Through the generosity of two specific people I was able to attend the Santa Barbara Writers Conference after all, if only for two days.
I am certainly not the first person (or the millionth) to observe that writing is a very solitary and sometimes lonely endeavor. Plodding through the year on our own, trying to stay disciplined, and trying to get better at what we do is hard. Making those awesome cognitive leaps that happen so rarely, when not only do we put something together that works but for the first time we understand *why* it works and *ding!* We've Become 1 Better at Writing — those moments are awesome, but they're also a little bit lonely. Once a year I get to steep in the company of some really great, successful writers, and some struggling novice writers like myself, and some newcomers who are discovering that they really aren't alone.
I remember the thing that struck me about my first conference, five years ago, was that immediately after someone learned your name, they asked “What do you write?” That was so validating. I love asking newcomers that question. They light up, and I can almost see their thoughts: I really am a writer.
Several friends have books out this year. I am particularly looking forward to Lorelei Armstrong's In the Face, which will be released in October. I brought home Lisa Lenard-Cook's The Mind of Your Story (it is beautiful and should be added to your collection of writing books posthaste.) I was doubly excited about Lisa's book because I love her workshop so much, but due to scheduling conflicts I've never been able to spend more than a day with her. I was delighted to find I could bring her workshop home with me this time and keep learning from her all year long. :)
It would have been great to be there for the whole week, and next year I intend to pick up my duties and get back on the staff, but those two days seem to have been exactly what I needed: a reminder that we are not alone, a refresher on some of the tools of the trade, a swift kick in the ass, and a spark to ignite the imagination again.
I came home and quickly completed 'Ill Angels.' It needs work, but I got to the end, and felt more energized than I have in a long time.
This was immediately followed by another round of rejections. But you know, every single rejection now ends with something like “not this one, but I want to see more of your work,” which can only be a good thing.
So, back to work. I've got a beginning to chop off of 'Habitat,' a massive rearrangement of 'Red Carpet' to do (and wouldn't an ending be nice?!) several revision passes to make at 'Ill Angels,' another 100 words to cut out of 'Devotions,' and a market to find for 'Sweetwater Kill.' That should keep me busy for a while.