Jumping All In…My First Conference as a Writer!

Wow…what a weekend! I just got back from the Writer’s Digest Conference 2015 in New York City. How can you not enjoy a long weekend in New York. I ate at fabulous restaurants, saw an incredible play (Something Rotten!), shopped in SoHo, visited the MET, admired Grand Central Station, and conquered the subway. Now that is a getaway! But I was not just playing, or was I? This goes back to question: Is writing my pasttime?

When you are not published that seems to be the consensus – that you are just “playing” at writing. But as writers we know, that writing is a lifetime career. How traditionally successful we are all depends on what we do with it. Writing a novel is the first step, but there is more to it and attending a conference is a great way to start learning the industry and to define and achieve success as a writer.

This WDC15 was my first. I love reading Writer’s Digest and learning from people who have walked before me. Their newsletter and articles are amazing and have kept me on top of my game. This conference offered an up-close and personal look at the writing industry. There were great seminars, wonderful speakers, and opportunities to meet those that are in the industry as well as aspiring fellow writers. Many things happened and I came back a whole new writer in many ways. Here is some of my take away:

I am inspired! There were some great keynote speakers who really gave each of us a hope that what we are doing is worth something. They did not promise fame or fortune…quite the contrary. But what they passed along was,  keep writing! Each speaker had a different life story and different reason that propelled them to write. But they all wrote. A love of reading and a love of writing is what drove these now successful writers forward. They did what they loved and just wrote.

Learn your craft! It is one thing to write. It is another thing to learn the craft of writing. Jonathan Maberry gave us this piece of information and the words sank in deeply. Anyone can write….but not everyone will take the time to learn the craft of writing. I can’t know it all, nor do I. I learn more each time I get my book edited, when someone reads it, I get feedback, and even from rejections. My writing skills become more refined and better. We are craftsmen of words. That is the real work, but that is what will set us apart from the rest.

I found my peeps! I normally don’t like crowds. I normally don’t like to be a part of a group. But there was a sense of belonging I was not prepared for. It felt good to be with other writers. Quirky, nerdy, excited, lovers of books, imaginative, focused and driven. So many people with this common love of writing! People who share the same things you go through. People who like to talk, share and listen. People who don’t even know you, are somehow excited for you! Everyone was friendly and even though I didn’t know a soul, I never felt alone. There was always someone who was willing to talk to you, help, direct and just share in the experience. From the people who ran the event, the speakers, the agents and the fellow writers, we were all there in unity.

Writers support each other! From the keynote speakers to the agents, all had this wonderful attitude: Pay it Forward. Lift each other! No one was better, more powerful, more important. We all were just there as one big giant support group with a common love. For when one of us is successful, everyone wins. There is always room for more stories and more books. We aren’t competing against each other. When one writer is successful it only highlights what we truly want for the world…for more people to read.

The Book Industry is a Business. I come from business.I love capitalism. I am not some idealistic artist that thinks art is a noble form and should be honored just for its sake. Writing is an art. Writing well is a craft. Being published is luck. Making money is a business. Achieving all of that is hard work like anything else. The agents and publishers are not mean wolves waiting to devour us. They are people who are in love with reading just as much as writers…but they have a job and responsibility to make money. When we get rejected we think it is personal. Business is not personal! Writers need to remember that. You may writer a beautiful story, have the greatest idea or need a message to be heard. But it must be sellable. But sellable and valuable are not synonymous. We should learn the business of writing as well as the craft of writing. We writers need to evaluate  our work as a commodity as well as art.

I went to the pitch slam hoping I would meet an agent interested in my work. I did and that was all great. But my main drive to attend this conference was to jump all in! It is easy to sit behind a computer and write, unnoticed and dream of getting published. It is scary to actually step into the writing world, say it out loud, put your face out there and meet people with whom you now have to be accountable. But I was ready.  I wanted to learn the industry, meet the rainmakers, and be among “my” people. I have written two novels now and feel confident that I am now a part of an industry…a business. I can now say with pride, “I am a writer.” Of course, I doubt myself as a writer all the time. It is a tough business and the odds of getting published are not all that great. But this conference was a great experience that ‘pumped me up!’ I am inspired to keep going, get better, and cherish what I do. What better way to spend a weekend!

But like I have said in almost every blog..I love to write. That is not going to change just because I don’t get a book deal. Being among fellow writers reminded me of this again. Just write! 

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