In the Company of Writers

This coming week, I'll be AWOL from BtO as I travel to Dallas for the national conference of the Romance Writers of America. This will be either the ninth or tenth such conference I've attended, and over the years, I've found my reasons for going have changed.

At first, I was there for the workshops. I attended everything possible (exhausting myself in the process) and nearly swooned to see Nora Roberts and many other favorites. I dutifully showed up at every reception and luncheon, and I went to every publisher spotlight to hang on each editors' words of wisdom in the hope of picking up a clue. (This is a good thing, as I was desperately in need of one.) I enjoyed hearing presentations by agents and more experienced authors and really picked up a ton of information.

I still swoon over a few authors and attend a few of the workshops. I still go to some of the publishers' spotlights, where I try to winnow possible shifts in direction from the chaff of propoganda and "helpful" advice. ("We're looking for a strong voice" or "I can't say what the next big thing is, but I'll know it when I see it." Now there's some wishful thinking.) I go to meet with my agent (a new one this year) and hang out with the wonderful folks from my publishing house. But mostly, I go for the company of writers. Over the years, I've made a lot of friends in the trenches. We've been in the business long enough to know that markets can shift, once-promising starts can go down in flames, and the most downtrodden author can soar to the bestseller lists on the power of a great idea -- if she keeps trying. We've learned the power of discreetly shared information and that we can learn much about trends in the industry simply by listening to each other, and we've learned that real friends root for each other. We celebrate each success and stand firm through the failures. When we're able, we reach down and give our girlfriends a hand up.

Just as importantly, I've learned to avoid the voices of doom. You know them, the ones who are always, always looking for the negative and predicting disaster. Disaster's a very real possibility in this business, but who wants to ruin the good times by constantly looking for it? To me, it's like wasting your whole life in a funk because you know you're going to die someday. Those Eeyore personalities can be contagious and ruin the whole trip for me, so I carefully keep my distance, just as I try hard not to squash the dreams of the next generation of emerging writers.

I'll give you a report when I get back.


Joni Rodgers said…
Have a blast, Colleen! I'll keep the coffee on till you get back.

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