Today I’m vaulting back in time to 1984 and my very first writers conference in Manhattan. At the time I’d sold my first book, but it hadn’t yet been published. I was such a newbie. What was I doing at this conference with people like Mary Higgins Clark and Lawrence Block? Me, who wasn’t sure of so much and had somehow managed to sell a book by mistake. Had anybody actually read it? Was it as bad as I thought? (As a matter of fact, it probably was.)
One reason to go to New York was to meet my agent for the first time and see why on earth I’d sold a book. Since the conference was at the Roosevelt Hotel, held by what was then Romantic Times magazine, lots of professionals were in attendance. I was going to meet my new editor, Roz Noonan who later became an author herself. Plus I was rooming with the friend of a friend, Terri Blackstock, who later went on to become a star in Christian romance, although at the time, like me, Terri was a new author wondering what she was doing and why.
Most of all, I remember:
- Feeling terrified I would say something silly
- Feeling like a fraud because surely my work wasn’t really good enough to be publishable
- Feeling frightened of New York City, which seemed far too important for little ol’ me.
I remember sitting in the hotel bar and having a lovely young woman in a cute little hat ask if she could sit with us and chat a few minutes. That woman was JoAnn Ross, and we’ve stayed in touch through the years. It’s been fun to watch her career develop, as well as the career of Joan Johnston, dressed in cowgirl gear that weekend, and already so much more focused and professional than I will ever be.
Fast forward to tomorrow. I leave for the annual Novelist’s Inc. conference in St. Petersburg Florida. Can it really be more than 30 years later? NINC is an organization for multi-published authors, one I’ve belonged to since its inception, and the only writer’s group I now belong to. While my first conference was all about meeting publishers, agents, other writers, and listening to pep talks, this one will be focused and professional. I may have been in this business a long time, but many of these woman are so much more aware of the publishing climate today and how writers can and should wend their way through independent publishing, ebooks and self-promotion.
I’ll get lots of information and I promise to share anything I think you’ll find interesting, as I did last year. But more important? I’m going to have fun. Just as I did for that first conference, I shopped the summer sales today. I bought goodies to eat in the room. My roommate this time is my husband, who promises to whisk me out to the beach whenever I have time between workshops. And I’ve already planned dinner at Cafe Habana in Gulfport (where I grew up) with several writer friends in my online book club. So surely, this will be less stressful than that first conference, all those years ago. Or will it be?
- Am worried I’ll say something silly
- Still feel like a fraud
But I’m definitely not frightened of St. Petersburg, FL since I grew up just a few miles away. I’ll be home. And that, and thirty years? Well, that should make all the difference.