I went to the National Writers' Workshop in Hartford. First time I've ever been to a conference of that sort. I'm guessing there were at least 800 people there. Guess what! Most of the people were REAL writers (AKA people who are making a living writing, and only writing). OK, that was my perception. As the day wore on, I noticed that a there were a number of high school students, college students, aspiring writers, and others there to absorb information and schmooze and meet authors. There were people there who had been attending the NWW for years and there were workshop virgins like myself. But there were also, as I said, a lot of "real" writers; novelists who had been published several times over, newspaper reporters, editors, publishing professionals, you get the idea. Honestly, I spent the first few sessions looking around and wondering what the hell I was doing there in the first place. I tried to shake it off, but it wasn't easy. So I kept my head down, opened my notebook and got down to the business of learning something.
I went to seven sessions of my choice and three that were for everyone. I'd say eight of the sessions were really strong. The speakers were impressive, prolific (one author had published four books, all different genres, in 2006!), funny, and down to earth. I even managed to go up to a couple of them, introduce myself and strike up a conversation (WHOA). Those of you who know me well understand what it took for me to do such a thing. I attended a talk about blogging, one about publishing, and two about writing memoirs/life stories. I also went to a session called, "The Best Advice I Ever Got: An Answer in 12 Parts." That's where I finally got the nerve to talk to someone sitting next to me. I met a very nice couple who told me that this year's workshop was a bit more focused on journalism than some they had attended in the past. Also, they shared their snack with me. Hot cross buns with peanut butter. I highly recommend them (if you aren't allergic to PB).
OK, so, I took notes in sessions (a couple of speakers had us do quick writing exercises) and I wrote down some of the things that were said that maybe weren't "part of the script," but really hit home. Here they are:
Your work can save your life.
Nothing bad ever comes from having a book in the house.
It's very important to free yourself from excellence.
There are a couple of techniques I'm going to be trying out in the next few weeks (and maybe posting). One of the speakers suggested writing a letter to someone we haven't seen in a long time. That should be interesting. I also liked the twelve part answer on writing advice. I may post that later.
Overall, I'd say it was a good experience and I'm glad I did it. I still felt like a dork, but not as huge a dork as I normally feel I am. Just the fact that I did this is a really big deal (to me). In my world of baby steps and putting myself at the bottom of the to do list, doing something that was entirely about me and my own pursuit of writing, was a giant leap. I feel good about it and I'm looking forward to next year's event. In the meantime, I'm looking into other local conferences, bookmarking some of the writers' web sites I heard about and making a list of books to check out (some about writing, some written by the authors I met). Also, I am going to reward myself for being "brave" and a little selfish. My reward? I know that feeling like a writer should be enough, but there's some rocky road ice cream in the freezer, so that's where I'm headed next.