May 22, 2012

I Dream Of LeakyCon

I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago in praise of small conferences---great opportunities not just for workshops, but also for getting involved with your local writing community.  No matter what genre you write or where your dream conferences take you, I hope that you will always return to your local writing groups and take care of each other.

That said, today I want to talk about going to the conferences of your dreams.  You know the ones? The ones that increase your heart rate, the ones that make you hyperventilate a little?

Some of you are murmuring the names already.  I can hear you.

The places on my list are  LeakyCon, ALA, Big Sur, SCBWI.  I could easily slip onto a plane headed for Comic-con or Bouchercon.

Someone else's list will look like a pile of letters.  Your own list will feel like poetry.

But what about those of you who have yet to define your dream?  This post is for you.

Keep in mind that conferences don't just cost lotsa dollars.  They also cost lotsa energy and require a time shift away from things like Actual Writing and Sustaining Relationships.

Before you dump all your available resources into a conference, please take time to consider whether you're following your heart or someone else's.  This may sound obvious, but it's amazing how many writers don't know what they want for themselves. They'll go along because their writing group is going.  They'll go along because online friends are going. They'll go along because they went last year. They'll go along because they haven't done the research or the soul-searching to know what they want instead.

Not sure if you're being true to yourself, true to your own dreams?  Ask yourself these questions:
  • Which living authors inspire you?  Are those authors participating in any conferences, workshops, or mentoring programs?

  • What books do you love?  Where do other fans of these books congregate?

  • Do the books you love ever win awards?  Who gives those awards? Does that organization host a conference?

  • Do the authors you love belong to professional writing groups?  Which groups?  Do those groups host conferences?

  • Who works with the authors you adore? Think about agents, editors, publishers.  Are those professionals speaking or doing workshops?

Take your list and look for overlap at points of awesomeness. We'll call these POA. Any single POA might be a wonderful thing.  Where many POA overlap, you've got yourself a dream.

Please note that there is no need to discount another person's dream in order to follow your own.  You're not looking for reasons a conference is wrong for you. You're not arguing that your conference is right for everyone. You're simply looking for overlapping POA that make you grin like crazy.

Those are your people.  That's where you belong. A recitation of those names will sound like poetry. They'll also keep you focused on your dreams and they'll keep you putting money into your conference savings account.

I'll be going to LeakyCon this year.  Just saying it makes me hyperventilate a little.

Where are your dreams taking you?  How long will it take you to get there?

May 20, 2012

Solar Eclipse

Sometimes I have to do quick posts.

This is the solar eclipse as seen through our pinhole camera.

May 8, 2012

Disappointed Writers

I've heard it said that sheep spend their time at pasture looking for ways to die.  They're relatively stoic creatures, so by the time they act sick, it's often too late. They seem fine one day and they're dead the next.

Writers are apparently the same way with disappointment.  While not writing, we look for ways to feel bad about ourselves.

Last week I attended a conference with a wildly-successful writer who just turned in her eighteenth book.

"Wow," I said.

She held thumb and forefinger barely apart. "They're thin," she answered.  "I'm actually getting dumber with every passing day."

She's not, of course, but she swears she is.

Another writer on twitter tells stories that tunnel right through to my heart.  I laugh out loud.  I cry.  His explorations change the way I see life and enrich my perceptions of my Kansas heritage.

And yet he worries about apostrophes and sentence structure.  He thinks he's not good enough to be a "real writer."  I tell him that he damn well is and that writing is so much more than a sum of grammatical parts.  Any editor can fix those tiny things.

And I'm sure he thinks I'm humoring him--because he is, after all, a writer.  The only thing we fear more than rejection is false praise.

Another friend confesses that, despite glowing reviews, she worries because she's been often nominated, but never selected, for any prestigious award.

Another with a Ph.D. worries she'll look stupid because she does not have the vocabulary to talk about novel writing.

I can shake my head, but who am I kidding?  I've been writing long enough to survive multiple episodes of dark days and doubt.  My last had me wondering about famous writers and that stroke of genius that makes them who they are.  No matter what they write, we hear that quality in their voice and we love them.  And so, just like a sheep contemplating lethal ways to get her head stuck in a fence, I ask myself, "What if my writing has an opposite effect on readers?  What if that thing that makes me special is the one thing no one wants?"

And yet we persist.

This week at Idaho Writers and Readers Rendezvous, Mary Clearman Blew reiterated the importance of tenacity for writers.  She said you can often tell when writers are going to give up.  "You can just feel them veering off and thinking they'd rather have a life."

I laugh because I've cornered myself into such a negative ending.  As a writer primed for disappointment, having a life sounds amusing and fun. So what was my point?

Oh yes.  Not every stoic sheep is dying.  And not every disappointed writer wants to quit.  Some of us are just really good at getting our heads stuck in fences and wailing about it. It's what we do. And then we write about it.