At the time of writing this essay, I’m less than a week from having attended the third WU UnConference in Salem, MA. If you click on the UnConference button in the header above, you’ll find an apt description of what it’s all about, ending with this:
“In other words, we’re going to lean on our strengths, the qualities that have made Writer Unboxed a strong site and community. We’re going to empower you, but this time we’re going to empower you in person.”
UnCon has always marked pivot points for me. It signifies the end of another writing year, but it’s bigger than that. UnCon sessions and the communion with tribe always prompt me to take stock. In the aftermath of this one—in assessing the current status of my work and myself as a writer—I found my own way to the word Therese leans on in the blurb above: empower.
Allow me to try to lead you to it, as well.
Describing the Indescribable
UnCon is difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it. It’s different for everyone, of course. First-timer Carol Newman Cronin makes a nice attempt in her wrap-up post—particularly when she says: “[The UnCon’s] craft-only approach—and the homey comfort of the Hawthorne Hotel—eliminated much of the frenzy I’ve seen at other conferences. Our common goal was to write a better story, because that’s the only thing we really have within our control.”
Although Carol’s post reminded me how UnCon continues to evolve for me, some aspects remain the same. Focusing on story with such singularity always produces a sensation not unlike an extended waking dream. And yet, the rapport and good cheer found in the lobby can feel as familiar and real as a visit to your hometown. UnCon seems both fleeting and enduring at once. By the end I’m always stunned that it’s over, and yet sessions and conversations from the early going seem like they occurred eons ago.
It was amid this somewhat ineffable atmosphere that I discovered I’d brought along a stowaway.
Those of you who’ve been following my posts here might recall that I’ve been working on an epic fantasy trilogy for some time. Indeed, the project has been my WIP through all three UnCons. As a result of the first UnCon (in 2014), the story that became The Sundered Nation Trilogy went from a side-project to a new take on the first third of it. For the second (in 2016), I brought a finished and fairly well-vetted book one manuscript as well as my developing notes on book two. Book one, The Severing Son, went out on submission to editors shortly after that second UnCon.
To the third UnCon ( earlier this month) I brought an unsold book one, a finished book two that had been out to readers and revised once, and a newly-finished draft of book three. In other words, I had a huge but somewhat intact story, offering abundant fodder for in-session pondering.
But alas, I also brought this stowaway I mentioned. [Read more…]