Writers Digest Conference is a conference that takes place in New York City every year and this year it was at The Roosevelt Hotel. It consists of three days of workshops that run from 9am to 7pm with some breaks in between as well as a selection of workshops to choose from hourly. Writers, editors, publishers, authors(New York times best selling and very accomplished), and the aspiring writer.
Who knows what to expect when you come to New York-the capital for writing and publishing. I had concerns that I would be spending three days with pretentious writers way more accomplished than me feeling like I'm out of my league. And then a question, "Why did I sign up for this again?"......
We also have the option to sign up for a "Pitch Slam" where it's 90 seconds to pitch your book to an agent. Again, this could be miserable if the agents are harsh and just getting down to business with zero empathy.
Well, good news AGAIN for New YORK because none of that was the case. The speakers, authors, editors, and agents were completely down to earth and nice. When it came to agents, they were helpful with steering your pitch in the right direction rather than saying, "No, next." My book that I am pitching is "Memoir" and that is one of the hardest to sell because everyone has a story, but I have not just "any" story. With my analysis, I kept them very interested with plenty of questions at the end and business cards in my hand. Score for me and Score for New York!
Those who are editors or agents have thousands of submissions and people always trying to pitch them, but they were super approachable. They had their "agent" vibes of course, but they were way more mellow than how most in the industry can be. Same with the authors who answered my millions of questions about publishing and editing! Thanks girls!!!
Being in the conference for three days, I met a wide variety of writers from all over the country with a diverse background. One man published three poetry books, another writing since the age of seven and has 15 unpublished manuscripts(she is 22 years old), one lady writing about martians and outerspace, another about teen romance, one a travel cookbook- a whole lot of FICTION. It's fascinating how creative the mind is and how people go different places.
With over 500 people, it was common to still run into the same people over and over. We shared our story, read out pitch to one another, went for lunch, etc. We bonded and it was fantastic. By the end of it, our minds were overloaded with Query letters, proposals, synopsis, sample chapters, the first three pages, the content editing, marketing platform, scene creation, and so on.
People do not understand HOW MUCH GOES INTO WRITING, EDITING, AND PUBLISHING A BOOK. It is an extremely challenging process and even I was naïve to the fifty drafts and ten rounds of editing and selling yourself before the book-there are reasons for these big writing conferences-us writers definitely need all the help we can get-especially those who are just starting.
After a five hour arrival back to Chicago from San Francisco and a five hour bus ride to Iowa, I was extremely tired yet excited for the learning opportunities to come....the next morning at 8:30 a.m. in the Old City Museum on the University campus of Iowa.
Lots of umbrellas and unfamiliar yet friendly faces arrived at the museum enjoying some fantastic pastries and coffee. Being there in the place of such incredible writers was a bit intimidating also a place with an older population.
As I was walking up the wooden spiral staircase, I just so happened to run into a woman from the bus who I was speaking with at the rest stop. She is from Argentina(which is my new country of interest) and she was sharing how therapy is widely accepted and if you don't have it people think you are weird. Wow can I move there immediately, speak Spanish, have my own practice, and tango the nights away? A girl can dream right or make that dream reality...She has a great spirit and I look forward to speaking more with her.
As for our short, but extremely funny orientation-we went straight to our four hour course split into two sessions. This is just a Saturday and Sunday Course. The following course is one weeklong.
Class: Illustrated Scenes of Nonfiction with Carol Spindel
She has been teaching at the conference for years and my peers had also been attending the writing conference. Also, ten of my classmates were twice my age or perhaps older, which is just fine because I enjoy learning, but the discussion shifts based off their generation not my own.
Not going to share everything about the day, but basically
1. Don't edit it while you write it
2. Be specific and concrete taking a small edge from a topic
3. Choose and choose aggressively
4. Know your audience and don't write for your own
5. Frame, unity, and conference
Realistically writers can be fantastic and down to earth or they are on their "publication pedestal." Being in one of the best writers scene, Chicago, I have met 90 percent great down to earth authors and editors, but that is just my experience thus far.
It's just that somehow opposition(always resurfaces) especially in those moments of being productive and happy. If this is you, this means that you are on your path to success so keep going, smile, nod, and handle it with confidence rather than utilizing defense mechanisms from your back pocket.
