Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Post NESCBWI 2015 conference thoughts

It's been a while since I've written, mostly because I'm trying to wrap my head around this depression thing. Sometimes it's wrapping around me instead, coiling through my brain and lungs and heart, squeezing tighter and tighter until I cannot think, breathe, or feel. I'm working on it. It certainly won't win. I've never failed at anything, and I certainly won't fail at this.

So back to this post...

I attended the NESCBWI conference this past weekend for the first time. The workshops were so engaging, and the people were just incredible. I'd forgotten what it was like to be surrounded with people who love writing as much as I do. It was better yet because they all write for children, and that's where my heart lies.

I don't want to spend too much time blabbering on here, so I'm only go to describe what I feel has been the biggest thing I noticed at the conference: that I'm extremely lucky. Why? Because I have such an awesome support group of writers.

Over the duration of the conference, I spoke with tens of people. The subject that came up the most was critique partners, beta readers, support groups. Who do you bring your manuscript to once it's completed? How do you know you have what it takes to be a writer? When should you give up? Should you?

To quote agent Lauren MacLeod, "writers are crazy." We are. And we doubt ourselves and our abilities. One moment we feel we've written the next Harry Potter, and the next moment we're curled up in an empty party-sized pizza box with cheese in our hair and marinara down our chins. I've been there. Oh have I been there. And one thing has made a difference through it all. My support group.

Writers, we are not alone. We don't need to go it alone. Finding my group, a group of 2014 PitchWars mentees and alts, has made all the difference. If I need to cry, they're there. If I need to laugh, they're there. If I need to vent, to inquire, to joke, to hope, to celebrate, to staunch the crazy, to share a hotel room even though we'd never technically met (thanks, Rachel!), to find out where the hell in the world makes a pizza bigger than party-sized...they're there.

It's taken me almost three years to find mine, but I saw at the conference, those writers who seemed happiest, who seemed the most sure of themselves, all had their own version of a group. Writing is lonely, and, let's face it, most people don't understand exactly what writers go through, which is why finding a group is so important.

So yes, at the NESCBWI conference, I learned new exercises to open my mind to writing. Yes, I now understand the importance of blending emotions to create more complicated emotions, and I have more confidence adding diversity to my characters. But I also know how lucky I am to be a member of a strong writing group. The conference reminded me of it, solidified it really.