What I Know About Writer’s Conferences

Basically, nothing. And, this is where you can help me! Yay! *confetti*

This weekend (April 29-30), I’ll be attending my very first writer’s conference: Indiana SCBWI’s Annual Conference.

I know I should look at this from a networking stand point, and take advantage of being around editors, agents, and fellow writers, but being the nerd I am, I’m just so ridiculously excited to go to the sessions, and take lots of notes! *shiny notebook and pens* *check*

Ok, ok, of COURSE I’ll hang out, circulate, and meet-and-greet with all The People, because that’s really where you get the experience and learning, and let’s face it: I DO love meeting new people. (BONUS: I get to meet some of my Twitter and Blog friends there too! *waves hi to Alina, Carol, Clara, and Michele*)

I just like feeling like a student again, and embrace any opportunity to re-live studenthood.

And, I’m an irrepressible nerd. Truth.

So Tell Me: do YOU have any writer’s conference tips you’d like to share with this newbie? What should I bring? And, more importantly, what should I wear?? ^_^

Being A Published Author Wasn’t Always My Dream Job

I Have a Confession

I haven’t always dreamed of being a published author.  Nor have I spent my childhood/teens/college years diligently writing stories with the hopes that others would read my work.  In fact, I spent most of my life keeping anything I wrote private.

I know I’m not alone in my experience.  But, what bothers me is that I was embarrassed about it.  Yes, I was actually embarrassed that I haven’t always wanted to be an author.  So much so, that at one point, I desperately scoured my memory banks to find a scrap of evidence that yes, indeed, I wanted to be an author.  I wanted to stand with those authors who always knew that they wanted to write, and couldn’t imagine being anything else.  The authors who claim that writing for them was like breathing.  I wanted to be able to say that, and if I’m honest with myself, I still want to be able to say that.  To claim that.  Of course, if I do, it would be a lie.

What bugged me more than being embarrassed by something so silly, is realizing why I was so embarrassed.  I’d built up authors beyond being merely role models, that their life stories and beliefs became truth to me.  Became The Way.  And, if I diverged from The Way, then, by my actions, I have excommunicated myself from the society of authors, and I didn’t have the right to pursue being a full-time novelist.

A Side Story

Last week, I was able to spend time with my side of the family.  Because, my immediate family is split between east and west coasts, I only see them for one week, twice a year, and we spend those weeks that we’re together sharing stories about our lives thus far, updating each other on any news.  (This is nothing new.  Growing up, we all often shared stories while eating breakfast on Saturday mornings.)  We’re a talkative bunch, and can be quite dramatic in our renditions, so it takes a good week for us to regale the other branches of the family on our happenings.

Anyway, whenever we’re together, it doesn’t matter that we’ve already heard about each other’s stories through some other means. (For example, my older brother might have called my sister who could have Facebooked me about something my younger brother allegedly did in college that my parents may not know about.  Or, an elderly aunt may have accidentally emailed my sister instead of the Internet scammer who was the intended recipient of said email, and who may have duped her out of money. Again.)  But, until we all get together, we pretend not to know what we all really know anyway, and talk in obtuse pronouns and pronounced facial expressions until the Big Reveal.

What’s important in our ritual story telling over breakfast is sharing the information RIGHT THERE and hearing it from either the source, or from a witness’s first-hand perspective.  The conflict is always more heated, the emotions, more intense, in these real life re-enactments.  (In case you’re wondering, my favorite perspective is from my momdad, seen as one unit because they can’t seem to take turns telling a story, nor can they stop editorializing, so they’re like a two-headed, story-telling juggernaut.)

My Point?

Though I may not have written epic fantasies when I was six years old, I grew up surrounded by stories.  My family breakfasts were proving grounds for telling the best stories, especially since we lived the stories that we told.  It really wasn’t a matter of us telling the truth or not, more like the truth abounded in the conviction that what we told actually happened.  That we believed what we said.  In the telling, our “characters” refused to be flat and lifeless.  My parents can make buying groceries a more interesting story than hearing about a multiple car pileup on the news.  They can’t help but be enigmatically complex and full of conflict.  When my family orders dinner or pays the bill, drama surely follows.

