First off, let me apologize for my extended absence. I became sick for a while, and it was quite miserable. Then I needed to get a few things together in order to attend my very first writer's conference, the topic of this blog post.
Over the past weekend, I was lucky enough to have attended the 22nd annual Pikes Peak Writers Conference: Write Here, Write Now, Make It Happen. I signed up for the event months ago, and that's when the giddiness began in my tummy. I was so excited about the idea of hanging out with a bunch of other writers, people just like me. As the date approached, the giddiness mixed with nervousness.
When I registered for the conference, I marked the little box that would allow me to submit the first page of my Work In Progress (WIP). The option I chose would permit me to remain anonymous, while another person read my submission to a panel, which consisted of an agent, an author, and an editor. So, at least I wouldn't need to read my WIP out loud while industry professionals tore it apart, and the audience laughed in my face, right? But the thought of this critique still had me nervous. What if they didn't like it? What if I was told that I was the worst writer ever, and I should just go back to being a regular stay-at-home mom? Gasp!
Another option I chose at registration was a pitch appointment. A pitch is when a writer speaks with an agent or editor about their book. If the industry professional likes what they hear, they can ask to see the writer's work. Simple, right? I could talk about my writing. Trouble is, I'm terribly shy. Again, what if the agent/editor I talked with laughed at me? What if I forgot what my book is about? Hey, it could happen!
Like I said above, I'm a shy person. I liked the idea of talking with other writers, it always makes for a great time. But what if I didn't run into anyone I knew and had to sit alone in a corner? Or what if I was talking with someone and I said something wrong? I didn't want to offend anyone.
But here's what really happened:
I did have my first page read to a panel for critique. I received some great advice for strengthening my writing, but the ridicule and laughter I feared definitely did not occur. I was nervous when the time for my pitch appointment neared. But a wonderful friend sat down with me and helped me practice what I would say. She really calmed my nerves, so when I walked into the pitch room, I remembered what I needed to. As for being alone and without friends, I couldn't have been more wrong. I've been a member of an online writing community for about a year now, and where not many of us knew each other in person, we knew every one's names. I was able to meet at least half of my online friends face-to-face at the conference, and each of them was as excited to meet me, as I was excited to meet them. I'm sure I put my foot in my mouth while talking with someone over the weekend. But no one called me out on it, so I'll let it go. Finally, not a single person at the conference would have told me to stop writing. The amount of support and encouragement present was empowering!
My experience has reminded me that, we humans, fear the unknown. I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone, always a scary thing. But whether we are writers, doctors, soldiers, students, or what-not, if we don't step out of our own little boxes every now and again, we will never grow as people, never reach our dreams.