Showing posts with label support. Show all posts
Showing posts with label support. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Post Where I Talk About My First Writers Conference

It always seemed to me that if I really wanted to call myself a writer, I needed to do more than just write, I needed to go to a conference. But since I've never been published and my blog is just barely crawling along with lurches and gasps, going to a writers conference seemed a bit too...ambitious. Like everyone would be able to smell the Eau de Impostor that wafts around me like too much Axe Body Spray.

I really did go! I have the picture to prove it!

I came at DFW Writers Conference sideways. First, I stalked the website and Facebook page, wondering if I could hang. Wondering if it would really be worth it. Then, I put it out of my head entirely--for about two hours. It turned out, I couldn't focus on anything but the conference. There was a wobbly pit in my stomach, and a voice in the back of my head urged me to talk to my husband about finding the money to make attending a reality. So we talked. And talked. And talked some more, and we decided that we could make it happen for one day. I was over-the-moon that we could manage even that much, so I studied the schedule harder than I've studied for anything since college. After a lot of deliberation, I picked Saturday because I really wanted to hear Jane Friedman speak. I joined DFWCon's closed Facebook group and proceeded to ask roughly eleventy-trillion questions about everything from what to wear to how to avoid vomiting in the ferns. Pro-tip: Just don't barf in the ferns. That's what toilets are for.

Everyone in the group was so nice, and no matter how silly my question was, it was always answered with reassurance and kindness. Not once did I feel like an idiot for asking something. In a group with over 400 members, that speaks volumes! Two weeks later, I purchased the second day. It wasn't an easy thing for me to do. We got bills to pay, we got mouths to feed. But my sweet husband told me to see it as an investment in myself and my writing, and really, how do you say no to that? Pro tip: You don't.
Through the Facebook group, I met a woman who lives in my town, and I offered to carpool with her. Then she offered me the second bed in her room. I had been planning to come home each night, but staying onsite and getting to soak up the writer-magic for a whole weekend was just too spectacular to pass up. Of course I said yes!

My roommate and I arrived on Friday evening. We checked in and met up in the lobby with some other early attendees for chatting and game playing. After dinner, we wandered around and found ourselves on the third floor, where the conference would be. We just wanted to get the lay of the land, but we were invited to sit and chat with a couple of the volunteers who were taking a break from setting up. As we were chatting, we met an agent, fresh in from out of town.

In the group, we were told that it would be cool to pitch agents anytime, anywhere, except while they were eating, going to the bathroom, or on their way to a class or something. But my new soul-sister and I didn't pitch this agent. Instead, we chatted with her. She talked about her life and her favorite foods...just, you know, chit-chat. And it was fabulous!

As a writer, I tend to forget that agents are just people. I spend so much time researching them, trying to find out what they love and hate, trying to craft the perfect query so I can land an agent and live the dream, that I sort of start to see them as these out-of-this-world beings who pull the strings of my fate. Logically, I know that's simply not true, but it's easy to lose a healthy perspective when you're in the query trenches.  Over the course of the weekend, this agent and I had a number of conversations, and I never pitched her. I probably could have, but I was enjoying the conversations and didn't want to ruin them with a pitch. That first conversation with that first agent was also my first, and possibly most valuable lesson of the weekend: People are people. Writers, agents, editors...we're all people. We all either love or hate guacamole, and if you remember that, you'll be just fine.

Drinks with an Agent.

I could tell you about all the classes and and workshops I took, but I'm not going to. Not because they weren't valuable. They were. But more than that, they were just non-stop. It'd take me a week to write it all down, and I'm not sure it'd be a compelling read. What I can say is that DFWCon was about so much more than classes, pitch sessions, and agent receptions. Yes, those things are wonderful and valuable, but that stuff is all just surface level. What DFWCon is really about is relationships. It's about finding your community--finding your people. When you put 400 writers together for a weekend, the conversations are intense and the connections are often instant. I learned that even writers who seem to have their shit together feel anxiety. Even writers who flit from conversation to conversation still need to take a bathroom break just to have a moment of quiet to gather themselves. I learned that as weird as any of us may feel out in the real world, when we come together as a group, we all fit in. I signed up for the conference by myself, but I left with four hundred new friends. There just aren't words to describe how empowering and completely awesome that is.

Fun Hair = Instant Friends!

In the end, it didn't feel like I was going to a writers conference. It felt like going home. To everyone I talked to, everyone who smiled at me, everyone who laughed when I laughed, and everyone who lifted me up when my self-doubt tried to hold me down: Thank you. You made my first writers conference an experience I will never forget.

And to all the volunteers who put this gig together: We're not worthy! We're not worthy! We're not worthy! You were the true rock stars of the weekend. Thank you for everything!

Thank you, DFWCon Volunteers! This one's for you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

You Know You're a Writer When...

I  recently had a conversation with a young man who told me that he is in the process of writing a fantasy series and scoping out ways to get published. He also said that he wishes he could write full time.

Me too.

It's true, I don't have outside employment, but that doesn't make me a full-time writer. My son is homeschooled, so my husband and I co-educate him. There are still all the little things around the house to do and all the meals to cook. We have bills to pay, cat litter to scoop, fevers to soothe, and a marriage to nurture. And just as my husband tries to give me space to write as much as I need, I try to give him space to work on his marketing business all he needs. It's certainly not easy to balance the needs of a child, a group of pets, and two self-employed adults. Most days I only manage to get a couple of hours of writing time in. Some days I get a bit more, but some days I don't write at all. Sometimes I long for a life that allows me to write 40 hours a week, without guilt.

