I have said many times that one of the best things about writing a newspaper column is all of the letters and e-mails I get from my readers plus the occasional phone call. And I have said many times that one of the worst things about writing a newspaper column is all of the letters and e-mails I get from my readers plus the occasional phone call.
Was it Charles Dickens who wrote in "A Tale of Two Cities," about the worst of times and the best of times?
A lot of my communication with my readers is from people who simply want to tell me how much they enjoy my work. These, of course, I cherish because none of us can hear too many good things about ourselves and, let's face it, a kind word is hard to come by in today's society.
Others have items that they are certain would be of interest to me and my readers and want me to write about this or that. Sadly, I usually cannot accommodate those readers even the most well-meaning because if I start letting folks dictate my column ideas there would be no end to the practice and I would never get to write about what I want to write about.
Of course, some people just want to tell me how stupid I am and write hateful letters telling me that my opinions are wrong because they are so different from theirs. I have a remarkable little key on my computer that allows me to delete those without reading them.
But the most common inquiries of the many people who call, write and e-mail me is, "Can you help me with my own writing and get my book published?"
Some folks have started books and just need a "little bit of help" finishing them up. Others are certain they can supersede my efforts and put me out of business as a columnist if I will just help them get their foot in the proverbial door. One woman recently asked me to co-author a book about all the dirt she has dug up about the United Methodist Church in western North Carolina.
Other folks simply want me to edit the books they have already written or sit down and explain to them what the steps are for finding an agent or publisher. Others have written books already and just need them critiqued. And on and on and on.
And, I understand where they are coming from. I really do. Everybody has a book in them. Everybody has stories to share. And everybody knows that their story would change the lives of so many people and that their book, if they could only get it published, would be a best-seller and end up as Oprah's most favorite selection ever and so forth and so on. And everybody figures, I am sure, that if I can write nine books and have them published, pretty much anybody should be able to.
And these people are right. All of these people are absolutely right about all of these things.
Everybody does have a story worth telling. Everybody does have a book in them. And if I can be a published author, anybody can.
But the thing they don't understand is that I am a writer, not a publisher, editor or agent, and a very unorthodox one at that. My methods would never work for anyone else and with four or five full-time jobs I have more than I can say grace over already. There simply aren't enough hours in the day for me to take fledgling writers under my wing even though I would dearly love to say yes.
But if you have ever wanted to be a writer or have a book published or just learn more about the trade or if you know someone who has have I got good news for you and them.
The Southeastern Writers Association will be holding its 35th annual workshop at Epworth by the Sea June 20-24. There will be all sorts of people there who can teach folks all they need to know about improving their writing, finding an agent, becoming published or even self-publishing. I guarantee it! The staff includes novelists, non-fiction writers, columnists, agents, editors, publishers, screen writers and if you can think of a question concerning writing, they will have an expert teaching a class about it.
Plus, if you register for the seminar, you can send in your manuscripts ahead of time and have them critiqued by the faculty for immediate one-on-one feedback once you arrive at the conference. You may win a prize for your work or even an offer to have it published. And the best part of the whole week will be that you will spend five days in a beautiful setting surrounded by creative people just like yourself, people who have always wanted to write or have a book published but didn't know how to get started.
When you leave St. Simons, you will not only be started, but well on your way.
I know what I am talking about because I have attended the conference in the past and will be there again this year. If you are serious about wanting to write, these five days could change your life. Check out the conference at southeasternwriters.com. Or e-mail me. I can't help you get published, but I can put you in touch with folks who can.
Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.