I’m an old school gamer. In the old days of Donkey Kong and Frogger and Pitfall, if you wanted to keep your guy ( it was almost always a guy) from dying in the video game, you had to get through the jungle/maze/whatever and grab some sort of “health” pellet. When you did, you’d be relieved to see the blinking remnant of life surge back up to a full length far of lively-lifeness.
For writers, going to a conference is kind of like finding a health pellet.
I just got back from my annual trip to the Missouri Writers Guild conference. It’s a little bit of a drive for me, but I go every year because it’s one of the few times I get to spend time, in groups and one-on-one, with industry insiders like editors, agents and publishers to talk about the writing craft in general and sometimes my work specifically. It’s awesome.
Going to conferences like this are also great at reminders you are not the only weirdo who isn’t content just reading stories. It’s a hotel full of people as obsessed as you with creating arcs and beats and word counts and plots and story.
Last year’s was notable because the hotel we were at was hosting not just writers, but also a child’s beauty pageant ala “Little Miss Sunshine” and a convention of people who make and display miniature doll house furniture. No houses, mind you; just the furniture. Makes sense. Everyone knows doll house builders are dorks. (Kidding! Not kidding! Okay, kidding…please don’t hurt me with your tiny chairs.)
Every year, I’m struck by the variety of backgrounds the attendees come from. This year didn’t disappoint. There was the newspaper reporter who yearns to write fiction, the twenty-something who has pared down his lifestyle to such a degree he can live on what he makes from 2-3 hours a day of work (writing freelance articles) so he can devote the rest of his time to writing tales in the vein of old Norse mythology. I met a retired judge and his wife who travels around showing horses. There was also a cardiologist who quit to be a writer and lots of retirees.
Then there was a college professor and part-time children’s entertainer, who I talked to at the same time as the barbershop quartet singer. The professor, it turns out, has always wanted to be in a barbershop quartet! (Math geeks, calculate me the odds of meeting ONE, let alone TWO, people into barbershop at the same time and place.) They actually started harmonizing right there in the hall between workshops. It was surreal.
That’s the best part of these conferences: you never quite know what you’ll get or who will there. And everyone is supportive of this weird thing you’ve dedicated yourself to. Some of them are already published, some are wannabes, some are never-wills. But all love the written word and those who put those words out there.
Looking forward to 2015!