For those who follow my social media, you probably recall posts about #dfwWORDfest. It was a huge event for writers in North Texas on April 8, 2017 at Tarrant County College’s Northeast Campus in Hurst, TX. This one day event was planned for months by over a dozen people representing over a dozen different writers groups throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. I’m honored to say I played a small part in the planning, promoting, and implementing of this writerly extravaganza. I’m amazed when I consider how much I learned through the process, and not just about writing. Even though I was unable to attend the after-party and debriefing, I did a bit of processing and debriefing of my own. Here are my take-away life lessons…
- Anything of substance starts with one person’s dream. So often I’ve had an idea or plan, but talked myself out of it because it was too big or too complicated. I’m learning not to allow my dreams to dissipate before they’ve had a chance to see the light of day. Arianne “Tex” Thompson had a dream for the writing community to come together, and for all writers to have an opportunity to find a tribe they fit with. Big dream.
- A dream requires action and communication to become a reality. Tex spent months visiting all the writing groups she knew of, making friends, and taking names. Her diligent networking led to discovering well over forty different groups of writers in this area. Some were small critique groups, some were larger program/speaker-centered groups, some were genre specific, some were open to all writers in the surrounding area, and some were combinations thereof. Had she stayed home simply dreaming, she never would have found all these groups or met all these wonderful and talented people.
- The bigger the dream, the bigger the required team. Our small band of organizers caught hold of Tex’s dream and hoped to interest maybe one hundred participants. One person had a connection at TCC and coordinated our use of that space. A couple other people organized a social media blast to promote and socialize the event. All the organizers took fliers back to their individual groups, and used their networks to promote the event. Soon there were a few sponsors and vendors. Dallas Film Crew organized a photo booth, and lined up both a photographer and videographer for the day. Someone else organized raffle prizes and drawings. Speakers were enlisted to teach large group and breakout sessions. Many hands make light work, and while working together new friendships and professional connections were developed.
- Organization! It doesn’t matter how many good people or good intentions you have if there isn’t someone setting an agenda, taking notes, and sending out reminders. I’ve been told in many communities there is someone especially gifted in this area. Here, we call her Marsha.
She smiles, she contributes, but most fortunate for us, she gently yet firmly keeps us on track.
- Something will go wrong. The bigger the event, the bigger the something. Like electrical problems less than a week before the originally scheduled event which shut down the entire campus and left us no time to come up with a second location. Or like a scheduled speaker who stayed up late preparing his presentation and then forgot to actually come to the event.
- Brilliant people come up with brilliant workarounds. When those problems inevitably surfaced there were seconds of panic and a few choice words, but within minutes brainstorming began, networks were worked, flexibility and creativity flowed, and soon solutions appeared that might have been better than the original plan.
- Serendipity is phenomenal. We originally thought we would have one hundred people attend. When almost five hundred registered there was concern about the space. When the electrical problem caused us to reschedule, the college offered us more space as a “so sorry, thanks for understanding.” Serendipity. When a speaker missed his start time, we found another volunteer just as capable and happy to help. So many agreeable situations appeared that we didn’t even know we needed at the outset.
- Small victories beget larger endeavors, and (fingers crossed) larger successes. So many writers in DFW now have friends and tribes with whom to grow their art. Friendships and partnerships were forged among participants and organizers. So WORD, in partnership with WGT, is now planning its next big adventure. We are bringing in internationally best-selling author, Kate Forsyth, from Sydney Australia to spend three days in the DFW Metroplex to share her magic, stories, and experience with educators, librarians, readers, and writers. Without the networking and teamwork developed in planning and executing WORDfest, we wouldn’t have had the ability nor confidence required to take on such a project.
Thank you to Tex Thompson and her posse of happy helpers for making WORDfest such an amazing event. Thanks also for spreading the dream. Here’s to bigger and better literary events in DFW!