What one learns at a writers’ conference may have as much to do with life as with writing. Keynote speaker Candice Ransom began the session with her presentation “Keep Calm, Carry On (But Don’t Pitch a Fit).” I wouldn’t have guessed that her theme would be in praise of failure.
She spoke specifically to the writers gathered for the Southern Breeze SCBWI conference in Birmingham, knowing she spoke to those who experienced failure in the form of rejection letters on a regular basis. She admonished the group to realize that those who managed to publish a book sometimes heard that anything less than 7,500 sales was still considered a failure. She took us through a passage in her own life much longer than I can put in this blog when she experienced both personal and professional difficulties. I sounded like one disaster piling on the other like two teams of football players after a loose ball.
Giving up her writing in the midst of anxious waits in hospital corridors might have seemed the most logical thing to do – inertly accepting her fate like the ball at the bottom of that heap. Instead, she took her writing with her to keep her company and give her a focus besides her worries as she awaited doctor’s reports and test results.
With the string of difficulties behind her, she now has books coming out again along with speaking invitations to writers’ groups like ours.
Her take-aways were certainly good for writing, but perhaps they were even better for living. She advised us, in the face of failure, to keep calm and carry on. She added, “If we aren’t failing we aren’t doing anything interesting.”