So, every year I go to this conference in Utah. I love this conference. In a way that I don’t think I can even adequately describe. I love it because it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow and become a better writer. I love attending classes by incredible authors. I love meeting agents and industry professionals that have wisdom and experience they are anxious to share. And also, this happened last year.
Oh yes this IS me sitting at the book signing, signing books next to the incredible Ka Hancock, who just happened to write one of my most favorite books ever. (Dancing on Broken Glass. You should read it. Tell her I sent you.) I read her book, I loved her book, I came to Storymakers in 2013 and I met her, then I came in 2014 and we signed books together. See? Magic happens at these conferences, guys. Magic!!
But also I love it because it’s a weekend spent with my People. (The capitol P is totally on purpose.)
Everyone needs people–people that understand us and relate to how we feel and make us feel accepted and validated. But I think writers need people even more. Because honestly? We’re kind of a weird bunch. We spend hours and hours alone, inside our brains, creating something that in many ways feels incredibly personal that we are then going to share with EVERYONE. Which, you know, can be a little stressful. There’s also all the weird stuff that happens inside our heads. Invented characters that feel like friends. Story lines that make us cry for how sad they are even though we’re the ones making them up.
The list goes on and on. Writing after hours when children are asleep. Squeezing in writing time when there ISN’T time. Getting bad critiques. Getting good reviews. Querying agents. Submitting to publishers. Recognizing the moment when your plot finally comes together.
Having people that GET all of that? It’s pretty awesome.
I knew all of this. I knew that meeting with my People once a year was awesome and amazing and my most favorite weekend of the entire year.
But THEN? Then December 8th happened and I realized JUST how amazing the Storymakers Conference community really truly is. So, here’s where it began.
At last year’s conference, my lovely friend Melanie Jacobson named me her Co-Chair for the 2015 Conference. Which basically means together, with the help of our amazing committee, we’re planning the entire shindig. (The fur and glasses were to prepare me for my new found stardom. Or maybe they were to help me hide. Or maybe both.)
Now, Melanie and I are pretty close. I have incredible respect for her talent and her smarts, but also she’s real enough to listen to my most obnoxious whiny “I’m a terrible writer and no one likes my words and I should just quit this whole stupid thing” moments and not make me feel like an idiot for having them. (Because we all have them, right? RIGHT?!) Co-chairing the conference with Mel was a no-brainer. She’s awesome, the conference is awesome: WIN WIN.
Except, the real honest truth? I have six kids. And a house and a dog and a spouse and also I write books. When I told my husband I was taking on this new conference planning responsibility, he looked at me like I’d just sold one of the children. An “I support you and I love you, but WOMAN YOU’RE SLIGHTLY INSANE” expression. (Except, Josh wouldn’t really support me in selling the children. Just for the record.)
There might have been a little truth to his statement. But I was (and still am) determined and absolutely convinced that come conference time, the year of sacrifice will have proven completely wonderful and worth it. The work of planning the conference literally begins within days of arriving home from the previous conference. In the past six months, Melanie and I have talked countless times. We have emailed even more. We’ve volleyed ideas back and forth and read conference evaluation forms and enlisted the brains of our committee members to create a plan that we knew was going to work. And it did work! Everything worked!
Until it didn’t.
When registration opened on December 8th, one little tiny glitch kept the registration site from going live like it was supposed to. ONE stupid little glitch. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It wasn’t anything we could have prevented or foreseen. It just happened. And it totally ruined my day.
Guys, it was hard. I didn’t eat until 5 PM. I didn’t do anything (Sorry children. I’m glad you found something to eat.) but grip my laptop in one hand and my cell phone in the other while I worked with Melanie and our registration team to puzzle out the how of what happened and come up with a solution that would make things right again. A lot of people were affected by the website’s failure–people that were trusting us to do things right. My biggest worry throughout the day was that people were going to be SO MAD AT US. Angry that things didn’t work. That the pitch session they wanted and should have gotten was full. That they stayed home from work/hired a babysitter/kept the kids home to register JUST when we told them to, only to have it all fall apart. In the height of my anxiety, all I could think was “WHY DID I DO THIS TO MYSELF?? I DON’T REALLY WANT THIS JOB ANYMORE.”
And then the messages started rolling in. Text messages from people offering encouragement and support. Facebook posts and messages cheering us on. Comments expressing gratitude and well wishes and casting a positive perspective and energy over the entire experience. People were patient and understanding and all of it made me want to cry. I even got a surprise package (CHOCOLATE) in the mail a few days later from a thoughtful writer friend who knew I could use a boost. (And the chocolate. Because THERAPY.) The day was awful, but it was so much less awful because of how incredible everyone was. At the end of the day, I was so proud of my community of writers–of the grace and tolerance and kindness that was expressed as we worked our way through.
I’m not a conference planning professional. I’m not in it for the money or the fame. I’m IN because I love supporting a conference that gives writers a place to be heard and understood and validated. I love a conference that is FULL of real-life, Look! Here’s how I landed my agent/published my novel success stories. But mostly, I love a conference where people are nice.
I didn’t write this post to beg people to come. (Unless you want to. Registration is open now!) But I will say this. There is no better group of writers anywhere.