If you succeed in facing opposition, then those good people will come your direction and reaffirm your own truth and character. That person was in my classroom. She sat next to me whispering in my ear, "You're a great writer don't listen to them." After class, I met two of her friends who were just as lovely, smart, and educated. They had been attending the writing festival for fifteen years and they were the experts. Over Indian food, they all let me have my own therapeutic moment(Priscilla needs this too:) and they confirmed that I wrote with passion, conviction, and reason. When you have confirmations that what you experienced was not what it should've or could've been-you feel empowered to keep trekking forward. "Chin up Priscilla and keep writing." Thankful for those that save me from the fall:)
Writing a book is time consuming, but so is passion:) PCR
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has one of the most famous ted talks:
She is a researcher of the Brain at Harvard University who shares her personal story and education with the brain. When you watch her video, your mind is transported to thinking about your brain and how it functions. Even if you don't have interest in the learning all the details about the brain, she makes you interested for twenty minutes to an hour.
Dr. Jill had been studying the brain as a passion and career. She especially was interested in studying Schizophrenia as her brother is diagnosed. It was her own stroke that changed her life at age 37 that resulted in having to relearn everything she knew i.e. how to write, read, speak, eat, talk, and walk. She called herself "an infant in a woman's body." It took her approximately 7 YEARS for her brain to recover back to it's normal state.
When you can study the brain and then sit and analyze, experience, observe your brain fall apart-it turns out to be a fascinating experience of learning and as Jill titled her book "A Stroke of Insight."
At NAMI, Jill briefly shared her incident and passionately moved onto the brain. The Amygdala vs. the Hippocampus, Right Brain vs. Left Brain, Addiction, Neurocircuitry, and various feeling states/messages sent to the brain.
An important overview of the brain from Dr. Jill:
Left Brain Right Brain
Serial Processor Parallel Processor
Black Vs. White Nonverbal
Thinks in Language/Details Thinks in Pictures
Competetive Present Moment
Confrontational Hollistic thinking
Sense of Urgency Compassionate
Critical analysis Non-confrontational
Right vs. Wrong Contentment/Energy in Flow
Do you feel more connected to one side over another? Or Both?
Dr. Jill says, "The left brain is dominating society. We need more right brain!"
Teenage behavior expected: No Frontal Lobe-Can't plan ahead-High Impulse Control, and Do not Understand Consequences. Brain Not Fully Developed until Age 25
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a true inspiration with an uplifting spirit and charisma towards starting life over and being insightful into the human mind and behavior. She lost it all, but it came back to her ten fold and she is using this experience to make a difference.
She is on my Top 100 and the deserves a spot on the Most Influential of Time Magazine.
The speaker, Hakeem Rahim informed us to take out our phone and tweet
#Iamacceptance. The problem is I don't have twitter and I don't know how to use a hatch tag(this should create some humor as a two year old might understand how to do it).
Hakeem Rahim is a presenter for NAMI-"Let's talk about illness."
It was his bold, confident that captivated myself and I believe the rest of the audience.
He shared his story struggling with Bipolar Disorder for fifteen years and recently coming out just two years ago. He was diagnosed while studying at Harvard, times of seeing Jesus, and having events of Mania-running around with too much energy and the ability to perform way too much in short amount of time.
The World of Technology is constantly advancing and thanks to an intelligent, passionate Karan Singh, the co-founder of www.ginger.io, we can use the smartphone(application) to improve mental health care for people living with Mental Illness and their providers.
Also, another helpful application is www.moodmatters.org
How is all of this useful?
A patient cannot always follow up on their symptoms with their clinician. It may take a week or a month until their next appointment, but in reality a person should be self-managing their symptoms. This application allows a person to identify with their symptoms and learn about useful strategies to feel better-depression, anxiety, mood disorders? Use this application or recommend it to a friend.
With technology sadly ruling the world, having an application to address symptoms is a good idea. My ultimate fear is that this can or will replace the interpersonal interaction-this is actually my worst nightmare. We can utilize technology for self-management, but it cannot replace time with clinicians and utilization of other tools to cope with illness.
DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WITH AN ILLNESS WHETHER MILD TO SEVERE WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM THIS APPLICATION? FEEL FREE TO SHARE ABOUT IT
Sometimes I can just look at someone and know they have a great story behind their being. It's just the connection I have been given with God's people especially those with special circumstances.
At my Toastmaster's meeting, an older gentlemen caught my eye in the most innocent and kind way. He was wearing a blue shirt, khaki colored slacks, and suspenders. He always had someone sitting next to him to help him get up to the podium and back to his seat. When he spoke, his intellect shined right through his voice and he spoke clearly and confidently. His eyes were distant from the audience yet oh so clear. He just had such a presence this man with his kind nature and very eloquent when speaking.
When he sat there, I just kept staring to the front as he would make comments on the club roles or functioning. When we had a "cookie and milk" break-no we are Toastmasters we have cookies and juice. Another Madam Toastmaster spoke highly of his accomplishments and humbly he did not say much, but I told him he had the aura of a great speaker-and yes he did...yes he did.
