My blogging has slowed in November thanks to NaNoWriMo, and more on that experience shortly. But I'm emerging here mid-month to report on the New England Crime Bake conference, from which I've just returned, because I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves as new writers is get to as many writing conferences as our schedules and budgets allow.
Is it because conferences improve our writing? For me, no. My guess is that workshops or classes would do a better job there. The two reasons I go are networking and inspiration.
Networking: The first time you go, you won't know anybody. No big deal, though, because all you have to do is ask any random stranger with a conference badge a) what they're reading or, b) if they're having fun, and Bam! You're in a conversation and now you know someone. Repeat all weekend long, exchange lots of cards, send follow-up e-mails, and then--my promise to you--at every conference you ever attend again, you'll know people. Your new friends will introduce you to their friends, and so on and so on, and the circle grows fast. The same mystery writers go to these things, so over time the relationships grow from acquaintances to friendships. Friends promote and encourage each other. I met Vinny and Maggie (above) at Malice Domestic last April and we've stayed in touch via Facebook and e-mail. Seeing them again at Crime Bake was great fun.
Enter Inspiration: When I'm not masquerading as an author, I'm mothering three young kids, and when I'm not doing that I'm crunching data at NASA. Neither engineers nor kids, it turns out, care much about plotting, character arc, setting development, word count, revisions, deadlines, or the various and innumerable approaches to the creative process.
And that's okay. My point is that the people I physically see every day don't satisfy the needs of the writer in me. Only other writers do that. So when I see them at conferences, I feel charged, like my pen is on fire and my keyboard wants to type by itself. I can't wait to write. My word for a totally consuming need to write is Inspiration, and for a distracted working mom who often can't fit it all in, the inspiration to MAKE TIME is invaluable. So when I can swing it, I fork over the cash for conference registration and travel. It's worth it because it keeps me excited about putting words down.
Crime Bake, specifically, was a new conference for me. I've never been to a conference I didn't enjoy, and this was no exception. This was on the smaller side, so I met fewer new folks, but I was able to make personal connections with multiple folks I knew from Facebook and Twitter. Somebody please remind me to post about the importance of online social networking after NaNo is over.
Panels at these conferences sometimes offer tips about the writing process or marketing techniques (all useful info) but I find myself more interested in the panelists as people. Observing them in discussion, gauging their responses, I get a sense of them that transforms them from names on a cover to real people with engaging commentary and unique perspectives. This fascinates me to no end and makes me curious about their books. In summary, if you want to write, and especially if you're trying to learn more about publishing, please go to conferences.
As for NaNo.
Crime Bake put a cramp in my progress because I didn't write on either Friday or Saturday while I was busy schmoozing. But, on the whole, NaNo is working for me and I wasn't sure it would. There are two camps of thought about the value of NaNoWriMo and based on my experience these two weeks, I'm inclined to say that the usefulness of this exercise depends on what kind of writer you are. I'll elaborate on that in my end-of-month Stiletto Gang post on Friday, Novemeber 27th.
Until then, I'm going dark again so I can work toward my 50,000 word goal. See you out here in a couple of weeks and I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!