What I Learned at the Re:Write 2012 Writers Conference

September 24, 2012 — 16 Comments

Last week I had the privilege to fly cross country from Washington, DC to San Diego to attend a two and a half day writers conference called Re:Write sponsored by The Fedd Agency. It featured many high-profile and incredibly well-written (and well-sold) authors, such as Ken Blanchard, Paul Young, George Barna, Mark Batterson, Peter Strople, John Kilcullen, Mary DeMuth, and others. Most of the attendees had either written books, were in the process of writing their first book, maintained blogs, or just wanted to learn more about how to focus their writing inspirations. There were also publishers and agents in attendance.

Ken Blanchard photo

I met Ken Blanchard at Re:Write 2012

Have you ever found out about an event and wanted to attend, but were not quite sure if you were quite ready to capitalize on the entire experience? That’s the feeling I had leading up to Re:Write. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of creating and maintaining a leadership blog and have begun to dabble with a couple larger projects. But the timing and availability just lined up, so I bit the metaphorical bullet and signed up. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or not, I’d like to share my biggest takeaways from the event with you.

If you feel the call to write a book, then just write it.

This was a common theme throughout the conference. Seismic shifts in the writing and publishing industry will continue for another decade at least. According to the speakers, if you aspire to get rich from writing, that’s just not a realistic expectation. But you can make a difference. Don’t let your doubts or perceived lack of qualifications keep you from sharing the message that’s inside you.

Use your writing to create a conversation with your audience.

There is a huge difference between writing what you think needs to be said and writing what your readers need to hear. Ken Blanchard shared that he would write multiple drafts after constantly getting feedback from segments of his audience to hone the message for them. Lysa TerKeurst pointed out that marketing should be primarily about helping people call to mind why they need your message. And John Kilcullen added that selling a book isn’t a one-time transaction, it’s an ongoing relationship.

Your platform is your responsibility.

I had learned this before attending the conference from reading Michael Hyatt’s book Platform. (Hyatt was referenced frequently throughout the conference). But it did catch a few of the attendees off guard. Gone are the days when you can simply write a book and expect a publisher to create a platform for you. John Kilcullen bottom-lined by stating that your number one job, besides writing, is to create fans. An author is expected to be the primary seller for a book.

Humility is truly the high road.

I was completely blown away by the humility of the speakers who, by nature of their accomplishments and sales records, had clearly earned the right to toot their own horn. What I experienced was the complete opposite (although one of the attendees did bring a shofar to herd everyone back after breaks). The speakers were not in the least interested in highlighting their own accolades – only in making a difference for others. Writing simply afforded them the opportunity. Even Peter Strople, the “most connected man in America,” made much ado about the attendees he’d met and talked very little of himself. If I can someday possess half the level of humility the speakers at Re:Write demonstrated, I’ll consider it a major success.

Conferences can be incredible places to network.

This should go without saying.  The best connections are made when you show up face to face. I met some incredible people at Re:Write, such as Greg, who appeared with his #1 bestseller 1001 Ways to Be Romantic on Oprah, as well as his wife Karyn, who started the What’s So Funny About…? brand. (I’m definitely pushing for a What’s So Funny About Leadership? book!). I was even able to meet fellow leadership blogger Dan Black in person for the first time, who will be publishing one of my guest posts next month. (Incidentally, one thing that might’ve made a conference like this even better is a “speed networking” activity which would introduce participants to each other’s names, ideas, and projects quickly).

Live tweeting is awesome.

I’ve been to plenty of conferences that provided a hash tag to create a real-time conversation between the conference, the speakers, the attendees, and the public. In addition to connecting in person, it helped many of us connect virtually over Twitter. I was even able to follow Jon Acuff’s Quitter Conference, which was happening concurrently in Nashville. (I actually cross-pollinated a few comments using both conference hash tags since both events covered some similar topics and ironically I picked up new Twitter followers from both conferences). Search #ReWrite2012 to see the conversation we created together.

High profile and busy people will stick around for an event that is remarkable.

Most event speakers arrive just in time to deliver their presentation and then leave as soon as they wrap up. At Re:Write, almost all of the speakers stayed the entire two and a half days. They gave their talks and then took notes during the rest of the sessions. They sat on panels, signed books, and shared meals with the attendees. The fact that the conference was such a high priority for them spoke to its remarkable value.

Expect the unexpected.

I think most of the time you can’t quantify the entire benefit of attending a conference before you enroll (and sometimes even you after you return home). This is one of the reasons I love attending conferences. You never know exactly how one insight or connection could come around to benefit you down the road. Having returned, I still feel this way about Re:Write.

What conferences or seminars have you most enjoyed attending?

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website or   follow him on Twitter.
  • John

    What a great post Nathan! I am so glad you were able to attend, what seemed to be a life changing event for you.

    All the best as you continue to work on your book.

    John M.

    • It was a unique experience, John. Looking forward to seeing what continues to come out of it!

  • This was great! You, too, put into words exactly how I was feeling. I am still touched by the humility in that room. God bless you and your ministry!

    • Thanks Jaimie – it was great to meet you and be part of the event!

  • So great to meet you! I look forward to keeping in touch online. It will be exciting to see how everyone continues to develop 🙂

  • Nice job. You were able to capture the conference perfectly. We were blessed to have been part of something so amazing! It was a pleasure meeting you. I think you should tweet this link with the #ReWrite2012 hash tag.

  • It was great attending the night season, meeting you, and some other great people. Insightful post!

  • Great post! I agree that the humility of the Re:Write speakers (and attendees!) really struck me. The fact that they all hung around to attend other sessions was a HUGE encouragement. No one asked them to do that… which is just a testament to their character. Cool stuff!

    • Thanks Ruth – you did a terrific job as emcee, much better than I could have done!

  • Terrific summary! Loved this! I so agree. I got so much out of the conference and am so thankful I got to attend it.

    • Thanks Mary, you added a lot to the conference and it was great to see how many of your fans you brought with you!

  • Thanks for sharing your experience from Re:write. I found your blog post on the Re:write Facebook page. I’ve been looking up reviews from 2012 to get a feel for what the attendees thought about it because I plan on attending this year. So far, everyone has said great things and I’m looking forward to Austin! Can’t wait to learn!

    • I’m glad you’ll get to go this year, Hannah. It was the only writers conference I’ve been to, but some of the other participants said it was the best one they’d ever seen.