But the fact that I don't write "full time" does not make me less of a writer than someone who writes sixty hours a week; I just have less time. That's it.

I'm a writer, and you or someone you love just might be one, too. If you're not sure, just refer to this handy list of symptoms:
  • You find yourself agonizing over where to place the word "is" in a sentence.
  • You're happily shampooing your hair when the solution to a sticky problem in your book hits you. Instead  of rinsing your hair and finishing your shower like any sane person would, you jump out, wrap a towel around yourself (if you have a preteen son in the house. If you're alone, you skip the towel all together), and run--dripping shampoo and water--to your computer to write before the solution slips away.
  • You're sharing a meal with friends or family and you prattle on and on about your characters as if they were your children or friends: Oh my gosh, you won't believe what Simon said to Ana! Oh and Lorna! She has so much on her plate right now and she's handling it all  so well. I really should get her some chocolate or something...
  • Your friends and family listen indulgently, with just a minimal amount of eye rolling, while you dish the latest gossip. 
  • You wake up in the morning hungry but start writing before breakfast. Before you know it, you've been writing for hours and your hunger has mysteriously disappeared.
  • Something bad happens to your character and you cry for him.
  • You sit in front of your computer for forty-five minutes and can't think of a thing to write so you just type the same word over and over and over until that word changes into something that actually belongs in the story. My favorite thing to type when I'm stuck is "chocolate". Unfortunately, it's also my favorite thing to eat when I'm stuck.
This list is by no means complete. The point is, being a writer isn't defined by how many hours you put in, it's defined by whether or not you write. If you write at all, if you agonize over your words and your characters or subject matter, then you're a writer. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, including yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Confessions Of A NaNoWriMo Dropout

It's November. The leaves are turning, and in some cases, falling from the trees here in the high desert. The days are still warm but the nights are cool, and the smell of fireplace smoke tickles my nostrils every time I take a walk with my dog. November, time for pie and turkey and way too much dairy. Time to put away the Halloween decorations and pull out the sweaters.

It's also time for NaNoWriMo. Huh? NaNoWriMo. It's a crazy, fun, intense, caffeine and Cheetos filled whirlwind of a month that is dedicated to writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. This strange name is short for National Novel Writing Month. It's a time to give yourself permission to lock yourself up in your room or hide in a coffee shop and just indulge in your wildest literary fantasies. It's insane. It's fun. It's free. And best of all, there is a ton of support and wacky goings on. I love Nano and I sign up every year.

And every year I drop out.

Like all writers, I have an entire Rolodex full of excuses not to write (though my husband has recently launched a campaign to get me to dump the Rolodex and use Google Spreadsheets instead), and they are all so reasonable: The baseboards need scrubbing, the cat needs brushing, I have to try on every piece of clothing I own so I can send a bag to Goodwill. I'm sure you get the idea and don't need me to list all four thousand eight-hundred seventy-two reasons.

I always start out fully intending to write fifty--no, seventy thousand words! No, wait! In my best Dr. Evil voice, I burst into the living room and declare that I will easily write  "One hundred thousand words! Bwwahahahaha!" My husband usually just looks up at me and offers a supportive "Wow. That's great, Dannie. How much have you written so far?" My answer to that is typically of the I haven't actually started yet. I have to make a crust for that potpie we're having for dinner, so I'll start pounding out the words tonight variety. 

At some point, I always do sit down and write, but by the time I find my writing groove, I am so far behind my daily word count goal to reach 50k words, that I start to feel panicky and resentful. Resentful of myself for having a hard time. Resentful of all the household duties that are distracting me, resentful of all the amazing, beautiful, talented writers who can easily blow right past their goal and actually succeed in finishing NaNo. So I pour myself a glass of three dollar wine and hope that loosens me up enough to be productive. Unfortunately, it only distracts me and I end up wasting an inordinate amount of time on Facebook. Most years, I just give up entirely around the third week of November, feeling guilt and shame over my pathetic 4,000 words.

So this year, I didn't sign up. This year, I am aware that it's National Novel Writing Month, and I'm genuinely happy for all those writers out there who are participating in the write-ins and camaraderie, but I'm just not playing. Instead, I'm plugging away, every day, on my novel. I have a reasonable word count goal, but I don't have a hard and fast deadline. This year, I'm giving myself permission to lock myself in my office and write, but I'm also giving myself permission to watch Mythbusters with my kid or to work on a blog post or short story if I'm not feeling the novel love during any particular writing session.

I think the main difference is that this year, I've officially given myself permission to be a writer full time, not just for a month. I don't feel like I have to pound out 2,000 words every day. Some days I do and some days I barely hit 700. But that's okay. For me, writing isn't a race, it's a way of life. The story will ebb and flow, the hours in the day will work with me or against me, and sometimes things will pop up. And that's okay.

The first draft of my novel is far, far, far from where I want it to be. I wish I had three times as many words written as I do, but I'm not stressing out about that. It's coming along day by day. And this year, as NaNoWriMo happens all around me, I feel proud of myself for accomplishing what I have. On the days where I'm not a productive as I hoped to be, I gently remind myself that there is always tomorrow.

When it comes to writing, what do you have to confess?