Finally finally finally I managed to be brave enough to go to this writing conference! Again, it's one of those things I'd heard about for years but thought, eh, that's not for me. I'm "not in that tribe." It appears these things sometimes take time for me and I must ponder them awhile. I would have gone last year except for all the weddings I had to deal with. So last year, I committed to going this year.
I was so excited!
But when it finally came I was very nervous too. I talked my writing/blogging buddy Kathy into going with me, which was good, because then we could be nervous together. Isn't it awesome how that helps?
Our adventure started on Thursday with Boot Camp. Both Kathy and I were assigned the lovely Janette Rallison for a boot camp instructor. We came prepared with the first 15 pages of our manuscript, all polished as much as we could on our own. We knew we'd be reading them aloud so both of us had practiced on our families, with mixed results. No, they were good sports.
We arrived that day and were joined by two other aspiring authors. We found ourselves a little corner away from the main location where there was too much noise and proceeded to take turns reading our pages. Each one of us got about an hour of time, first with the reading, then Janette's critique, and then the critique of each of the other three in the group. Yes. Scary. But also really eye opening. It's amazing what others see that you don't see. It never fails to fascinate me!
Here's what I took away from boot camp regarding my story:
- If there's going to be something to do with skinwalkers at some point in the story, I should hint at that right up front in the first chapter.
- Maybe I should even start at a different place? Some place more exciting perhaps?
- The YA voice is good now, for the most part. I've manged to fix that though there are places were it slips into sounding younger too. Many places left to fix!
- I talked about "hot farm boys" a lot in those first pages (trying to get that YA voice remember!) and Janette Rallison smilyfaced all those spots. She likes my hot farm boys I think. :)
- My characters meet at church. In Utah. I tried to non-denominationalize the church, but it seems to throw people off. If they are in Utah, I guess it needs to be Mormon. But I didn't want to make it Mormon, you know? So. Dilemma.
- So I could switch the setting, but it would really throw so many other things off. Dilemma.
- Everyone seems baffled that a 17 year old girl would be interested in finding the diary of her ancestor. I'm baffled they are baffled. I guess I was a weird 17 year old myself and I think that this (and thus my character thinks so) would be cool.
- But for the most part, no one blasted my actual writing. YAY! Progress I say!
After more than five hours of this, it was time to go home! There was a party later, which I thought about going to, but ended up declining. Kathy went though and she can tell you all about it!
Friday I came back for classes. So much fun! And food! I'm not used to getting fed at these things. But get fed we did. A lot. And so much socializing. A lot. Every time I sat down, at a table, or in a class or anywhere, someone would ask: "What's your name? Where are you from? And what are you writing?"
My name: This is hard question, as I've lamented before. I decided to own up to the nickname. Which was on my name tag, but in small print. Which would then throw people off since I'd say Suey but that didn't match my real name, so I'd hold out my tag and point to the small print nickname. Sigh. Why did I have to make things complicated and create this alter persona years ago?? :)
Where I'm from: TEN minutes away! Which was actually unique because so many people travelled from all over the country for this conference. Wow. Impressive. But being from ten minutes away is pretty dang boring. Sigh.
What I'm writing: The only thing I knew how to answer for sure here was. . .YA! Yes. YA for sure. After that, it's always a garbled mess. Um... speculative you could say, romance for sure, sort of paranormal (shhh, I didn't say that out loud), with a touch of horror even. But definaltey romance! I'm writing one that's set in the 80s! So, that's maybe historical now? Or maybe contemporary?. I don't know. I'm writing YA for sure though. Sigh.
The questions were hard.
But the classes! I learned how to get the most out of the conference experience (talk to people!), I learned how to write a page turner (make your characters suffer!), I learned the guidelines for writing romance (always end it happy!), I learned about POV (don't change it up mid-sentence! Oh, and make sure your character is noticing what he or she would actually notice, not what you the author wants them to notice!), I learned about what people who read the slush pile look for or don't look for (basically, stuff they like, something with a good voice and an awesome hook!), I learned about showing and not telling (get rid of thought verbs like see, hear, feel, know, think, etc.) I learned so much stuff!
Meanwhile I was texting my son in France as he ventured out for a weekend on his own and how had managed to get there to Lyon, but was wandering around after dark in the rain trying to find his hotel. But still, I tried to concentrate on the craft of writing.
And then, AND THEN, after dinner, we were treated to the most amazing keynote speech ever by Martine Leavitt. She said so many things that spoke right me and guess what. Every single other of the 700 people that were there felt the same way. It was seriously amazing. It brought tears to my eyes and everyone else too I think. When she was done, we all flew to our feet and clapped forever.
After that there were several things they called mingles, but I was so beat, I had no energy left to mingle. My head and neck and eyes hurt like never before. So I party pooped out again and went home.
Saturday Kathy was back! Our first class was an author chat. Several authors were "chatting" in different rooms, and we choose to listen to the debut author chat which included our new friend Amy Finnegan, and also David Powers King, and Charlie Holmberg. It was a fun chat and we enjoyed hanging with them.
In another chat that I did not go to, which included Brandon Mull, Jennifer Nielsen, J. Scott Savage and James Dashner, we learned afterwards some stuff that happened. Namely, that James admitted to almost quitting years ago. He knew he had to face J. Scott at a Storymakers conference which was happening soon after that. He knew he couldn't quit. He knew these people were behind him. He knew had to keep going. We heard he got choked up and the room went deathly silent, everyone weepy with him. But.. as you know, he didn't quit and look at him now. It's a crazy amazing story.
After that we went to Character leads to Plot leads to Character and learned that there is not one or the other that dominates, but that both of those elements tie into each other. Then we went to a Deep Editing class where we learned words like symploce, polysyndeton, anadiplosis, anaphor, asyndeton, epistrophe and the best one...epizeuxis! (Which, by the way, I used at the very very top of this post!) Then we learned how to archetype our male characters, which was totally fun. Is he an alpha? A charmer? A gentleman (yes!), an adventurer, a guru?
So much fun!
Then it was the massive author signing. I spoke to Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Jennifer Nielsen, Amy Finnegan, Janette Rallison, Julie Daines, Angela Morrison (who tracked ME down saying is THIS the famous Suey? LOL!) , Jennifer Moore, Josie Killpack, Sara Eden, and Ilima Todd. To name a few. :)
Then I went home and crashed.
But you know what? I've managed to write a bit each day since then because Martine Leavitt said if you only get one sentence a day, you are doing it!
And now that I've finally experienced this conference, I must say, I'm still trying to decide if I fit in. Is this really for me? Am I REALLY a writer? Can I REALLY do this thing? But I think if I can get out Martine Leavitt's speech and read it whenever I'm wondering this, I can and I will believe in myself and say without a doubt, yes, I AM and yes I CAN!