Monday after my favorite annual conference:
I AM EXTREMELY PUMPED TO DO ALL THE WRITERLY THINGS!!
Also: SO MUCH LAUNDRY!!
This year’s Pennwriters Conference theme was Mission Possible. I drove down with one of my writer friends and we had an amazing weekend. We hung out with other writer friends, made new connections, and learned about craft, the industry, and how to cope with rejection. We slept very little and laughed a lot.
Some highlights: I was able to spend twenty minutes in a one on one session with agent Louise Fury. I pitched her last year and used her advice to rework my title and complete a round of revisions on my manuscript. She remembered me and agreed that my previous title was terrible. (She thought the new one sounded much better–phew!) She read through my query, synopsis, and first pages and gave me solid, helpful advice. I’ve been dipping my toe into querying this project and feel confident to jump in with both feet.
I also got great advice from other industry professionals about where my story fits in the world. This is somewhat of a mystery as it is historical fiction with teenage protagonists and have always thought it should be YA. But I’m reconsidering whether or not that is the best place. While I love writing for teens, this particular book may be best suited for a different audience.
I took a course on branding; we had to sign up in advance and the instructor googled us ahead of time to identify what she saw as our current brand. I use my “pen name” (which is just a shortened version of my last name) when I write, and she googled my full name, which leads to links of my life as a teacher and my old blog. No surprise, my brand label was “PROCRASTINATOR”. I had a good laugh over that one, and so did hubby. But times are changing (YES, YES THEY ARE), and I plan to launch a shiny new website in the next month or so. Once I figure out what I want my brand to be.
One of the best things about the conference is connecting with other people. I know, I know, that sounds strange coming from a self-proclaimed introvert. But the people of Pennwriters are a friendly, caring bunch. Two years ago I drove down to Lancaster alone and was terrified of making small talk with strangers. But I discovered that SO WERE A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE. I’ve learned to recognize that particular fear on someone else’s face. That, HOLY CRAP I DON’T KNOW ANYONE HERE, NO ONE WILL WANT TO TALK TO ME/SIT WITH ME/BE MY FRIEND. The moment you realize you aren’t alone in your fear is a sort of freeing experience. One of the things I learned is that it’s okay to have those feelings, and if you keep pushing forward you will figure out how to work through them.
It’s true for a lot of things, really. I attended a session on rejection and the speaker talked about the physical and psychological effects of rejection and how we need to keep moving forward. The thing we want is in the distance–it may be right in front of us or far out of reach, but every step we take is a step closer to that goal. If we stop, if we let fear or hurt or self-doubt creep in and take over, then we’ll never get there. We have to accept the mission and know it is possible.
The board above my writing desk is decorated with things that inspire me. Pictures of my family. Pins I’ve collected. Encouraging words that lift my spirits. Here are a few of my favorite sayings, one from a bookmark, one from a fortune cookie, and one from my hairdresser:
It’s not being without fear, it’s having the determination to go on in spite of it.
It is better to attempt something great and fail than attempt to do nothing and succeed.
Success is available to everyone.
I am already counting down the days until next year’s conference. In the meantime, I have a lot to do. Apply the notes from Louise, send out my next batch of query letters, and work on launching my website. Stay tuned.