned from the annual Southeastern Writers Workshop on St. Simons Island, Georgia. It—-and this is according to others, not just me—-is one of the greatest bargains in Writerdom.

It’s a four-day affair in a beautiful subtropical setting, a causeway’s drive from the mainland. What makes the conference unique is that its faculty is embedded with the students. To say it another way, the instructors, some with highly recognizable names in the field of literature, are not averse to breaking bread with we lesser lights in the province. We chat like old friends over meals, in hallways, over coffee, during a stroll across the campus.