Guest Post: Your Best Book Alumna Kelsey Tressler

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 Hello, Write Line readers! My name is Kelsey, and I'm the Free Expressions Editorial/Administrative assistant. I also call myself the Editor's Apprentice, but the first title is the one on my business cards.

I recently attended Your Best Book in Charlotte, NC. I thought it would be a good learning experience for my career here at Free Expressions, and it absolutely was, but YBB turned out to be so much more than that. I type this today as a completely different writer from the one who arrived in Charlotte on that fateful Monday afternoon.

Don't get me wrong, I was eager to get a firsthand experience at YBB, but I thought I'd be doing it more as an administrative assistant than an actual attendant. But, because I love to write and because I had 20 pages of a new novel to bring and because Lorin encouraged it, I decided to participate 100% in the conference. Boy, am I glad I did.

Lorin and Brenda told me about the breakthroughs writers have at these conferences. They told me how classes and critique groups sometimes become like therapy, helping writers crack open the reasons behind their writing hang-ups and move past them to create better books (and, dare I say it, their best books). They told me about it, but hearing and experiencing are two totally different things.

Yes, readers. I had one of those legendary breakthroughs—and I'm not the only one. Of the eighteen participants, I doubt there was one who didn't have a new understanding of her strengths and weaknesses by the end of the week.

My realization was this: I've always tried to create pretty writing, but I need to focus on the emotion behind it—I need to be in love with my story and my characters so that my readers can love them, too.

It sounds simple, doesn't it? A lot of writing advice does. But until you internalize it and realize it's what you need, the best writing advice in the world won't help you. That's another great strength of Your Best Book—all of the lessons are designed to build on the ones that came before, and all of them are geared toward creating a comfortable, safe space where writers can face what's missing in their own writing.

As soon as you realize plot is a weakness of yours, for example, a plot lecture comes along to give you the tools you need to build a successful story arc. As soon as you realize your writing's like a mannequin—pretty and well-dressed, but lifeless—a writing prompt comes along to help you get in touch with the emotion you're missing.

Another reason this is all possible is because the industry professionals teaching you every day are also eating dinner with you, spending time in craft-chats with you and meeting one-on-one with you. There is a good amount of handholding, encouraging and inspiring from the staff, and that breaks down the barriers between professional and participant. And that builds trust, which breeds creative breakthroughs.

Those industry professionals—who this year included Lorin, Brenda, Emma Dryden, Josh and Tracey Adams, guest writers Beth Revis and Carrie Ryan, and guest editors Joy Peskin and Sarah Barley—make finding an agent and getting published seem difficult, but possible.

Just like the lingering image at the end of a story, hope is a powerful thing. Our characters need it, and we, as writers, need it. We know this is a hard road. We know it's not for the faint of heart. But we also need to know that there's hope for success if we try really, really hard.

YBB also builds close relationships, and quickly. By the third day, I was Facebook friends with most of my critique group. By the last day, we were begging Lorin for an email contact sheet so we wouldn't all be running around trying to collect everyone's information. The YBB Facebook group—closed, I'm afraid, unless you've attended—is still buzzing with questions a week after the conference.

So, if you're looking for a workshop that will not just foster professional contacts but real relationships while propelling you forward into better writing, this one is for you. I'm personally pulling for Free Expressions t-shirts that say, "YBB – it changed my life."