|The great Jeffery Deaver and me at RMFW.|
Conferences are a good place to find out how truly enthusiastic you are about a subject.
If the entire experience is one big party, a running journey of discovery, friends and fun, you’re in the right place. If you find yourself slipping into depression and hating strangers because they’re interested in dental plaque removers and cross-marketing synergies, you have a problem. If your hotel room is a retreat and a cage and you find yourself watching daytime television rather than attending the luncheon, God’s giving you a message. If however, your hotel room is practically unknown to you, a place only where you sleep as little as possible, a storage area for toys and business cards of new friends and in my case, books—precious and wonderful books, then again, God is telling you something.
After years of hating conferences — really and truly despising them, they are now the greatest events in my life. I love them. I feed on them. The difference? I’m going to writing conferences and fan conventions. I’m hanging out with my people.
I just got back from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers conference (RMFW) at Westminster Colorado and I am stoked. Next week it’s Salt Lake Comic Con. Do I have a great life or what?
I contacted RMFW and begged to be part of it. I try to barter my talents as a presenter, as great or small as my skill may be, for a ticket to get in. I’m a starving artist and barter out of necessity. To my delight, they let me loose for two classes and I got a ticket to go.
|Colorado was much flatter than I thought it would be.|
I have some writer friends in Colorado, but they weren’t going to RMFW. The only people I knew before I got there was the organizer, Suzie, and her by email. Making the long drive from my home in Sandy to Denver, with Hunter S. Thompson telling me about Hells’s Angels, I was visited by “the fear.” Doubts and worries, mistakes I’ve made, choices I’ve messed up. I must be crazy to want to be an author. The looming loneliness of a conference of strangers, hundreds of miles from my support group. Vulnerability, failure, pain. My imagination went wild and convinced me I was driving to defeat.
Armored in tie-dye, free from rational thought, I approached the writers when I got there. They were easy to find even before we got our name badges. They clustered in groups and chatted excitedly about books and writing them. The first night was touch and go, I hung out with an old friend and that put my soul at ease. The next day, fueled by coffee and confident that I had 2 fans (Thanks Dave!) I dove in and mingled.
Now I know that people are people and all that, there’s good and bad in everyone, politics and pettiness to be found in every gathering (just look at what’s happened to the UAA) but I’ll tell you what, RMFW was for me a singular friendly, enthusiastic and supportive group. I didn’t meet a single soul I didn’t like. I didn’t meet a single hater, not one person who’d rather hide in their room than be with the horde. I felt no jealousy or competition. I’m not just talking about the others here, I am prone to those low feelings and I didn’t even get them. The vibe at that conference was that good. I had my usual roller coaster of emotions, I was self-critical of my presentations, again underdressed for the big dinner and didn’t impress every agent and editor I met, but on the whole, I was like a lightbulb in Tesla’s laboratory.
Writing is a lonely, isolating endeavor. A mind and a keyboard, hours, days, months, years in a fantasyland, bleeding on paper and then sharing the bandages. I think of us like Mountainmen, wandering the forests hunting for furs alone for years with our asses (appropriate image to be sure). Conferences are like the Rendezvous where we all get together to swap tales, get drunk, and reconnect with our people. Maybe we’ll sell a fur, I mean, a manuscript. You never know.
I want to thank the RMFW first of all for having a loud, over-enthused tie-dye wearing freak like me on the presenter list. I had a great time and hopefully did my part to make it as awesome as it was. Second, I want to thank them for making it as awesome as it was.
If you’re a writer and don’t go to conferences, you’re missing out. Find one in your area. If you’re in my area, look at my events page, I go to everything. Let’s hook up. You owe it to yourself to mingle and network, get educated on the business side and hang with other people who know the struggle and can rejoice in each others’ successes and yearnings.
Go. Even it it takes you eight hours driving alone in an electric car across the hot mid-day Wyoming plains to get there, you’ll be recognized and welcomed as one of the tribe.