WDC2014 was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended. I learned so much, including how not-ready my first book was for shopping (me shopping it to agents, not the book going out to buy shoes, or something), met some of the most creative/dedicated/fun people, and left feeling like a member of a supportive community. So to say I was looking forward to WDC2015 is a whale of an understatement. I couldn’t wait to get there, and spent the previous week daydreaming about experiencing the same incredible vibe I’d gotten the year before.
But after an hour at WDC2015, I knew that wouldn’t be the case.
No, WDC2015 was not the same for me as WDC2014. The reason? I was not the same writer.
*Let what follows serve as a tool for setting proper expectations in life*
You see, Ron the writer in 2014 was, to be blunt, a rookie (I had idiot there first, which I was when it came to writing/publishing/cons, but didn’t want anyone to take it as me calling first-timers stupid–which I wasn’t). All I knew about writing was I enjoyed it, and some basic rules (word counts for different genres, general query letter construction, etc.). Because of this, every word that flew out of every experienced mouth (get your heads out of the gutter, people) around me was the call of heaven’s shining trumpets. It was like I’d plugged into the matrix and downloaded the “Write a novel” skill.
I left the 2014 con armed with knowledge, drive, and direction, and have grown as a writer since then (not to say I’ve mastered it–writing is like most other skills in that you learn a ton early on, but keep on learning over the long hall). So this year’s con could not be the same as last year’s because I could not re-experience what I’d learned in 2014 with the same newness. The friends l made last year seemed to feel the same.
Now from that you’re probably wondering, “So, Ron, was going this year worthless?”
Let me be clear: It was absolutely worth going. I’ll be going again next year, too, and recommend these conferences to all writers. It was just different–and even, in a way, better.
Yes, after all that, I’d say it was better, because the breadth of my experience at this year’s conference was greater.
First, I attended quite a few great “advanced” (my word) educational sessions, including:
- Jon McGoran’s “Exposition & Economy” (which directly led to the breakthrough I needed for my WIP)
- Hallie Ephron’s “Revising a Novel: Step Away From the Blue Pencil!”
- Phil Sexton’s “Dirty Little Secrets: Learn How the Publishing Industry Really Works In Order to Become a More Successful Author”
Next, Jonathan Maberry’s, Jacqueline Woodson’s, and Tim Johnston’s keynotes were passionately delivered, entertaining, and inspiring. Three exceptional talents sharing their life and writing experiences. Tremendous.
Lastly–and I’ve realized this is the biggest reason I loved WDC2015 and consider it a better experience than 2014–I got to share what I’ve learned with the new crop of first-time attendees. Some of them include:
- A lawyer from my home state of NJ, whose energy and enthusiasm grabbed me immediately. She has a great self-help idea, and we talked about the importance of getting to work on a first draft. If she’d had a book out, I would have bought it on the spot.
- A smart, funny, charismatic writer, also from NJ, with an interesting traveling-across-space/clones/murder mystery sci-fi story. I’d read that! He also had the line of the weekend: “I like you, Ron. You have awesome fairies.” (I’m paraphrasing because, admittedly, I was a few drinks in when he said it).
- A Women’s fiction writer who grabbed me in a coffee shop across from the hotel to ask about how the Pitch Slam would run. She then ran up to her room to tighten/focus her target-agents list after I told her she’d never get to talk to the eighteen she planned on hitting in the one hour session (for those who’ve never done a Pitch Slam, you get three minutes with each agent, but will have to stand on line for most of them, which burns a good chunk of the hour).
- A MG Fantasy (yay!) writer, who acknowledged the dismay on my face when he told me his book was seventy-eight thousand words by saying, “Hey, it was one-hundred-thirty thousand, but then I realized I had two books in there.” After he described the story, I responded, “You might have three books in there.” Smart guy. I could see his books being successful.
Combine all this with seeing brilliant, driven friends, hanging out with (read: drinking)/hearing the stories and philosophies (“Don’t be an asshole”) of successful writers, and getting a few ideas for new stories, then yes, WDC2015 was a rousing success–just in a different way than the year before.
Can’t wait to see what WDC2016 has in store for me 😀
Thanks for reading,
*** SPECIAL EDIT ***
It’s been brought to my attention the description I wrote for one of the writers I met at the con conveyed a negative impression of that person. That is nowhere near the truth, but I take full responsibility for my words, so that description has been removed. I apologize to that writer for any offense.