I had a bad day on Saturday. Many things contributed, one of which was the knowledge that the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference for our region was taking place a driveable 180 miles away and I was at home having a bad day. My writing friends, including three fellow WriteOwls and two other members of my writing critique group, were all there. Together. Meeting new lovers of kid lit. Rubbing elbows with authors, illustrators, agents and editors. Talking about writing. Thinking about writing. Learning about our craft. Being inspired and motivated. And I was missing it!!!
I’ve attended a variety of writing and journalism conferences over my career and I’ve always enjoyed every minute of them. I learn so much during the seminars that I barely make it out of the room before I’m jotting down ideas for my own stories. Hearing the excitement in other writers’ voices as they share their latest projects is contagious. Seeing debut authors win awards for the manuscripts they toiled over for years fills me with hope that my books will one day be read and enjoyed by people other than my family and writing friends. I just want to write, write, write as soon as I get home.
And I do.
So what happens when you can’t attend a conference? Maybe you can’t afford to go. Even if the conference registration fee is reasonable, you still have to pay for hotel accommodations, travel expenses and meals. Or maybe you don’t have anyone to watch your kids for an entire weekend, or even part of the weekend. Or maybe you only work on the weekends. Or maybe you’re not well enough to attend. These are all legitimate reasons that prevent people from attending conferences.
Not being able to go, especially when I knew what I was missing, was dragging me down on Saturday. But then a surprising thing perked up my spirits. I got a text from one of the women in my critique group who was at the conference. It turns out that not one, but TWO, of my fellow writing group members won awards for the first pages of their manuscripts. While I wish I had been there to see the looks on their faces when their names were announced and to congratulate them with hugs and toasts instead of texts, I found their wins to be as affirming and uplifting as if I had been there in the room right by their sides.
I have known these women for years. I have witnessed their breakthroughs and epiphanies, as well as their frustrations and misgivings. I have read the words that have poured out of their hearts and offered feedback, and they have done the same for me. I have plotted with them, analyzed with them and helped them figure out who they want their characters to be. I have seen their ideas come together to form engaging, unique and, now, award worthy stories. To have participated in that process with them makes their accomplishments all the sweeter.
It’s thrilling to see your friends succeed. And, as I discovered yesterday, it’s just as motivating as attending a conference. When we get together this week for our critique sessions, we probably will spend the entire time talking about the conference. I’ll eagerly hang on their every word, and then I’ll share with them the word count that their achievements inspired in me late into the night on Saturday and throughout the rest of the weekend. Way to go, writers!