11 Things I learned at My First Grown Up Writing Conference

11 Things I learned at my First Grown Up Writing Conference

I was lucky enough to be sponsored to attend the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference last week, and I had a great time. Here’s a few of the things I learned from a week of workshops and great conversations

1) There really are male, straight romance writers. I met one, and he was incredibly interesting and dynamic. Check out his website at aragrigorian.com, or better yet, read his new book, Game of Love

2) When you think a poem is pretty good and a Guggenheim fellow reads it and gives you feedback, you learn it really wasn’t, but it could be, if you work on it.

3) Once you work on it, the Guggenheim fellow will tell you it is “better.” Not great, or even good. Yet. Because it isn’t done. He does not mean this to be discouraging, and you should not doubt your entire artistic promise because of this comment

4) Staying in a critique group until 1230 at night really is fun. When you text your friends and tell them this, they will doubt you. This is understandable, because to most people, sitting in a room listening to people read their words and reading your own for 3 and a half hours probably wouldn’t be.

5)Stephen Chbosky, author of Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a humble, smiley man. I might even go so far as to say jolly (No, I didn’t meet him, unfortunately. I did hear him speak, though!).

6) When you read a feminist essay in front of a critique group of older white men, you may be surprised by their responses. I received very insightful, helpful feedback—from people who had obviously thought about feminism and considered it important and also happened to be cisgender Caucasian men over the age of fifty. It was awesome.

7) Travel writers get to do some amazing things. Like interviewing George Lucas, and getting trips to Australia paid for. They mention these things offhandedly, as if they are not terribly important details.  This makes them infuriatingly glamorous

8) At a Writers’ Conference, the first question people ask is not “What do you do?” but “What do you write?” I found this incredibly charming.

9) The Free Book Table isn’t as great as it sounds. It is mostly trashy paperbacks with hot pink covers or bad illustrations. You will, nonetheless, take a book from the Free Book Table, because it is there.

10) Paranormal Historical Fiction is a genre, apparently. I met a woman writing a book in it.

11) Finally, importantly—at a writers’ conference, you will be reminded why you love not just writing, but people who write. Writers are so wonderful to talk to. Just to sit and chat with. There was such a remarkable flow of ideas at the conference that I often felt as though I was buzzing, like my skin was electric.  I look forward to many more in the future!

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