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Food for the Soul

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Writers who crave a creative outlet sometimes need time to find their niche.

Scipio resident Debi Hurt, who has organized Saturday’s Writers’ Conference at the Crump Theatre, has straightforward advice: Writers must write.

As a teen, Hurt kept a journal. Dedicated to writing every day, she would take her journal outside, sit under a tree and jot down her thoughts. She kept a diary for six years and still has them.

Anytime writers are able to get their thoughts out, negative or positive, Hurt believes it’s going to benefit them.

“There’s a spiritual quality to writing,” Hurt said. “It puts me at peace.”

Now 53, Hurt began pursuing her writing aspirations more than two decades ago. She’s published five books, leads monthly creative writing workshops in Bartholomew and surrounding counties, and publishes Pen It!, a bimonthly magazine.

When her first child, Casey, was 5, Hurt began writing in earnest. Casey adored books, and Hurt figured “Why not write children’s books?”

In 2006, Hurt self-published her first children’s book, “The Daring Adventures of Donnie the Dachshund.” She took her love for writing to the next level by organizing authors’ fairs, conferences and creative writing workshops. She believes writers benefit from being around other writers. She said the interaction feeds the muse, so to speak.

In 2010, Hurt published “The Quest for Shireman,” a young-adult fantasy, and launched Pen It! to publicize local talent and offer writers a forum to spotlight their work. It was during this time the mother of two considered organizing a writers conference on a large scale, but an overloaded schedule prevented her from bringing her plan to fruition right away.

Her desire to help writers tap into their creativity led to the publication of her fifth book, “Writing Creatively,” which offers a variety of writing prompts and instruction for novice and professional writers alike. She said the key is to stay motivated.

“Lots of things inspire me,” Hurt said. “I am a people watcher. One of the best things I like to do is just sit somewhere and just watch and listen. You can pick up little sayings and mannerisms.”

When she needs a little inspiration to help flesh out a character, she flips through her notebook to see what she’s jotted down.

Describing a typical day as organized chaos, Hurt admitted she doesn’t sleep much. As a full-time dealer sales coordinator for Toyota, Hurt has her evenings and weekends to devote to writing. Although she holds degrees in business and computer information systems, she is able to use her creative talents building databases, designing forms and writing reports.

She admits conventional publishing can be a deterrent even for the most talented writers. As a result, many of them pay to have their work published and market the work themselves.

Part of Hurt’s intention with the conference is to introduce area writers to self-publishing, educate them about the ins and outs, and dispel the myths surrounding the business. It’s no longer true that self-published books don’t sell as well as those that are picked up by a traditional publisher or agent, she said.

“There are publishers out there who purposely seek out and pick up self-published authors,” Hurt said.

She hopes the conference serves to connect writers, editors and publishers, and that it fosters professional relationships.

Local writer Jake Jeffries began writing poetry in 2005. He quickly discovered writing was a great way to help cope with stress. He said he first attended Hurt’s Bartholomew County writers group in August 2011 as a way to break out of his usual pattern.

“I really liked the first night I went,” 25-year-old Jeffries said. “I was going through a personal struggle at the time, and I was looking to get out of my shell.”

Using her writing experiences to help authors such as Jeffries is what drives her dedication to the craft, Hurt said.

If there’s one thing she has learned, she said, it’s that writers must surround themselves with others of like mind.

For Hurt, the phrase she uses to sign her books sums it up: “Writing feeds the soul. Stay hungry.”

Defeat writer’s block

  • n People watch. Take a few minutes to just observe and listen to the way people talk, how they interact with one another, and their mannerisms.
  • n Cruise the Internet. Seek out inspiration from headlines, as some of the greatest story ideas are inspired by life itself.
  • n Free-write. Simply write without censoring yourself and see what happens.
  • n Reread older things you’ve written. Revisit that short story you wrote in high school: Have the characters grown up and what are they doing now?
  • n Carry a notebook and write down the words, feelings and phrases that catch your attention. Refer to the notebook as a source of inspiration.


    2012 Writers’ Conference

    Where: Crump Theatre, 425 Third St.

    When: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Doors open at 9:30 a.m.)

    Admission: $30 at the door; $50 per couple; $20 for 18 and under.

    Information: 371-4128.

    The 2012 Writers’ Conference featured local writers include “Borderland” writer Jennifer Seet and Suzy Milhoan, author of “The Healing Game.” Hoosier native James Alexander Thom, author of “Follow the River,” is scheduled to deliver the conference’s keynote speech. On the second floor, writers can peruse tables set up by vendors offering editing and publishing services throughout the event.

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