Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Wyoming Writers Conference

As I drove across the gray-green sagebrush flats, heading for South Pass, I looked in the back where my clothes hung. I’d packed in the dark, afraid to wake my husband and toddler. “Wow, did I really pack the brown pants instead of the black ones?”

I pulled over at the rest area and consulted the schedule, happily discovering that I did indeed have time to buy new pants as well as check into the hotel before the activities started.

I changed from my jeans, stained with slobber from cattle, goats and kids into the new jeans, brushed my hair and set out, unsure what experiences I’d find, but determined to draw something from the wealth that was being offered.

The fiction table was entertaining. So much talent flowed from the pages that were read and critiqued. I am constantly amazed at the caliber of writers we have in our state. After dinner, we filtered into the room, passing around a sign up list for the Open Mic session.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Come on. The winners are reading their works first. They’ll never get to the list.”

“Fine,” I hedged as I scrawled my name on the tablet.

And the list moved on, jumping from table to table as writers added their names to it. I was sorely tempted to cross my name off and add it to the end of the list, but it wouldn’t have done any good. They made it through and beyond.

My name was called and I took the mic, heart thumping in my chest so hard that I was certain everyone could see it even through my clothing. I read an excerpt from my novel, Saving Grace. It didn’t take the full five minutes, but it was long enough, especially for my stage-frightened self. “The Bear Excerpt,” as it soon became known, was quite popular. I was stopped numerous times on Saturday and Sunday by people praising and asking questions about me and my work.

I thought, “Wow. People really do like my stuff. It’s not just my friends and family telling me.”

Then the pitch session… There was a scheduling snafu somewhere. I was put on two lists at overlapping times. As such, I pitched to Ms. Wales, who very politely declined my manuscripts - all of them - but she did give me several tidbits of treasured advice. I missed the pitch to Ms. Turner and almost cried. Chris was very accommodating, and after some discussion, rescheduled the pitch.

Ms. Turner, with High Hill Press, was very interested in my novel, Bid For Freedom. So much so, that she requested a full! I’m so excited! I have my work cut out for me over the next month, polishing before I press send, coming up with marketing schemes and updating my woefully neglected blog.

For classes, I attended Pamela Fagan Hutchins’ classes on self-publishing. I am almost overwhelmed with the knowledge that she shared. After the classes, we had a great discussion about marketing and she gave me several hints along the lines of what to include in the marketing plan I’ll be sending to High Hill Press. She also put me in contact with an author that lives in Star Valley, only an hour north of me. We’ve chatted via email and are in the process of reviewing our schedules to see not if but when we can get together.

I met several amazing authors and I’m in awe of their willingness to help me. Their willingness to share their knowledge so that others can and will be successful. Their joy FOR me as I shared my wonderful news. I’ve met several friends and have already connected with them on social media, discussing what we learned and the experiences that we had.

This conference was everything I wanted and needed and was so much more than I even dreamed. As a mom of six, I arrived, frazzled and nervous - almost broken - having misplaced my creativity somewhere along the line. When I left, I was revitalized and overjoyed. Who knew I’d left my creativity in Riverton?

To the BearLodge Writers, thank you so much for sponsoring me. This opportunity will always be treasured. You’ll never know exactly how much I needed this. The phone call telling me I’d been chosen as the scholarship recipient came the day we got home from the week-long hospital stay as my son fought yet another battle for his life. THIS battle with his kidney disease was successful. He won’t need a transplant yet. We’re hoping for at least another two years before that event.

Thank you so much for allowing me to take a much-needed break and revitalize myself, to gain such a love for my fellow writers, for the opportunity to rub shoulders with greatness, and above all, to instill a confidence in myself that I didn’t have before. As a result, I am a much better person, a better wife, a better mother and a better writer. THANK YOU!