After two months of nervous excitement, the time came to break out of my literary and introvert comfort zone. I decided in January this would be the year I’d burst out of my comfortable yet isolating writing cocoon. I needed to meet other writers and artists who are called to the creative realm. Those who find the most peace and happiness when they are creating, but also understand how difficult a world it is to exist in.
Researching and planning my trip to Blue Ridge, Georgia was easy. Entering the bustling Arts Center without a wingman or a feeling of belonging was not. My inner introvert would rather go to the dentist than face a social event alone. Plus, this being my first writer’s conference, I assumed everyone would see novice written all over me. Like the one bee in the busy hive doing everything backwards.
However, I quickly learned a large percentage of the attendees were novices, and like myself, had attended the conference alone. The sense of belonging and the feeling of safety to create in a judgment free space embraced me soon after.
My favorite part of the conference was that first day, seated in a studio gallery amongst a creative melting pot of minds. For four hours we were challenged to make vision statements, to write under time constraints with added twists and turns and to find our voice. The workshop taught us about our writing styles and the mix of those around us. From a hip geriatric’s erotic turn to the petite angelic woman’s violent take, I loved being surprised to hear everyone’s interpretation of the writing assignment.
I felt the warmth of community surrounding me, allowing me to openly share some of my flash fiction pieces with little fear. Every time my hand rose to speak, I shocked myself.
The next day started with the keynote speaker, who’s debut novel gained positive reviews from many including the New York Times and the Oprah magazine. She spoke of the story’s inception, her process for writing and how she landed an agent and publisher. She expressed how surreal and nerve wracking it was to have her book published then soon after be flown to New York City for a radio interview in which she followed behind Salma Hayek.
I sat with her at lunch and told her that I wrote much in the same way she did when it came to fiction- “through the process of discovery” as she put it. With memoir, I know what happens, but with fiction I write on fire. The characters speak to me, and some days it’s hard to keep up. I find the journey is more fun that way. She quoted E.L. Doctorow, “ It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
I experienced my first professional critique, which was scary and eye opening. It was the first time a complete stranger had read a small excerpt of my book and gave me feedback. The best thing I took away from that meeting was not at all what I expected, and it took me two days for it to sink in. But that’s for another blog!
All in all it was a fun learning and growing experience. I nudged myself outside my introvert bubble all weekend and made myself proud. I don’t know about you, but I am 99.5% more apt to beat myself down than build my psyche up. So to feel a sense of accomplishment in myself is a big feat- and a great feeling.
Shout out to the Blue Ridge Bed and Breakfast crew for making my first stay special. They got up early on Saturday morning to make a delicious breakfast for me, ahead of the others guests, so I could get to my classes on time and with a full belly. They were the icing on the cake for my weekend away. And thanks to Nancy M, who befriended me in the first workshop and let me know there was bigger writer’s conference in my own back yard the first weekend in May.
I hope to continue breaking down my introvert walls and push myself to learn and accomplish more by the end of 2017. Excited for conference number two!
“ The only thing that stands between a person and what they want from life is often the will to try it and the faith to believe it’s possible” ~ Author Unknown