What struck me was how content this man was with his condition. He reminded me of a handful of cases abroad with the blind. It connects with my post about miracles and how sometimes we are given challenges that bring us closer to our strengths and capabilities. From my eye, this man appeared to be an example of that person.
After the meeting, it was confirmed that he was one of those people and he did not just have a story, but an incredible story. Both his parents are also blind, he takes after his ambitious father who is an architect and business man working off his gifted eye for design. He has a movie called, "What Love Sees," which was a television movie that came out in 1996.
Below is a summary from IMDB:
Based on a true story, spanning fifteen years during the turmoil of the Second World War, this is an incredible and inspiring saga of two young people whose very special relationship helps them fulfil each other's dreams. Jean Treadway, a beautiful young girl in her twenties, comes from a world of wealth and privilege. Gordon Holly is a handsome but humble rancher, the pride of his small town and honest to a fault. But they share something which makes the love that blossoms between them all the more pure and intense, they are both totally blind. Against all the odds they marry and head out West to Gordon's ranch. There, side by side, they build a future which includes responsibility and independence.
Within his career, he has been a Radio Founder, Interviewer, Producer, a teacher, a musician, an engineer, and more. He can read and write in Braille and has a Speakers Technology computer.
Many people don't understand my deep connection with people. They just think that I like to do "nice things" for people. It is the depth of the ocean and beyond-my love for people. This man is an example of my true theories and beliefs on people living their life to their maximum potential. A disability is not something to hope that a miracle comes along to save them rather it is a platform to rise and utilize the other beautiful senses that God has given.
Like Beethoven and perhaps like this man, sound... What is gone appears in other senses. This is what is fascinating how one is taken away, but another is enhanced. This is definitely the case with this lovely man who doesn't spend time complaining about his disability rather he decided to accept it a long time ago and live life at his best like the rest of the world around him. When a man has so many strengths, his disability is not focused on in fact I don't even like using the word "disability" as I believe it's a challenge, a blessing, a new perspective, and the ability to be thankful for what you do have....
Thankfully, I have sometime to get to know him on a more personal level as I will see him when I get back from my trip:)
For now, Thanks for setting an example to those who have challenges and feel that life is over. It's just the beginning and God doesn't give us something that we can't handle-in all true belief.
This evening I was a guest speaker for a local Toastmaster's group with a Speech Number 7 and a title of "Keep Looking Up."
As a Toastmaster, we have the opportunity to speak at our own registered group or guest speak with another location. This group I had previously visited and they were just as lovely then as they were now. The core group consisted of toastmasters had anywhere from ten to thirty years of experience and after all that time... they are still present with such passion.
It is Admirable to witness, as passion & commitment are a flame that can burn out, but these lovely individuals show up sincerely happy , helpful, kind, curious, and organized. It's encouraging to see this true sense of teamwork, community, and strong desire to help others become better speakers.
There are not many places that offer this level of commitment to the individual, mentoring, supporting, teaching, listening, and asking questions. Toastmasters truly is a place contributing to my personal and professional growth and sometimes it's their feedback that gives me the confidence and purpose to keep speaking no matter what.
The assigned Speech was to Research a Topic. "Texting and Driving" instantly came to mind as it was relevant to everyone and easy to keep people on the edge of their seat. It went well breaking the speech down into three solid points with a jaw dropping intro and a thought provoking conclusion. I definitely needed to practice more, but all the content was there....and the potential......
After my speech, there were very nice comments.
“You have a television or radio voice" This means the absolute world to me as I want to have my own show one day and I believe that I will. then I am receiving confirmations about where I can or will be.
An older man who kept smiling during my speech said, "You've got some potential kid." Another man told me how great it was and how to use this speech with organizations. These people don't even know me, but they believe in me? They are providing me with suggestions and resources as well. Toastmasters serve as confirmations that you are right where you need to be. There is positive and negative feedback always given, but it is genuine and essential for growth. They are not just saying something nice in hopes of you coming back to the club.
Therefore, it's these comments that I am grateful for receiving. It may seem like, "Of course you like positive feedback who doesn't?" It is a choice to say "Nice job" or go above and beyond with your comments. When someone acknowledges your potential, you rise higher the next time you go on stage. Toastmasters give you self-confidence, but they also bring you back to reality with critical/helpful feedback.
This connects to other posts with our confirmations. Confirmations given by our peers can help us believe in our own purpose and the goals we set out to accomplish. The world outside may be negative, unsupportive, unpredictable, inconsistent, but the world of Toastmasters is positive, encouraging, nurturing, and giving.
