With Nationals coming up, I started thinking back about my first experience with the conference. My first time at Nationals was four years ago, also in New York. I wasn’t a member of RWA yet, and I had never been to a writers’ conference. I don’t remember where I heard about the conference, but I remember deciding to go with very little thought. Way to jump in the deep end!
At the time, I was writing with the goal of being published. I’ve written my whole life - at twelve, I even decided I would be a writer when I grew up - but for one reason or another, I had never tried to have anything published. In the summer of 2011, I had written one novel I hoped to have published and was writing a second. The first one came in at 185,000 words in its first draft, so I was also doing a lot of revisions. But I was determined - to keep learning, keep writing, keep pursuing publication.
So I took a couple days off work and I took the train into the city for the conference. There were thousands of people there, and I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t even really know what was going on. It was kind of terrifying for someone as introverted and shy as I can be, but I went to workshops and I soaked in as much as I could. I acted like a gluttonous kid in a candy store when presented with all the books. And I tried not to act like a giddy, tongue-tied fan girl when I saw some of my favorite authors walking around (I did not always succeed). I met some nice people who talked about books and writing and had some good advice for the first time conference-goer. I threw myself into it and crammed everything I could into those couple of days (people tell you to pace yourself at conferences - it’s good advice, but I never follow it).
I felt like I was a part of something, like I wasn’t so alone in my writing.
It was overwhelming and exhausting and absolutely exhilarating. I came away inspired to keep writing and to pursue my goal of publication. I joined RWA right after, and then NJRW. I registered for the NJRW conference that was being held in the fall. I was energized about my writing, about the community of writers I belonged to.
I still am, though I’ve had some ups and downs over the last four years. There have been disappointments and rejections. Those first two novels haven’t been published, nor was the one that came after them, but the novel I wrote after that, The Prince’s Consort, will be published later this year along with The Artist’s Masquerade which came next. I haven’t given up on the first novels. I like those stories and I believe I’ll see them published someday. I’m more experienced, more knowledgable, but I’m still learning. I’m still giddy at the thought of meeting my favorite authors and all the books and three days of writing workshops. I don’t think that will ever change. I don’t think I want it to.
If you’re in the area, tonight is the Readers for Life Literacy Autographing. It’s open to the public and there are some great authors signing. You can find more info here: https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=564.