I realize now that I was silly to feel like I had to legitimize my claim for wanting to be a published author.  I’m grateful that I’ve been able to experience stories.  That I was born to a family of storytellers.  Though I didn’t necessarily scribble stories about princes and knights or ghost tale massacres, I told the stories that have surrounded me my whole life (some journals may have been filled with angsty-teen, anti-parent rants.)  Besides, we all have to follow our own writerly path.

So, I’ll let other writers talk about how they’ve been writing stories before they can walk, and how writing to them is like breathing.  For me, I can embrace my heritage of story telling.  If it weren’t for my family, and our stories, then I wouldn’t have become such a devourer of tales.  Creating more stories, albeit in written form, is just an extension of that.

Stories are my life, and that is not only a truth that I can claim; it’s one that I’ve lived.

SO TELL ME: What did YOU want to be when you grew up?

My Road to Simplicity

A Short Epiphany, That is Explained By a Long Ramble…You Have Been Warned

So, I had an epiphany this past weekend.

I realized that I was stuck in my story, and that I haven’t really moved forward in it.  (No, that’s not the epiphany part of things.)  Because of this “block,” I was forced to analyze my story, and untangle why I was so stuck, and believe me, I really didn’t want to, because I knew the answer before I even wanted to acknowledge the problem.  I was stuck in my story because I didn’t have the amazing plot outline that I thought I did.  In fact, in the universe of plot outlines, mine would have been that barren asteroid that astronomers overlook as kinda boring and useless.  (They’d probably assign it a boring number, too.)

What I was resisting before my epiphany, I realize that I actually have to face and do: I needed to get back to the drawing board.

Back to the Drawing Board

"Well, back to the old drawing board".

What I mean when I say, “Drawing Board,” are those lovely things that other writers may have realized and completed long before they even started their story.  You know, those little things like Character Biographies, World/Culture Building, and all the other lovely background informational resources necessary to make one little street in The Story seem like a vast and habitable universe to The Reader.

I think I would be more frustrated with myself and my writing talents if I didn’t know deep down that I needed to do this, and that this was something that I have almost consciously ignored.  I knew that I needed to do this from the start.  I did this to myself.  I created this “writer’s block,” and so this whole situation is a lot easier for me to swallow.  (Not easy, just easier than what it could have been had this been an unintentional, unconscious act.)

I ignored this planning stage originally because, well, honestly, I simply didn’t realize the magnitude of usefulness that an information repository would be, and also in part because I didn’t sort out my goals beforehand.  Let me explain the second part first, because it deals with my mindset.

I have explained mindset before, and how important it is for me to have the proper mindset, and this scenario is a great example of that (Not that I like admitting how slow I am on the uptake sometimes.  I should probably create a category on here called “Face Palm Moments” celebrating my obstacles, and the overcoming thereof.  Always stress the “overcoming.”).  🙂

“Write…”

I love road trips.  Each year, I need a really good road trip to quiet that restless drive inside me that tells me to keep moving.  I have discovered in my road adventures that there are several ways to get to a particular destination, and that I have to plan my route depending on the random sites that I wanted to visit along my way to that destination.  Each stop had a purpose.  Each route was chosen for a specific reason.

Part of my epiphany over the weekend made me realize that if I approached road trips like I did my writing, I would never have gotten anywhere that I wanted to go, and I would never have seen all the cool things I’ve seen.  My writing before this point was the road trip equivalent of me just driving, with no thought to where I was going, and basically just logging miles per day, without any real return on the gas-mileage-investment.  No real plan.  How silly would that be, right?  (Remind me to tell you guys of an 18-hour road trip to Santa-Barbara-but-was-actually-to-nowhere that my parents took me on.  Wait, I basically just told you about it.)

