I recently spent a short week in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I attended the Western Writers of America Convention. It was a first time experience for me. I've been a member for a long time but haven't been able to squeeze the convention dates onto my calendar until this year.
WWA has a warm down-home outlook on the business of writing while encouraging old timers and newbies alike to polish and publish excellent work and to follow it up with a stellar marketing plan. Humor filled every corner of every room and panel. It was a refreshing change from the rigors of setting up a website, wrangling with print companies and picking at my right brain for that unique twist in plot.
In the photo below, left to right, Paul Colt (aka Paul Schmelzer), 2009 Spur Finalist for Grasshoppers in Summer, Tammy Hinton, 2012 Spur Finalist for Unbridled and Alice Trego share a good laugh.
Day one of the convention about 50 attendees took an hour long bus ride to the New Mexico History Museum and the Fray Angelico Chavez History Library in Santa Fe where an extensive collection of documents, maps and books are housed. Downstairs from the Library is the largest photo archive I've ever visited. The Library and Museum proved to be my favorite take-away experience.
Well, maybe meeting film star Wes Studi topped the museum visit but don't tell anyone. You will remember Studi's roles in Dances With Wolves and The Last of the Mohicans. He was Master of Ceremonies for the Spur Award banquet and like everyone else, mixed his own brand of humor into the venue.
In the photo above, left to right, Alice Trego, former President of Women Writing the West, Wes Studi and yours truly pause after the award ceremony for a photo-op.
Conferences are a fantastic way to connect with other writers who would otherwise remain obscure blocked text on my computer screen. Most of us enjoy the advantages of email and blogging year round but sometimes it makes more sense to sit with a group of like-minded people to share and compare experiences. As far as I'm concerned, the value of networking eyeball to eyeball can not be over rated.
Alice Trego lives three, or is it four, states away from me and confirmed that she too found it helpful to meet personally with writers who'd had different experiences or who were at a similar career crossroad. We talked about the colossal changes taking place in the writing/publishing world and agree that change is good, but often requires a shift in attitude if we want to see our goals come to fruition.
We all ask ourselves: How will our writing projects fit into the new system? How and where should we market our work? How deep do we dig to pay for advertising? There are no clear answers. A few writers in attendance were big-house, over-the-top successful novelists. Others had tip-toed over into the, as yet, mostly untapped reserve of self and e-book publishing opportunities.
The WWA convention gave me the energy boost needed to renew enthusiasm for my writing journey. However, what has surprised me most is that I came home feeling validated as a work in progress
- - - just like my next novel.