Monday, August 9, 2010

Opinionated me: Why I'm attending the conference

I just got back from a writer retreat with my critique group. Four days away from family in a city far away. Four days of potentially uninterrupted writing time.

It was a hassle getting ready and coordinating schedules for my family, and of course it doesn't cost the same to live in a Bed & Breakfast as to live at home.
And there's the issue of sharing a room -- Do I snore? Do I snore loudly? Do I snore so loudly as to make me an unpleasant roommate?
And would you tell me if the answer was yes?
I'm always nervous that I'll forget something important at home (last year it was suddenly cold outside. I forgot a sweatshirt).
Plus, with my head in my books, and all my angsty issues that seem to rear their ugly heads in the days before any big event, how much good company can I possibly be?

And -- I was waiting to hear back at any minute from my agent about a novel and an Ellie McDoodle proposal I'd sent her.
The editor was 2 weeks late with novel feedback -- never a good sign.

Two days before the retreat I wasn't even sure what I was going to write about at the retreat. With two projects up in the air, not knowing which was a priority (if either), and a third very vague idea of three sisters and some dark stuff, I didn't know how I was going to make my time at the retreat worth the cost of attending.

Weird thing, it worked out, as things usually do. My husband called the first night with agent news: They're using the Ellie 4 proposal to fulfill a contract's second half-- no more sleepless nights.
I wrote a good first chapter to the novel. (This is I think the 7th try).
I have a future.

So why go to the fall SCBWI-Michigan conference in October? I can't sell Ellie McDoodles to the editors there. I don't need a new agent. What's the point, then?

It's this: The mix of inspiration and information you get from being immersed in the craft with other writers stays with you for months afterward and it often regenerates into motivation.
For me, it *always* does.
I have never left a conference thinking I knew all there was to be known.
Never left without seeing and hearing something new.
Sometimes when I leave the conference I'm in disrepair, broken down, dismayed that I wasn't "discovered."
And then I realize, it's up to me to make the discovery.
I can follow up on tips heard at the conference. I can check out the URLs and the books and software and concepts mentioned.

The conference doesn't exist to pair me up with an editor and marry me off to an agent.
The conference exists to expand my brain -- and it does that every single time. Even if I already knew the speakers, memorized their presentations and had read every book they edited, I still could get something out of the questions my fellow writers and illustrators asked.

There's a dynamic component in the conference that you won't get from reading articles online.

As long as I am able, I will attend writer conferences and retreats -- even if it's expensive, even if it's inconvenient, even if I feel dark and scared and uncreative.
For inspiring and moving me off center, writer events are batting a thousand. I have no reason to think this upcoming Michigan SCBWI Fall Conference won't do the same.
And -- bonus!!! -- I get to see dear friends at the same time.
How much better can life get?


Ann Finkelstein said...

Speaking with authority as your writing retreat roomy, you don’t snore.

Anonymous said...

LOL. The snoring question has been answered. : )

Thanks for sharing your reasons for going to conferences and retreats.

I've only done online conferences so far, but hope to one day have the chance to attend a conference in person.