Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Joys of One's Own Tribe

I'm late, I'm late, and I apologize. I've been deep in the throes of negotiating a Very Big Contract and time just vanished. Rest assured I'll tell you all about it when it finalizes. Now back to your scheduled blog...

by Janis Patterson

Writing is intrinsically a lonely profession. The image of a novelist is often of a lionized celebrity, attending cocktail parties and book signings while surrounded by adoring fans, living life to the fullest in a haze of continual publicity - and, of course, being fabulously wealthy. Mention this to any working novelist and they will probably burst into semi-hysterical laughter.

The reality is not nearly so glamorous. Getting up or staying up at odd hours to fit your writing around your real life schedule of family, job, etc. Working all alone in a room filled with your imaginary friends. Your working clothes are often either sweats or t-shirt and shorts and sometimes your hair isn't even washed. For days on end the only person you see besides your family is the postman.

I believe that's why writers' conferences are so popular and so necessary, especially when the writer can't attend or doesn't have a nearby writers' group. The Husband (who moonlights as my assistant) and I just returned from the NINC conference in Florida. NINC is Novelists, Inc., an association of working professional writers in all genres and their annual conference is a benchmark of both professionalism and pleasure. For four days working writers can get together and share experiences and hopes and problems with people who actually understand.

Don't get me wrong - I think that today's published authors should help those unpublisheds coming behind them, but not to the extent that far too many of some unpublisheds think they should. Working professionals deserve a time to themselves, where they can talk of things important to them and not have to explain or define.

When you talk with someone about the capriciousness of Amazon's algorithms or the sudden disappearance of the also-boughts, the pain and ethics of shedding an unproductive agent or the heartening discovery of a new editor it's inclusive to be able to do so with someone who realizes and appreciates what you're talking about. There are also the inevitable in-jokes and recalled histories of past conferences, renewed conversations with old friends seen only at this conference, the making of new friends, and let us not forget the enjoyable meeting of someone whom you admire and who just might become a friend. (This happened to me - at the very first NINC conference I attended I was fortunate enough to meet a lady whose writing I had admired for years. We have become fast friends, which is something I never would have dreamed might happen!)

And don't forget the workshops. In addition to the joy of being with your own kind and the fun such gatherings engender, never forget that a conference is a working occasion. NINC is a particularly intensive conference, with (at the last one) three workshop tracks running together, beginning at 9 in the morning, breaking for lunch and then resuming again until 5:30. There is then a dinner break, and the Night Owls, specialized chat sessions which start at 7:15 and end up around 10. There are industry-sponsored nightclub gatherings and drinks parties, banquets and... well, you get the idea. Sleep rapidly becomes optional. In spite of the conference being held at the luxurious TradeWinds Resort right on the water's edge in St. Pete's Beach The Husband and I only got to walk on the beach once, on the day the conference ended. Beaches are everywhere, we rationalized; we came to NINC to learn and interact with others of our kind.

Yes, it is nice to have a tribe of your own. I recommend it heartily.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

In the past, I enjoyed attending a number of writers' conferences. It is nice to be able to converse with other people who have similar interests.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great bit of interesting info Janis!
Thanks for sharing
Good luck and God's blessings

authorlindathorne said...

What an exciting reason for being late. Interested to hear about this new contract. Yes, writing can be a lonely profession. I'm surrounded by so many fellow authors that I run into at writing events though. That helps a lot.

Earl Staggs said...

I love hanging with other writers. Normal Normal, sane people just don't understand us. Can't wait to hang with you at Bouchercon and anxious to hear your big news.

Morgan Mandel said...

Conferences are great for learning and also bonding with those of us who are in the same boat. And there are usually choices on different levels for those who need help in specific areas. Unfortunately, I haven't been to one in a while since retirement.