When I head off to a writer’s conference of any kind, handsome refers to it as going to see “your people.” He knows we are a tribe of our own, with our own culture, language, and traditions. It’s true. Only people in publishing get into heated debates over the readability of sans serif fonts, or the evils of single-spaced text, or dangling modifiers. I suspect most people could not–even at gunpoint–define a gerund. Perhaps they feel the same enthusiasm about the finer points of grammar as I feel about calculus. So be it.
As long as writers make stuff up the world will enjoy books, television shows, and movies. When I hear someone say “I haven’t read a book in years” or “I don’t like to read” my heart breaks. So when I spend time with writers, I feel renewed, valued, and fully alive in the moment. They share my passion. They, too, labor in isolation and send their work out into the world. Musicians, dancers, and painters can enjoy seeing reactions to their work. Authors? Not so much. Sales are an indicator. Requests for autographs happen, but largely, authors and the consumers of their work don’t meet. This is one reason writers thrive at conferences and retreats.
The September Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) gathering in Albuquerque was part retreat and part conference with workshops, panel discussions, book signings, and downtime to write. Limited to 100 people, it was an intimate and productive event. I met Kerry Lonsdale, author of Everything We Keep, and she took a selfie with me for her blog. If I look like a deer in headlights in her photo, well, it was from shock that she wanted a photo with me. She was as excited about her next book as a newbie author. Her enthusiasm tells me that the thrill of publication doesn’t dull after umpteen bestsellers.
During downtime between events people huddled outside on the oh-so-comfy lounge cushions on the patio, out by the pool, in the restaurant, in their rooms, in the common rooms, and wherever they could find space to write. There were the pen-and-paper scribes and the laptop users quietly creating new worlds and new characters. At mealtimes writers shared advice, goals, and lessons learned.
After days of Mexican food, two authors, Jennifer Fromke and Normandie Fischer, welcomed me to join them for lunch at a small French restaurant in Old Town called La Crepe Michel. These gracious, talented multi-published authors shared their wisdom and friendship which made the conference perfect. Weeks earlier, I had read one of Jennifer’s books and reviewed it when I learned she would be at the conference. The book reminded me of summers in Wisconsin and Michigan. She perfectly captured the culture and environment. Her characters rang true and familiar. I brought the book to the conference for her autograph.
Jennifer introduced me to Normandie’s stories. Heavy Weather and Becalmed are both set in North Carolina. Two from Isaac’s House was a Romantic Times Top Pick. While I was making a mental note to read one of Normandie’s stories, she gave me her novella From Fire into Fire.
The local independent bookstore Bookworks set up shop in the Fireplace Room at the hotel. Bookworks sold the works of the authors attending the conference to the public. Like kids in a candy store, the authors bought each others’ books. A law-enforcement workshop took over part of the hotel and conference rooms. They too shopped in the Fireplace Room and hunted down authors for autographs. Nancy of Las Cruces, New Mexico stopped me for an autograph. She made my week perfect.
Thank you, Nancy, for buying my book. And thank you, Normandie and Jennifer, for your kindness and encouragement. Last of all, thank you, readers, for sharing my passion for story.
Back to my writing cave.
This was by far my favorite of the writers’ conferences I’ve attended. The rains have returned to WA, so thanks for the sunny reminders of a wonderful time.
What a nice recap of this event. It was my first, and hopefully not my last, WFWA retreat. I have been to quite a few conferences, but this retreat was different. It was intimate, and personal. It was work (thanks to Margie Lawson), brainstorming, relaxing, bonding, and so much more. Being with people like yourself gives you a moment of reprieve. Someone else gets you! We work and write in isolation most of the time, and like you so poignantly point out, no one really wants to talk about writing, let alone get excited about it. The utter support you got at this conference was worth every dime. People are not competitive, but truly helpful and your own personal cheering squad. It was….lovely. I can’t wait for next year.