By Melinda VanLone

This was my third experience with Cruising Writers, but the first time I’ve been on the “other” side, the help-organize-and-run-things side, and the first time I had an actual title on my name badge. Being Girl Friday meant I was the one who scheduled all the one-on-one sessions with the speakers, the agent, and the editor. I was also the one cracking the whip and making sure everyone got their turn. I think I’m now famous for the QUACK QUACK QUACK sound of my alarm as it signaled the end of a session. At some point, someone actually changed it to a more pleasant bell tone which just didn’t work at all because it didn’t inspire anyone to want to leave. Let’s face it, ten minutes feels like two when you’re enjoying the conversation and as far as I could tell, everyone enjoyed their chance at a little private chat with Lisa Cron, Angela Ackerman, Michelle Grajkowski from Three Seas Literary, and Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks.

The best part of being Girl Friday (other than chatting with the speakers of course) was hanging out in the hallway with everyone waiting for their turn. We shared giggles, brainstorming ideas, and marketing tips while we waited, and I got perspectives from all levels of the writing world. It was a bonding experience I’ll never forget.

Authors on a Writing Cruise

I’ve been to a lot of writing conferences over the years, but I have to admit Cruising Writers is now my favorite way to conference. I love the venue…not only is cruising fun, but the length is unique for any kind of writerly learning outside of a university setting. A full week focused on the craft of telling stories means you get the chance to really dig deep on the concepts, to ask any and all questions, and to bond with a new network of friends that will be there for you when you go back to the lonely task of actually writing the story.

What attracted me most for this particular cruise was the speakers. Angela Ackerman and Lisa Cron are both smart, savvy, amazing women. I’ve used the Emotional Thesaurus too many times to count, and Wired for Story is one of my go-to sources when I’m lost in my story. I have to admit I went a little fan girl when I met them in person. I had the chance to chat with Lisa Cron about an issue I’ve been having with my main character, and because of that I ironed out a story world problem that had been nagging me as well. Angela Ackerman gave me excellent advice on how to get to know my main characters even better. When I put her advice into use, I realized exactly what I’d been missing and what my story needed. I can’t thank both of them enough for their time, their wisdom, their perspective, and their companionship. I can now say I went to Karaoke with Angela Ackerman and Lisa Cron and twenty other writer friends! It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Karaoke on an Author Retreat

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