23 September 2019

Conference Post Mortem and the ETR™

Graphic Courtesy of Broadleaf Writers Association
So, what did you do this weekend?

I spent my weekend investing in my impostor syndrome anxiety myself at the Broadleaf Writers Conference, held at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta. This is the second writers' conference I've attended but the first one run by Broadleaf (which I joined after the Atlanta WDW back in March). 

The two events can't even be compared! The WDW was a bit...haphazard? That's how it felt to me, anyhow. BWC19 was professional. It was not what I had feared - a get-together for the members of the BWA. It was welcoming and friendly, where WDW seemed like an "every writer for themselves" sort of situation. Could that be related to the fact that it was my first writers' conference? Probably. There were more panels at BWC than individually taught workshops, and that format - for me - has both pros and cons. I like the instructional nature of the individually taught workshops (especially ones that mention the Kobayashi Maru) because I am not coming from any kind of formal writing education perspective. But at the same time, the introvert in me would like to just sit back and take notes, and a lot of those sessions involve hands-on work. I may need it - I do need it - but it makes me anxious.

The panels should be just what I am after - a large room, lots of perspectives, no one asking ME questions, but at times they tended to drift off-topic. The tangents were useful, don't get me wrong, but I came to the panel for the topic. Still, it is not enough to register as a complaint, per se - the caliber of the panelists was high enough that I was there for them to say whatever they wanted, topical or not. Furthermore, this year I stepped WAY out of my comfort zone and submitted a piece to the First Pages Critique session. 

Yep, that was not a typo. I asked someone that I don't know - FIVE someones, to be exact - to listen to the first page of a piece I am working on and give feedback. Now, I went to the First Pages Critique at WDW and came away CRINGING at some of the comments. But I have been struggling for long enough that I thought it was time for some objective feedback. Full disclosure: I was certain that they either would not get to mine or that someone would have looked at it upon submission and relegated it to the rubbish bin.

Neither thing happened. They read out my words (which - y'all. I am so wordy! Ugh) and gave me some great feedback which at no time involved the words "Don't quit your day job." I don't think my feet touched the ground for the rest of the conference - or at least until the self-publishing panel where it seemed that the only way to make a living as a self-published writer is to go with an indie press or already have amassed a considerable fortune. I went with an indie press for my first Proud Racer book and it got me exactly nowhere, so that was discouraging to hear.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic experience. Every time I attend something like this, I come away with a list of things to do (or not to do) that will make the next one even better and this time was no exception. The thing that I learned about conference attendance this time is that if you are not careful as you are loading your car to head south to Atlanta, you will leave all of the clothes that you intended to wear to the conference HANGING IN YOUR BEDROOM AT HOME IN SOUTH CAROLINA. Thankfully I have a marvelous sister who, when I said, "We may have to make an Emergency Target Run," was already halfway out the door with her keys in hand at 9pm on a Friday. Big thanks are due to her, my brother-in-law, and my niece for folding me into their lives for the weekend. We MUST do that again, complete with the ETR™ and maybe a late-night bobbin winding lesson. I mean NEVER let it be said that I am not the life of the party.

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