This past weekend, I was both attendee and speaker at the fabulous Emerald City Writer’s Conference, held by the Greater Seattle Romance Writers (one of my new local chapters, yay!!). This conference has long been on my wishlist of conferences to attend, but I never imagined that my first time attending would be as a local member. And normally, I would have been freaking out like a wild thing because attending conferences for the first time is a huge stressor for me. I’m always afraid I’m not going to know anyone or if I do know someone, it’s going to be a person who hates me or that I’ll do something monumentally gauche and ridiculous.
Seriously—want to see me whimper like a kicked puppy? Tell me I have to go into a room full of people I don’t know and instruct me to introduce myself to them. I’d just as soon hand over my fingers and a stack of bamboo shoots and tell you to have at it.
I did not, however, have the Great Big Flip Out. Mostly because attending this conference was in many ways what attending RWA National has become to me. It was like coming home.
I got to hear my dear, dear friend Alyssa Day give the keynote the first evening of the conference and it got me thinking about some things. One was that after hearing her kick-ass keynote, I may never feel confident in attempting to give one myself (seriously, it was that good) and I imagine if I tried, I’d bore people silly. I don’t pretend to be any good at addressing large groups—I’m good with small groups. I love the give and take of conversation and debate and the tangents that can emerge. (Once an academic…) Second thing was if by some grace of the fates I was ever asked to give a keynote, what on earth could it be on?
Actually, that one, I think I can answer. I think it would be on writing and the importance of friendship.
I write not only because I have to and because I have stories to tell, but also because it suits my personality to a t. I’m fairly introverted by nature and am quite content with my own company, yet at the same time, I’m not misanthropic… much. I enjoy conferences because it allows me the ability to be social for a set time and then I can crawl back into my writers cave and recharge. But then, I started realizing the side benefit of conferences—I started seeing more people I knew. We had shared experiences! Similar ups and downs! Not since being a full-time musician had I found a tribe that welcomed me with such open arms. And even better than when I was a musician, we had the Internet to connect us and keep us together when we couldn’t physically be together.
Which is why I was able to move three thousand miles across the country and feel as if I’d come home. I had friends here, already. And it was like the old Breck commercials. Because then I met two friends. And met two more friends. And this past weekend at the conference, it was like an explosion of lustrous hair product. So many friends. Some whom I hadn’t even met face-to-face, but who I knew. Friends who have helped me through some of the worst times of my career and have been the loudest cheerleaders at the successes. For whom I hope I do the same.
I love writing friends. And for the first time in my life, I find that I love having women friends more than men. Publishing is such an odd, hierarchical profession. It’s one of the few where women really wield huge amounts of control, both in the buying/selling sector as well as the creative content sector. Yet, depending on the genre in which we choose to write, we can still be the brunt of much abuse and ridicule and outright bullying. (Which is a whole other keynote, if you will—publishing’s too damned hard for us to backbite each other.)
All my life, I pretty much related better to men than women—until I became a professional writer. The women I have met in publishing are so freakin’ smart and dedicated and savvy and take crap from absolutely no one. They come to writing from across the spectrum of life and career experiences and are so often generous with their time and knowledge. How many other professions give you that as well as someone with whom to laugh uproariously over highly inappropriate comments and innuendo and just the basic absurdities of life?
I guess what I’m saying is that if I was writing a keynote, it would probably be an exhortation for my fellow writers to go out and find those people if they already haven’t. To welcome the new friends and to allow yourself to feel welcome. Nowhere else are you going to find individuals who so thoroughly get you. Who will hold your hand and prop you up and cheer you on.
Thank you, to my darling, lovely friends for giving me such an amazing gift.
And thank you, Emerald City Writers Conference for providing the stage on which we could gather. This weekend will serve as a touchstone for the dark, lonely moments that are always a part of every writers life. I’ll be able to laugh, recalling any number of moments (usually in the bar…) and better still, I’ll be able to email or call any number of friends with whom the bonds were deepened just that little bit more this weekend.
Cherish your friends and hold them close. They’re the ones who’ll keep you out of the clock tower.