Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Manitou Springs AuthorFest & Douglas County Writers Conference

Post by Trai Cartwright

There are millions of blogs out there about the value of writer’s conferences, and they are all correct: they are inspiring, educational, a boon to both professional and personal networking, and can supercharge your relationship with your writing.

I pulled double-duty this weekend, and with pleasure. I was invited to teach by both the Manitou Springs AuthorFest and the Douglas County Public Libraries Writers Conference last weekend. I said yes to both and had three great days of roadtripping, workshopping and communing with my excellent Colorado writing community.

The boon of teaching at these conferences works much the same way it does for the attendees: presenters get to attend the conference, too, and while I love getting my craft refreshed and new bits of publishing world info, I think it’s the keynotes that were my favorite this time.

At Manitou Springs, we heard Mark Obmascik, who climbed all 54 14’ers and wrote a best-selling humor book about it. Someone asked if Kilimanjaro was next, and his very rational response: he’d prefer to be with my family. Climbing is very selfish, as is writing, and if either wanted to take him away from my family for three months, he’d say no.

So often the message writers get is that if they aren’t completely dedicated to, perhaps even obsessed with this path, we’re undercutting our potential for success. He reminded us that there are bigger things in life than writing.

At lunch in the same room, Carleen Brice compared her writer’s journey to the esteemed Hollywood “hero’s journey”. She regaled us with the “we hate it / we love it” fight for her first publication, her struggle to write (and rewrite. And rewrite) her second book, followed by her first book’s adaptation into a TV movie starring Jill Scott and shortly thereafter getting dropped by her publisher because of her under-performing second book. She stood before us, facing the exact same challenge we all were: would anyone ever want to publish her book?

She reminded us that the magical times this business can deliver arrive in big and small packages, and our job was to recognize and appreciate those wonderful moments – they would help during the lean times on our long journey.

And finally, the legendary, most-awarded-scifi-writer-alive Connie Willis spoke to the crowd gathered at the Douglas County event. She related to us of the conceit that successful writers are writers who toil at it every single day. Then she related a day in her last week: her garbage disposal broke, she was in the middle of planning a book tour and writing three speeches, she went to change out laundry to find the basement flooded, her mother-in-law was arriving the next week – and she’d just learned her mentor of many years had just passed away. Did she write that day? She did. Because, in her words, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”

If you wait for the perfect time to start writing, you’ll never do it. If you wait for the big sale to validate you as a writer, you’ll never realize the importance of your work. So do it for love, and do it now.

I’m signing off to go write. I hope you all do the same.

Who was your favorite writer’s conference keynote speaker?

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