Thank you Toastmasters for your kind feedback this evening. I will be seeing you in August!
**AUDIO WILL BE PROVIDED SOON**
Saturday-second night of the Gospel Crusade Chicago. After the first event- Friday, everyone left a bit different than they were before they came in the door. Maybe they couldn't recognize it, they were to afraid to, they were hesitant, and still in shallow waters. One rain drop fell, a second, a third and this happened throughout the night until people were poured on-poured on like a tsunami rain.
They came out proud and different and I was different. My role had changed as I knew I needed to follow my service to God and connect with others. It was my responsibility to constantly do this with the Indian population especially, but everyone as always. While I thought initially about promoting my church, there was a change in plans from above-"Promote me Priscilla and promote what I gave you."
That is exactly what I did as "Believe in Your Purpose" flyers were created to pass out to such beautiful, kind, inspirational, caring, supportive people. They got the message and thankfully I did too.
In the middle rows with a nice couple Pastors I had met. It felt different....It was different....With the sermon and prayer, it was time for those who were non-believers to come forward. To face any shame, guilt, or fear and walk forward to the front. I....I...came forward to be closer to the spirit that was present and cleanse myself of it all.
Slowly the space on the floor was gone and people were continuing to come through the aisles. The space filled up for intense prayer with hands up praising the Lord, eyes intently closed, intimacy with the moment, tears, and pure intensity. This nice man was behind me and I was speaking with him after this prayer and informed me "Get ready it's about to go to another level."
"Wow, there is another level?" It was a level that I just didn't expect myself to participate in and especially be front and center for such intense praying and..... "miracles." "Hallelujah." "Hallelujah." "Hallelujah." Intense prayer, hands of healing, eyes of healing, crying, people lying on the floor and there I was also finding my own healing cleansing away the bad and embracing the good work and future I have ahead.
It was one man leading this miraculous experience. Pastor Bonnke stood up there intensely preaching the gospel and no matter what relationship a person did or didn't have-he made sure everyone knew that it didn't matter. We were all sinners who needed to accept Jesus and move forward in our lives.
Pastor Bonnke may not quite be my style of ministry, but the word is the same at the end of the day praising the lord with all we got.
After the event was where the real work was done connecting with so many fantastic people. Adults, families, friends from church, prayers and blessings with strangers, conversations about heaven and our existence-it was like I said....That one drop of rain turned into a whole tsunami. A tsunami of vulnerability, stories, prayer, and connection. It was not a concert where everyone left with who they came with and went on their way. People left with friendship, supports, ministry connections, a new church, a new perspective, and a new protector. People were alive and opened up their heart to Jesus. Two of my ministry students had the biggest smile from a distance and big hug upon arrival. People of all ages, all backgrounds and cultures- we all united...under one roof....for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A passion of mine has always been speaking. Throughout my career, I have been speaking to groups and informally to NGOs or groups of staff in training. It is a passion for me to share everything I have learned and experience with the world in an clear, effective, timely, and professional manner.
It is Toastmasters that helps a person practice their public speaking and grow into a leader. The first track is for a "Competent Communicator," which requires ten speeches. Once completed, another ten to thirty speeches will be done for the advanced track. Every ten speeches there is a level and get to the highest level of "Distinguished Toastmaster" can take years. Toastmasters offers many contests and conventions as well.
It is not about a race to get different awards rather it is the practice in front of others and the peer evaluation that is extremely helpful. It is possible to just record speeches on your own and watch them, but the eye and evaluation of the audience is extremely important for growth as a speaker.
Within every area of the country, there are Toastmasters groups and it's up to you to choose the one that suits you best. It took me about a month until I found the group and group(s) I love. It is like the right pair of shoes that either fit or they don't fit. It's great getting open and honest feedback from my group and I welcome their constructive criticism. I absolutely love how positive, kind, and supportive people are as they truly care about you becoming a better speaker.
The great news is that you can be a guest speaker in different cities , which is great when I am traveling. Toastmasters is all over the country, but also All over the World. If you are interested in a speaking career or you would just like to face your fear(first fear for people is public speaking) check out Toastmasters.
At this point, I started about a month ago and have four speeches completed:
2. Let's get Positive
3. Give them a Fighting Chance
4. Lost and Then Found
I will start posting Audio of the speech and video once it become
How to Prepare:
A great book I recommend is "Ted Talks" by Carmine Gallo
He is the Master of the Ted Talks www.ted.com
Priscilla CL Raj is a Therapist, Missionary, Writer, English Teacher. She is an enthusiast who is passionately purposeful in her life.