On book openings
From Gregory Frost, sci-fi/fantasy author, English professor and my workshop leader at last weekend's conference:
"You're creating a contract with the reader. You're trying to get them into the tent, and you have to promise to show them the truth."
Gregory said a lot of other useful stuff, too. Like that if you feel the need to write a flashback sometime shortly after you start the story, you've probably started in the wrong place. And that if you conceive of your narrative perspective as a camera, you don't want to be zooming in and out at the start. Obviously, I can't share all that he said about theme, plot and structure, but I can exhort you all to take workshops with him if you ever have the opportunity to do so. Moving on.
On writing creative nonfiction
My one-hour workshop with Ann E. Michael was very useful for my revisions on my owl picture book, even though she primarily talked about memoir-writing. Still, here's an excellent bit of advice:
"When writing creative nonfiction, you really have to have a purpose. If the purpose is not clear (the why you're writing a particular piece), the writing won't be as great as it could be."
On writing regularly (and using writing exercises)
The highly energetic, entertainig, talented and motivational Bonnie Neubauer spent three days teaching us "Techniques in Creativity". Bonnie's book, The Write Brain gives tons of exercises to spark creativity, as does her site.
"If you're always writing or you're always prepared to write, you'll get more writing done."
Bonnie also recommends doing some short writing exercises each day just to keep your creative side moving (in lieu of, say, paying attention to commercials on TV, or in place of something like a sudoku puzzle).
Barb Daniels, who was an amazing poetry workshop leader, said something I've never heard before, but that was rather freeing.
"It's not necessary to understand everything that you read, or everything that you write."
She also said:
"Read the world. Read the translations, because American poetry is only a small part of what's being written."
On writing quality
One more from Barb:
"Our writing should be smarter than we are."