At least I finally did realize what I was doing.  And, the root of all this aimless driving?  I was so trying to prove to myself that I was a writer, and felt the need to constantly validate my status by writing, that I didn’t allow myself the very practical need for background work.

“…With Purpose”

Just like I’ve given myself permission to plan in other areas of my life, I realize that I needed to give myself that same permission in terms of writing.  My mindset was that my goal was “Writing” and if that was all it was, then I’ve accomplished it, given that I have been writing everyday since I’ve first held a journal and called it “Mine.”

My goal is now clear to me (and my subconscious): I am writing a Novel.  At the end of all this work, I will have a finished story in novel form.  Writing is the process for me to get that finished product; it is not the goal.  I know this may seem little, but to my subconscious, this epiphany is huge: I honestly thought I was moving away from my goal (“Writing”) and was wasting time with the background stuff, rather than seeing the background work as integral for me to accomplish my true goal of creating a Novel.

To that end, I am now taking the time to create the detailed Biographies, History, and other lovely background tidbits that are worth the time investment upfront to guide me through the middle of my story in the future. (And, allowing myself to love this process! I’m such a nerd about this sort of thing!).

Fear of Commitment

The other reason why I ignored this process initially is really quick to explain, but I’m kinda cringing about it because the reason is so stupid.  Sigh, here goes.  Truthfully, I was a little nervous about hammering down a “fixed” history of my world, because I was afraid to commit to one thing, one event, one history. Phew, there, I said it!

I have so many random pages of “background histories” that are always evolving and shifting (and, some that are freakily exact biographies and descriptions about specific characters, even though those biographies were written months apart.  Seriously.).  It’s almost like I felt that if I “fixed” them, then I was committed to it, and that there was no changing, ever, and what would happen then??  (Funny, how I never had a fear of commitment when I was with my then-boyfriend-now-husband, but my characters on the other hand…)

But, I had to come to the conclusion, oh so slowly, that having a fixed fact helps to create conflict/movement/action that my characters need to deal with.  (insert “Duh” here).  I can go on about how obvious this concept is, and debate on why I was so slow to realize all of this, but I will quickly divert attention away from my lame-ness toward some fun resources for character biographies, which can be found at Holly Lisle’s blog here, and at Natalie Whipple’s blog here.

Have I Mentioned That My 2010 Theme is “Simplify.  Focus.”?

So, one last aspect of my “Simplify. Focus.” Theme of 2010 includes simplifying this blog and the reason why I use it.

I created this blog initially because I love books: I love reading them, and writing one would be a marvelous extension of that, and would bring the love round full circle.  (But, I could totally do all that with my Moleskine with minimal effort.)

I also like being able to connect with a writing community, and hopefully find friends here with whom to bond over Worthy Nerdy Pursuits.  But, honestly, I can do that with social media.

Well, why have I kept this up, rambling on about my mindset and thought process, and basically allowing myself to look like a fool as I fumble toward my goal of creating a Novel?

Accountability.

I don’t have much accountability on my side of the laptop to keep at my words and world building.  But here, in my Happy Place, I can write about what I’m doing, and just thinking that I have other people reading and knowing about my progress (or lack thereof) motivates me to get back to work.  I can pretend that other people can glean some kind of insight from these random snippets of my everyday; that someone somewhere will be entertained by my Face Palm moments, and hopefully, can get started on better footing than I did; that I can be of value to someone else, and inspire them to act, just as other bloggers over the years have inspired me.

With that said, this blog will not be a Writer’s Resource to All Things Writerly (but if any of you find a site like that, please share!).  I can’t promise to be helpful or insightful, because to me, that would imply an authority that would be laughable for me to claim.  I can’t promise that this blog will be time-worthy in any way.

But, I hope that as I play here, in my Happy Place, that you will pull up a chair, grab some coffee (I will allow for tea), and share in my love of books, reading, writing.

Welcome, by the way, and please excuse the mess… 😉