This week I’m stopping by a different sort of well. I’m in NYC for a writers’ conference – the Romance Writers of America conference to be exact. This is an annual gathering of writers from all over the country who focus on the romance genre and all its umbrellas. Now, I could spout off many different facts about how the romance genre accounts for the greatest percentage of fiction purchases. I could defend my choice of reading and rhapsodize about why I prefer a happy ending to my fiction.
But that’s not what this is about.
If you regularly make it a practice to let an author take you to a new world or a different place or a point of view that you hadn’t considered, then you are very welcome in my world. It’s the possibility of a new story, the comfort of a favorite one. For me, reading is absolutely key to having balance in my life. I have a great many non-fiction books, but the shelves are full of fiction, mainly romance, and that is where my sources of comfort and entertainment lie.
But I digress.
If the retreat in Asheville refueled my spirit, this writer’s conference is the creative top-off. The last few drops you squeeze out until the bucket is completely full.
My first national conference was in 1995 in the same hotel as this year’s. It was my first extended time away from Mr. Man of my Dreams and the gorgeous children, and I planned for it with a precision and zeal unlike anything else I’d ever done. I had outfits that were light years away from the Mom Uniform I usually sported. I had the bare beginnings of my now legendary (ok, maybe in my head) collection of makeup and I used it.
I talked (really stuttered my way through a conversation) with my favorite author. I hung out with friends from the New Jersey chapter, listened to workshops on characterization, plotting and research. I learned what publishers were actively looking for from writers. I was thrilled to be in a world of mainly women, mainly interested in the same thing. The energy was amazing.
I’ve been to the national conference all over the US now – Georgia, Dallas, Washington DC, San Francisco and Orlando – and while the surroundings may change, that energy is always the same. The air is full of possibility.
And after all isn’t possibility the basis of many dreams?
You can always tell the writers who are pitching their story to an editor or an agent. They have a hungry, thoughtful look to them as they near the moment of actually telling a publishing executive about their story – their baby, their dream. Then you can tell the writers who have finished their pitch by their excited conversation in the lobby with their friends.
It’s fascinating to watch people actively pursuing their dreams. You can’t be with a writer as she creates, but at conference, she is among her peers – all the other writers facing the same dilemmas in story telling.
The actual pursuit of the dream can deviate wildly. There are writers who just soak up the ambiance, meeting new people, savoring the experience to pull back out again when they are alone writing that book. Then there are writers who take copious notes, who are completely sure that if they listen hard enough and write every word down, they will find that secret key that will give them the publishing contract and open the door to the New York Times bestseller list.
There is always the chance of getting caught up in the “I want what she has” process. Since my first conference I’ve gotten to know many published authors and work with a couple of them. And there remain those aspiring authors completely convinced that there is a secret password that will gain them entry to the realm of Published Author.
In general, it’s the writer content to soak up the ambiance, listen and learn who will find that secret password on her own.
So what about the book that I should have written 12 times over since 1995? It’s still there, waiting for me to pay the correct amount of attention to it to finish. In the intervening 16 years, I’ve honed the craft of PR and promoting authors of all genres to wildly different audiences. I’ve made my own connections in the publishing world by listening and learning and paying attention.
I have every intention of fulfilling that dream of seeing the book in my head printed for all to read.
And in order to do so, I will continue to fill that well with the quiet of Asheville and the energy of the national conference. To find the balance of creativity and quiet, to listen and learn. To find all the fuel needed to fulfill that dream.
Laura Reeth lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with the man of her dreams. With kids off at college, she no longer plays the role of active, day-to-day parent, and has moved into the complex understanding-parent-of-nearly-adult-children role. The main difference is she gets more sleep now.
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