I’m writing a novel. I’m not yet writing at the level to which I aspire, but I want to give this story every chance to succeed. That’s why I’ll be attending writers conferences this year, and hopefully for many years to come. Writers conferences offer education on a variety of subjects, plus opportunities to network with other writers. Over the weekend I attend my first: the Sierra Writers Conference.
The morning of the event, I was excited, but not especially nervous. After all, I’ve attended wildlife conferences. I’ve spoken at wildlife conferences. How much different can a writing conference be? It turns out the conference itself wasn’t much different – but I was. I was not myself.
“Have you been published?” asked a fellow writer as we waited for the morning’s first session to begin.
“Not yet,” I said. I was thinking of my fiction, the reason I chose to attend this conference. I didn’t realize my error until hours later.
YES. I’ve been published: I’m the lead author of a paper in a well-known ornithological journal, published as an outcome of my thesis research. I’ve worked with editors, been through the peer-review process, and successfully revised my manuscript for publication. I’m proud of that, and I’m embarrassed to have forgotten.
However. Forgetting that I am a published author was not the most horrifying part of the day. That distinction goes to the moment when a woman asked, “What’s your novel about?”
Ok. I’d expected this question. It was probably the question that I was most prepared to answer. This story first came to me as a one-sentence plot summary, and it’s not a bad sentence. Recently, I put together a more detailed two-sentence version. But when asked…I couldn’t deliver either of them. What’s my story about? I don’t know!
With a bright red face – but without confidence, pride, or enthusiasm – I managed to give a brief summary.
Nervous? Maybe. Probably. Yes. I’m nervous. I’m not used to identifying myself as a writer, though I’m trying to become more comfortable claiming that identity in public. Anxiety like this doesn’t strike when I blog about my PCT hike or my illness. Writing about my writing freaks me out. If my husband walks by while I’m working on my novel, I turn off the computer screen. That’s how uncomfortable I am with sharing anything related to my fiction.
At the Sierra Writers Conference, I told fellow attendees about my nerves. I disclosed that I want to become more comfortable sharing my work. Everyone was kind and supportive. I learned from the workshops I attended. I took notes. I went home and made progress with my story.
I stumbled through my first writers conference, and now I know what I’m up against. Myself.