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With some fear and trepidation, I am tweaking my manuscript, gathering my papers, picking up my new business cards and heading to Bethlehem, PA, for the Moravian Writers’ Conference. After Christmas, when Reclaiming Joy started looking like a book, I decided I needed to know what a writer really does and how she gets published. Everything I read spoke of the value of attending conferences and workshops, becoming part of the writing and publishing community. This is a different world than the world of newspapers and journalists, and I know nothing about it. Every few weeks I would do another google search, but nothing quite matched my calendar and my beginning non-fiction writing status.

Beth Kephart, National Book Award finalist

One day at Barnes & Noble I spotted a paperback, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, by Beth Kephart, a memoir writing teacher at the University of Pennsylvania. I liked the way she wrote, and I liked her. I found her website and discovered she is the keynote speaker at the Moravian Writers’ Conference. The schedule, fees and location all worked, so I signed up.

Beverly Donofrio, memoirist and teacher

This conference includes two memoir-writing workshops, “Writing Your Life,” led by Beverly Donofrio, also a published writer and teacher. I liked what I read about her, too. Though she writes for a general audience, she clearly incorporates her faith into her memoirs. I want to know how she does it, because I don’t think it’s easy. Not how she incorporates faith–I am doing that, too–but how she gets them published. That’s what isn’t easy.

I have no idea what to expect. I may find myself an outsider among a really tight-knit fraternity of writers. Some of them will probably be my grandchildren’s age. I don’t think I can summon the courage to do a reading of my work. I’m curious to see how good–or bad–the other attendees are. I have two simple goals–to improve my writing and to get some tips on getting published. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Photos: left, Beverly Donofrio; right, Beth Kephart