As a little girl, I had a dream—to be a writer. Life ensued. I went to college and graduated with a paralegal certificate, then realized I hated the legal industry. I wanted to experience life, so I went to work in the automobile industry. Stayed there, in customer service, for ten years. Let me tell you, THAT was an experience. Every now and then, I’d remember the dream and write a poem. Enter it in a contest, got a couple published. Then I got married and had my first daughter. I had such a busy life, how could I think of my dream? Until the day my little girl and I were reading, and I thought to myself, “I love reading, have always loved reading. I want to be an author, have always wanted to be an author.” I decided to do something this time. I enrolled in a Writer’s Digest fiction course. Completed it, and began work on a manuscript.
Life interrupted again. We moved—twice. I had two more children, both girls. But the dream didn’t die. And ten years after I completed my fiction course, I decided to do something again. I bought craft books. Joined writing groups. And learned about writing conferences. Before then, I hadn’t a clue that there were conferences you could attend to take workshops and classes to learn and study. Places you could go and be taught by nationally recognized authors. Events where you could meet with *gasp* editors and agents, face-to-face. Boy, was I hungry for that.
I attended some small, local conferences. Learned what a pitch was. Realized I was nowhere ready to pitch to an agent, much less an editor. Honed. Studied. Absorbed. It took me having gone to four conferences before I attended the “big” ones—ACFW National and RWA National.
At conferences I’ve:
• Met my critique partners face-to-face and our relationship changed from just writing partners to dear friends for life.
• Met my mentor in person and realized I loved her just as much as I did on email and telephone.
• Met my agent in person for the first time.
• Pitched to the editor who ended up contracting my first book—the one I’d pitched to her.
• Networked with editors who I just like hanging out with because they’re fun
• Been blessed to have taught and encouraged other writers
• Realized how much I NEED conferences to feed my writing spirit
Want to advance your writing career? GO TO A CONFERENCE. Yes, it takes money to go. Plan ahead. Apply for scholarships. Sale the kids. (Ok, I’m kidding about that.) But the expense is worthwhile—you’re investing in your career. And for me? It’s investing in my mental stability to be around others in this crazy industry.