Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My first writers conference...

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first writer’s intensive workshop at Ball State. Earlier in the month, I sent my synopsis and first nine pages of my work-in-progress. Needless to say, I was overly nervous, I always get that way.  Am I the only one? 

I checked in and was escorted to the Boardroom, and guess what, it looked like a boardroom. A large table took up most of the room, with leather swivel chairs surrounding the table. On one wall a screen displayed a computer desktop. Great, my work will be displayed up there, and they will read my stuff.  Why do I always get nervous when people read my work? 

The room was filled with all sorts of people, many who I found out later are amazing writers. I wiggle into a conference chair, and sit next to an older lady with white hair and a calming personality. She was working on a documentary on Nun's. The way she presents it sounds utterly fascinating. I'm going to have to keep in contact with her. Oh, and her son is a famous director, writer, and producer.  Seriously, how cool is that. Two co-authors across the table, recently acquired an agent, and are writing a book about a teen killer who stabbed her mother to death while shouting, "are you dead yet." Wow, all of these people are doing incredible things. Still another wrote about a portal to the afterlife on his farm. I love portal stories, after all, my book, The Last Stored is a portal fantasy.

The class begins as the two professors ask us to read our bio and our elevator pitch. My
heart thumps. Here come the nerves. Great, I didn't know we'd have to talk. At this point, I consider going to the bathroom, then coming back at lunch, but no, I've paid for the class. I look around the room, everyone else seems to have the same pained expression, or is that my imagination. I calm down. Someone penned a story about a Native American billionaire who couldn't read or write. So many wonderful stories and passions. Each and every one is turned on with their work, you can see the fire in their eyes. My turn, I read my bio and pitch about my latest work. Hey, they liked it, and no one booed.   

After the intro's, we move on to the meat of the class, the synopsis and first few pages. They're going in alphabetical order, since my name begins with P, I'll have a while to wait.  More remarkable stories, and writing. Plus, we don't have anyone annoying in class, you know, the one who always asks questions to make themselves look good. 

Time for lunch, literally a brown-bag with fresh fruit, and a huge turkey club, surprisingly delicious. They hand each of us a yellow folder containing critiqued pages. I scan the papers. Red and green mark the page. On one sheet there’s a long note comparing my writing style to Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, and The Giver. I'll take that. Yes, I'll take that. I breathe, and let my heart fall back into place. They think I have something here. I relax for the first time since I've come into the room. 

When lunch ends, we go over more of our work. The professors are kind, but thorough in their evaluations. Finally, it is my turn, Holly reads my first two paragraphs. 
"This is written well," she said. "We get a creepy, ominous vibe from her writing."
YES, yes, yes! She said a bunch more nice things, but I really can't remember all she said, ‘cause my insides were glowing. 

Doc, let me know the difference between like and as. I always screw that one up. Yesterday I spent my whole day, hopefully, correcting them in my novel. Then they moved on to the next name.

And just like that the day was over...

What? I just got here? Wait, I don't want to leave. These people understand me, they all have a passion for storytelling. In those few hours, we formed a group of like-minded thinkers. Funny, when you think about it. All of us come from different backgrounds, places, and even genders, but when we talk about our writing, we come alive. No one put anyone else down, we all listened, supported, and encouraged each other in our endeavors.

What's next? This week, I'm applying what I've learned, fixing all the mechanical issues. One day I'll be perfect, but until that day, I'll keep writing and fine tuning.

Someone told me once that writing workshops and conferences are addictive. Now, I know exactly what they mean.  I’m gathering all my available funds to attend one in July. The next conference, I plan on not being so nervous.

What was your first conference like? Your first meeting with other writers? I’d love to hear about it.