I still remember last year's writing conference. I might not remember the exact details of the workshops, or exactly what tips I took away, but I remember how it felt to be around other writers. It's the same way I felt after this year's RMFW Conference.
This year, I wasn't a newbie. This year, I was actually on a panel! My books were in the book store! I got a gold pen! (More on that later.) This year felt a little less like a deer in creative headlights and more like a deer just chilling in the meadow, being all deer-like, munching grass and daisies and being like "Oh, this is where I belong. That's cool."
The conference started bright and early on Friday. My writing partner and a friend of both Ryan and I, Mason Torall, (future famous author of The Dark Element Series) had decided to stay with us during the conference since we lived so close to the hotel and then he and Ryan could have unlimited board game time in the evenings. Mason and I started with a nourishing breakfast at Panera, and showed up ready to get our learn on...only we were three hours early.
We thought the conference started at nine. It turns out registration started at nine, but the classes started at one. We were like those nerdy kids who show up two weeks early for college, eager beaver faces with binders and pens clutched in our hands. After our joy was deflated, we hung out and worked on our novels in the lobby, and went through Mason's agent pitch.
Wendy Darling Book Two has begun! Book One is in edits, though it was supposed to be with the test readers like two months ago. I can't imagine what has changed....
Oh right. That one cute kid.
Finally the conference began, and we couldn't have started out on a higher note than William Kent Kruger's "Setting." What sounded like a simple and perhaps boring class was ANYTHING but. He was such a dynamic teacher and speaker that I went to another class of his titled "Suspense", even though I am not, and probably never will be, a mystery writer. He was an amazing teacher.
His examples of simple, short descriptions that convey a world of description were mind-boggling in the best sort of way: "Cold as a meat locker." *Shiver* Yes. That sounds like a freezing place I will never want to go. Thank you. Was that from Gillian Flynn? William Kruger proved to be a great way to start the day. We ended up cutting out early, probably since we got there three hours early, and Ryan and Mason had plenty of time to play some board games and I got some baby time, which was sorely needed after being gone all day.
Saturday we were ready to go! I started with a presentation by Angie Hodapp, who I borderline worship due to her savvy fashion-sense and amazing presenting style, on dialog. It was snappy, it was sharp, and I walked away chomping to write some killer conversations between Hook and Wendy. After that was the "First Sale Panel", where myself and seven other authors got to talk about our individual experiences leading up to being signed with a publisher. I was nervous and sweaty and SO glad that I chose to wear a silk shirt, but in the end it was still a great time.
Connecting with four other YA authors was absolutely the highlight of the panel - I'm hoping to form a group of some sort. I also got to have coffee with Lisa Roberts, who is going to be my new YA author friend. She just doesn't know it yet.
Mmmm..Caribou Dark Hot Chocolate. Seriously the best thing ever.
Afterwards, I signed some of my books in the bookstore. So fun!
After the panel, I went to a couple more workshops (one terrible, one fantastic) and headed to the banquet. This is my first RMFW banquet, where they hand out awards and feature the keynote speaker. I was super nervous as I was getting the "Golden Pen" award, for having my first novel published. This was a busy year for me with the release and re-release of four novels, but alas, I did not get four pens. Ryan: "Are they real gold? Can we melt them down and sell them?"
After the awards for the Colorado Gold - all talented writers, but I couldn't help feeling Mason should have been up there as well - they called up the golden pen nominees and I walked up to the stage, mentally telling myself that "As long as you don't trip, you'll be okay." I didn't trip, but I definitely awkwardly held my belt when I was up there, because you know, I can't do anything normal.
Our keynote speaker was Mark Coker, not really important, only the CEO OF SMASHWORDS! He was amazing. Talk about someone who has fought tooth and nail for their dream in the face or insurmountable critics, finances and naysayers. His end note: "Be delusional", was absolutely inspiring. This is a man who understands the futures of books - and authors.
The next morning was filled with last minute workshops on social media, kickstarter (for Mason) and publishing etiquette. I attended my first PAL meeting (Published Authors League, unfortunately no superhero outfits or powers allowed), which was a mix of behind-the-scenes and a church meeting about coffee.
And then it was over. This year, I was happy to head home, my head buzzing with information, but missing my two best guys. While last year was all about learning and preparing to enter the scary world of publishing, this year, for me at least, was about networking and meeting other authors.
I can't tell you how refreshing it is to be among peers in a creative industry. So often I feel like I'm insane, like I'm pursing some imaginary dream on the horizon. Being a writer is, on your good days, trying to convince yourself that this career is real, that this dream of words and tired eyes and old coffee is substantial - more than that, it's sustainable. Writing can be lonely, for even though you are surrounded by people, they all exist in your mind. It's a career that is totally self-propelled.
Being at a writer's conference allows you to have fellowship with those kindred, burning souls, each pushing their way through the muck of life and their own head to tell the world a story.
Also, it's a hotel full of introverts trying very hard not to be introverted.
These are my people.