Sunday, May 22, 2016

Having a Life Goal

I used to say that I was so jealous of people who had a goal for their life. The ones who knew that they wanted to be a doctor or a teacher or whatever. Me? I would shake my 20-something head and say with a laugh that I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But that isn't the truth, is it? Because I've always known. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be an author. Alongside fleeting notions of being a ballerina or, at one point, my life's ambition to be a lifeguard, it was constant. I would draw pictures of the books I would write someday. I came up with lists of titles and wrote fake obituaries about myself and my body of work (okay, to be slightly less morbid, that was a class assignment in middle school!). I daydreamed of pen names and genres.

Which is to say, I have always known exactly what I wanted to be when I grow up. But it isn't a "real" dream, it isn't a practical one like being a doctor or a teacher. It's more like wanting to become a movie star. Honey, it probably ain't gonna happen, and you better get real good at waiting tables in the mean time.

I suppose in one way I am lucky that it is the writing bug that bit me. Writing is probably one of the artistic pursuits that is most amenable to having a day job. I don't have to be flexible to attend auditions on short notice. I don't need to time the light just right or try to get all the paint out from underneath my fingernails. I don't need to spend a lot of money on fancy gadgets. I just have to write. And so I can pretend to be a good, honest, upstanding citizen from 9 to 5 while I spin tales of folly and fantasy on nights, weekends, and lunch breaks. I don't even have to live in poverty!

But it still takes its toll. I try to set goals for myself that are within my own control. Write X amount of hours or words. Read this book or try this writing exercise. Send X number of queries. Let the externalities come when (and if) they will. But there is no denying that my real goal--the deep, burning hope for my life--is to be a full-time, published author. It is for people to read my books far and wide. It gives me motivation and fire, it forces me to be better, to strive, but it also sets me up for endless disappointment. I can't just go to medical school and come out the other end with my certificate. There is so much luck and timing and talent and skill that all have to come together. Some of it is in my control, some of it is not. I may never achieve my life's goal. I might die a disappointment to myself.

I guess that is the risk of having a life goal!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

My First Writing Conference In Review

Well, Las Vegas is in my rearview mirror and along with it the 2016 Las Vegas Writer's Conference.

I had a great time, and I am very glad that I went through with it. I am particularly glad that I got to meet, pitch, and learn from real-life literary agents. I am at that point in my writing career where I am sort of hyper-focused on landing an agent. Yes, I know there are next levels after that, but for now I can't worry about those. And when almost all of my interaction with agents is through sending queries and receiving form rejections or silence in reply, it feels like trying to read tea leaves. Getting to hear things straight from the horse's mouth was invaluable.

As far as the craft workshops, they were good. I think they would have been super helpful for me like 4-5 years ago. As it was, they were mostly just refreshers of stuff that I've seen elsewhere. And so I am still in the position of trying to figure out the how of craft rather than the what. But that's a lifelong journey, no?

I got up at 6 AM on Thursday for the 5-hour drive to Vegas. After checking in, I hit up Edit Yourself into Print (give by an agent, one of my favorites of the conference), How to Write a Blurb that Sells, and Before You Jump into Self-Publishing (a sobering look at the harsh reality of self-pub). Then there was a happy hour and ice breaker event. Which was good, but also really long. By the time 7 PM rolled around, I was desperate for some alone time! Had to hit up the gym for my training plan, and by the time I got out of the shower at 9:30 PM or so, I was done for the day. Gotta love the light and music show outside my window at 10 PM as I was trying to sleep!

Friday was an all-day affair at the conference. Breakfast with some words from an indie author on the faculty, then 14 Things to Revise in Your Manuscript, my first pitch session, and The Art of Pacing and Tension. Lunch had a first page panel (5 of the faculty read first pages in front of everyone and pointed out where they would stop reading and why). Then Getting Sassy with Subtext, Story Engineering, and Write Dialogue Like a Playwright. Dinner had another first page panel. These panels were some of the best info I got the entire weekend. I only wish my pages would have been drawn!

Friday night after dinner I escaped for some alone time on the Strip. Walked around for a couple hours, watched the fountains at the Bellagio, and ate a second dinner of burger, fries, and boozed-up milkshake. Totally worth it!

Saturday was the last day of the conference. Breakfast had another indie author from the faculty speaking, then World Building in Fiction, How to Hook an Agent, and my second agent pitch. I skipped out to go for a training run and check out of my hotel room, so I caught only the very end of the lunch panel, which was a couple agents talking about how to spot scams. Then the afternoon was The Agent/Client Relationship and Whose Story is This? That finished out the workshops, and then there was a dinner with a keynote address from Larry Brooks. After that, I had to head out, as I had another 5-hour drive!

As you can see, it was a super packed weekend. There were so many great faculty members, awesome fellow writers, and lots of good choices for the workshops. It was rather a whirlwind of a weekend, but in a good way!

Now to swallow my doubt and send out the requested materials...eek!

Reports from the conference and thoughts in the aftermath.