Monday, November 9, 2009

Writer Insights from Anita Renfroe

Anita Renfroe is a humorist who's been described as "Erma Bombeck meets Carol Burnett, with a bit of Weird Al Yankovic thrown in." As the key note speaker at last week's Georgia Writers Association conference, she kept us laughing as she passed on insights gained from writing seven books. Here are my takeaways (sometimes expounding upon her suggestions):
  • The last five years have turned the publishing industry on its head. The playing field has been leveled. Now it's more "Wild West" out there. More and more, readers and viewers are "voting" their favorite videos and books to greater exposure. Regular people can suddenly catapult to the top. Find ways to take advantage of these tools.

    One day, Anita's children encouraged her to put a video of her "William Tell Mom" presentation on YouTube. People loved it, forwarding it to friends, so that soon, 1.5 million people had viewed it. Then, Good Morning America came knocking, catapulting her to 200 speaking engagements per year.

  • Prior to this, she was primarily in a coccoon, taking care of her family and serving her husband in ministry. Don't worry if you're still in that coccoon stage. It's those real life experiences that give you the writing material for the rest of your life. Relish the stage your in.

  • It took time to realize that she had a talent for humor. She wanted to be a musician, but people kept telling her she was funny. Listen to other people's comments. Sometimes they can see your talents better than you can recognise your own.

  • You don't have to be in love with the writing process. She enjoys "having written," not the writing. While writing for a deadline, she can get excited about doing anything that has nothing to do with her current project. Use "the power of avoidance" to write other stuff for the future.

  • The more you write, the better you get. Her first publisher told her that most artists have to write 1000 bad songs before they write a good one. Keep writing and get those "bad songs" out of your system.

  • Work on your people skills. In the publishing industry, it's all about relationships. Nobody wants to work with a freak. If you put your manuscript into an editor's hand, but you don't come across like a nice person who'd be enjoyable to work with, your manuscript may never get read. Publishers don't want to work with writers who won't work with them on improvements, deliver manuscripts late, won't listen to their suggestions, whine every time they have to rewrite something.

    So, if you go down in your basement to write and pop your head out once a year to relate to other humans, you'll probably find difficulty getting your stuff published.
Thanks Anita, for an insightful, enjoyable presentation!