Monday, March 24, 2014

Life Lessons from a Writers' Conference

It feels good to be back at my desk after being gone for five days. However, that's not to say I didn't enjoy myself visiting friends and relatives back in my hometown of Manheim, Pennsylvania, or that I didn't have a fabulous time at The Write Stuff conference in Allentown. 

I came home with a feeling of contentment I haven't felt in awhile. I can take deep breaths and they don't catch somewhere in my chest, even for a second. The funny thing is that nothing has changed externally. No circumstances have necessarily improved; I'm just not responding to them the same way. I'm pretty sure that's what vacations are supposed to do. Even though this was not a 'vacation' per se, it was still a change of scenery, and sometimes that is all it takes to develop a new perspective or to learn to breathe again.

I came away from the writing conference with one major life lesson -- I want to be known as an encourager. I want people to see me as someone who builds up others, in a completely non-competitive way. I want to model myself after others I know who do exactly that. 

Hank Phillippi Ryan and the lovely little Lady L
People like Hank Phillippi Ryan. With 30 EMMYs, 12 Edward R. Murrow awards and dozens of other honors for her ground-breaking journalism, she is also the best-selling author of six novels, garnering even more awards for her fiction.

Based on her 'status,' Hank could easily be aloof and conceited. After all, she's earned that right. But when you meet Hank, you quickly discover she's neither of those things. Hank is accessible, gracious, classy, kind, talented, and giving. And after knowing her for two years, I'm honored to say she is also my friend. 

When my mother died, she cared. When I shared good news, she celebrated with me. When I took my granddaughter to meet her at a book signing, she lifted the lovely little Lady L onto her lap. When my husband finally met her on Friday, she cozied up to him for a picture.

Hank Phillippi Ryan and my husband, Bill

This past weekend, as I struggled through ideas of where to go with a novel I'm writing, Hank graciously spent time discussing it with me. That is the kind of person I want to be. Gracious, giving, accessible. 

Another member of the conference faculty took the time to discuss my novel and lend her ideas and thoughts. Karen E. Quinones Miller is the most vibrant, full-of-life woman I've ever met. She refuses to let MS steal her joy, even as it saps her energy. She is ALIVE! When she told me she can't wait to read my finished manuscript, I believed her. Those weren't just words.

I was in a workshop with another member of the "Giving Club," the marvelous Kathryn Craft. She asked the question, "What do you want your fans to say when they're gathered around your casket [or something to that effect]?" My answer was immediate -- "She cared." 

That's what I want people to say about me. And I feel honored to have writer friends who model that for me.

I learned much from the talks and workshops these women presented. But it was 'off-the-clock' when I learned even more.

Life lessons. They're all around us. We just have to open our hearts to receive them.  


  1. Hana, it was good to see you again at this year's Write Stuff conference. And I won't wait until you're in the casket, I'll tell you now, it's obvious that you care. You care about people, you care about the environment, you care about your writing, you care about helping others. You are already an encourager and someone we can model ourselves after. I'm glad we met.

    1. Aww. Thanks, Donna. I'm so grateful you invited me to be part of the faculty of this wonderful conference three years ago! I've met amazing people there.

  2. I have chills from reading your blog up there, Hana. I agree with you about Hank: quality girl! She and I are both rural Indiana girls, though we have made pretty different life choices. In other words, she's so much more sophisticated than me!! Yet, I was able to connect with the Hank who remembers her beginnings and as you say, puts relationships with real people above image. I love that.
    Make sure you get me your info on presentations, as we discussed, Hana.

    1. Thank you, Brenda. It was a fantastic conference all the way around. I will email you as soon as I can. I have a one-day conference this weekend to prepare for, but I will get the info to you. Thanks again.

  3. What a fantastic, perfect representation of the conference! And though we haven't been introduced, I feel I know you at least a little from this post. And anyone who has a blog like this clearly cares. But it's the intent with which we live our lives that leads the way, and from what you express here, I'd feel secure in trusting your heart to lead you in continuing along as a member of "The Giving Club." You obviously aren't aware you're already a member.

    1. Oh, Mary, what a sweet, sweet thing to say. I'm humbled. Thank you.

    2. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed your Friday workshop.


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