Friday, April 16, 2010

On hectic weeks, Batman, and attending conferences as a writer

Since returning from the SCBWI Western WA conference this past Sunday, things have been pretty hectic. Good hectic, mind you, but still rather overwhelming. It seems like everything is on the front burner right now--freelance work, author appearance gigs, interest in my own writing and, oh yes, things at home. Here are a few personal tips: When you have a big family, you must make summer airline and hotel reservations early! Your fifteen-year-old will not be happy if you fail to sign him up for driver's ed. Two track-and-fielders plus one lacrosse player equals about 3 hours/day of carpool driving. And, oh, never neglect...
...Batman!

That, said, in lieu of completing my conference wrap-up (instead I'll direct you to some writer-bloggers who've done a great job of this: Holly Cupala, Dawn SimonJolie Stekly and Molly Hall), I am going to give you a professional tip about conference-going. It's going to seem a little counter-intuitive but, having left many a conference quite dejected and now much more often returning home with a sense of excitement and opportunity, I really think I'm right about this one.

Here's the tip: Don't go with a big plan...some kind of self-imposed deadline...A PUBLISHING GOAL. Instead, before you get to the registration desk, take a serious look at your work. Do you have something ready to submit? Or is this not the book, not the time? Let that be okay! If you do have what you feel is a hot manuscript, understand that your dream editor may not be sitting at the faculty table and, even if he/she is, you may not have the opportunity to connect (or you may just be shy). Also fine! In sum, don't attend conferences with some kind of label hanging over you like "aspiring published writer," instead...

Attend as a writer...a person who loves words and books and sitting like a mole in a dark room tapping on computer keys (okay, yes, my family sometimes does refer to me as "the mole"). Skip over a couple of those mortifying "First Pages" sessions. Don't attend every agent and editor's "What I Want to Read" presentation. Hit a few, but make sure to leave some time for listening to writers talk about their craft. Even if you can't draw a stick figure, spend a session with an illustrator and learn about that creative process. Ask questions. Buy some books by your idols and stand in line to have them signed. Look around the room at the wonderful people who populate your writing community and be grateful for their company on this difficult journey. Let the conference wash over you like rain, making you feel refreshed and renewed (and letting all the dirt of discouragement just dribble away).

This attitude has yielded me more joy, more friendships and, frankly, more success than the eager-beaver approach ever did. I think I began attending conferences in this way about the same time that I stopped caring if my book would ever be published (save that for after you write those glorious words "the end") and started writing my stories just the way I wanted to--so passionately that, as I type, my breath comes faster and my bones kind of ache. I like to think the novels are better, too.

4 comments:

Molly Hall said...

This is really good advice. I loved the conference, and I think I happened to do most of what you suggested! I vowed to myself that I would try to think of the faculty as "regular people". After all, they are! I tend to put them all up on pedestals and imagine that they have this power over me. I didn't do that this time, and it was helpful. We're all just people who love books and are trying to find a way to create and bring them to more children! We're all on the same team. : )

I just popped over to read your post and was SO surprised to see a link to my blog! That was so sweet of you! I wish I'd had a chance to meet you last weekend! Next time for sure... Thanks for the great post!

SWK said...

Thanks, Molly. I enjoy your blog, too. Sorry to have missed you at the conference.

Dawn Simon said...

P.S. - Batman is too cute!

Dawn Simon said...

Stasia, you are very wise. I love what you said here. And thank you so much for linking to my blog! I'm flattered.