Saturday I attended the 14th Annual White County Creative Writers Conference . It was definitely an experience worth mentioning here.
You know how they always tell you that growth can sometimes be painful? Man, they weren't kidding!! I joined the writers group here in my hometown four months ago. It was one of my many steps to start taking my writing seriously and develop my craft. My wife Kim had to accompany me to the first couple of meetings for moral support (thanks honey), but I forced myself to go. Have I mentioned that I don't do well in social gatherings! Anyway, I discovered the group was made up of 90% women, and the average age of the members was north of fifty. I also learned that the organization was hosting a writers conference right here at a local college. 'Sign me up', I thought. This could be another learning experience and growth opportunity.
What I didn't realize, (maybe I did realize it, but I just didn't make the connection) was that the speaker for the conference was a successful Romance Writer (Jodi Thomas if your interested). That meant that 95% of the audience (the ones that had a clue) were aspiring romance writers, and 99% of them are women! And the majority of them looked like your typical grandma. That's right, you no longer need to wonder what women do after they make a career and raise a family. They write romance novels. And I'm talking the steamy sex books with covers depicting a bare chested cowboy playing with his rope.
I was in a room with 75 of these women, and three other men. I think one of the other guys was gay, and the other two were there for the food. Needless to say I was uncomfortable. But I stuck it out and actually learned some good stuff.
What I learned wasn't so much about the craft of writing, but more about what it takes to get published. Her stories about the connections she made with agents and publishers at writers conferences (ones much larger than this one) illustrated a point I had only suspected. Once you get your novel polished enough to be sold (published), it takes more than sending out umpteen query letters and crossing your fingers.
There was something else I gained insight to, and it was unsettling. One of the main themes Jodi Thomas constantly hammered on during the day, was working hard and persistence. She talked about using stop-watches to track the amount of time devoted to writing each week, about making schedules, about spending money on classes and conferences like the one we were at. She espoused the belief that it was only a matter of time before we would be published, if that's what we really wanted. She told us what we wanted to hear.
Not once did she bring up the fact that there were those in the room whose writing may not be entertaining enough for mainstream publication. It's a reality that I think deserves at least a mention.
I guess it wasn't a very romantic notion, though.