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by J.C. Lynne
I've been around and about the last few weeks talking to writers, emailing writers, and seeing them at workshops. Conference season is the buzz everywhere I've been. Agents, editor, publishers, and writers of all ilk are traveling one place or another to get some face time with each other.
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Maybe I'm biased, but of all of the conferences I've attended Northern Colorado Writers puts on one heck of a doozy. Indeed, I thought I had grown a bit conferenced out until I had the opportunity to moderate two different panel discussions and rediscovered the real reason I love conferences, and this one in particular, in the first place.
Let's face it. Writing folk are, by and large, introverts.
We work in a vacuum. Insulated and removed, except perhaps from our animals, we sweat over our keyboards, our legal pads, and our notebooks. I can count on one hand the days I actually put on street clothes in the last month. Sure, monthly coffee meetings sound good until it involves putting on shoes.
Okay, maybe it's just me, but talking to three different groups of writers the past two months has proven just how insular writers are. And another painful truth, we like our comfort zone. Our cliques. Our tribe. Whether it's a covey of authors or a critique group or some other kind of peck, passel, or posse, stepping out and meeting new people just isn't our scene.
In all of these gatherings, I've heard it several times over, "Why should I fork out money to go to the conference when there's nobody relevant for me to pitch to?" This question sets my eye twitching.
Here's the sitch. I've met more amazing industry people at conferences than I ever would have staying at home, hovering over my keyboard, querying into the ether. Even the year I shattered my ankle and had to push that bloody scooter around.
The folks I've met at the conference outside of pitching have been some of the most valuable resources I could ever hope for.
Jody Rein has always graciously responded if I've had questions about publishing or markets. I'm not trying to get her to rep me. She's an expert and I value her experience and expertise. If I ever did send her a query, you know what? She's going to recognize my name.
I've bumped into her at a couple of different events, and she always has a smile for me when she asks how things are going. You know why? Because I'm interested in how things are going for her. Industry people are human beings too.
I would never have met Jason Brick if I had decided to keep to my cave. Not only has he inspired some great conversations over the last year, but I've grown my network a little through him. Not because we're selling each other stuff or asking each other to promo all of the time (we do promo for each other), but because we've developed a light-hearted, lively exchange. I could ask him advice without feeling like a leech. We each have peeps and I've happily introduced Jason to some of my peeps. You know what? If I asked him to put in a word with one of his peeps, he would.
How would I go a day without laughing out loud at Stacey Graham's shenanigans? Who would I dedicate my car karaoke to without her? Singing out with the windows down and the music blaring just wouldn't be as enjoyable. This one's for you Stace!
No, I didn't get a book deal or a manuscript request at the time, but what I did gain has made my life so much the richer. And maybe I didn't become best friends in an instant with everyone, (I'm pretty sure I shocked Grant Blackwood out of his conference stupor, but if I ever meet him again I have a memorable reference point) but just being around all of that writing mojo set my brain ablaze.
The list of people I've been privileged to call acquaintance, colleague, and gasp, even casual friend is CRAZY! I feel like it's an Academy Award speech . . . too many people to name and you're certain to forget someone.
Chuck Barrett (okay, I claim him more often than he claims me) and his WRITER wife, DJ Steele (I'll admit I'm a little envious of that nom de plume)
Todd Mitchell (One of my author crushes. He knows it.)
And there are oodles more!
And there are oodles more!
Going to a conference is more than just a pitch opportunity, it's a chance to be around the entire weird and whacky group. And THIS conference in particular fosters a genuine feeling of community. You'll feel less alone, less like a freak, and more inspired than talking out plot points with the dogs ever will. Okay, maybe just me again.