Monday, January 23, 2017

New Beginnings, New Paths

This past weekend I attended my very first writer's conference. I went in with zero specific expectations but my hopes and dreams intact. I was prepared to be a sponge for all the keynote speakers as well as the instructors of the sessions. I had set up advanced reading appointments and found I was even more eager than I had anticipated. The moment I got there I felt at home among other writers of all levels.

I learned about the conference just five short weeks ago. I was attending a local author showcase at the Barnes & Nobel near my house and spoke to the lady at the table next to me. She told me about how she had attended previously and even found her agent there, landing a job writing for Harlequin. I decided to look into it thinking I could save up and perhaps attend next year. That thought nearly solidified when I saw how close the conference was. I was ready to make a plan to save up the money and attend in 2018 when I saw the list of keynote speakers. JA Jance, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jonathan Mayberry and the reason I made it happen this year, RL Stine.

I was first transfixed by the written word at the age of six when I could read just enough to get through the poem This Is My Rock by David McCord. It goes like this:

This is my rock
And here I run
To steal the secret of the sun

This is my rock
And here come I
Before the night has swept the sky

This is my rock
This is the place
I meet the evening face to face

I read that poem hundreds of times. I could close my eyes and see that very spot in my mind. I was forever changed. After that I read Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends cover to cover in less than a week. Keep in mind I was only six so I had to ask for help occasionally but I got through it and it became a permanent fixture on my bookshelf.

When I was in fourth grade my parents agreed to let me read a book in the Fear Street collection by RL Stine. They were worried I would have nightmares but instead I devoured them one after another. My teachers were concerned that I would read such scary books at my age but like many other writers I was already telling my own stories as well. My mom would tempter the horror books with something lighter now and then but ultimately she let me read what I liked.

For christmas when I was in sixth grade I received the first two Fear Street Saga books. They are still some of my favorite books I have ever read. I even threw a tantrum when my mom refused to drive me to the store the day the third book in the series came out. Those stories have stayed with me just as that first poem has. I was thrilled to speechlessness when I had the opportunity to have him sign a book and take a picture with me at the conference, something to check off the bucket list!

After spending the weekend among people just starting out like myself and those of the caliber of RL Stine is am not only motivated to move forward but I feel like I have a better sense of how to do that. One thing he said in his keynote speech struck me deeply, Always say yes. Say yes to every opportunity because you never know where it may lead. That made me think. There was a reason that author sat next to me and told me about the conference. There was a reason my idol was going to be there to draw me in and now there is a reason I am going to be able to move forward. I agreed to do the local showcase, I took the chance to go to the conference and to speak with him. Now I am not going to stop saying yes. I am going to look for as many ways as possible to try new things and grow into the writer I believe I have the potential to become. I cannot wait to see where this journey leads next.

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