Please welcome guest H.M. (Heather) Bouwman, author of A Crack in the Sea (forthcoming in 2016) and The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap (2008). Heather lives with her two kids in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches at the University of St. Thomas and writes novels for middle-grade child readers. She is a martial artist, a homeschooling mom, a reader-aloud of books, and a baker of cakes. In her free time, she does not clean house or care for her lawn. Her neighbors love her: she makes them look good.
I’ve been intrigued for a long time with writers’ success stories, which generally include many years spent working in obscurity in a (usually metaphorical) dark garret, and dozens of rejections weathered before the writer is finally discovered and rises to fame and/or fortune. I’ve long found these stories troubling, and I wanted to parse out why.
Tale of Two Conferences
Like many writers, I am an introvert. But I’m also a nut for learning new things through lectures, workshops, and presentations. You can see, perhaps, how conferences might present special benefits and challenges.
I have twice attended the premiere national conference in my genre, an enormous five-day event in which people spill from thousand-seat keynotes into dozens of smaller workshops and lectures and, from there, trickle out into the lobby and hotel bars, after which they ooze into large group dinners and costume parties (yes) that last late into the night.
Most of my writer-colleagues love this conference; I have friends who trek to it every year, who plan vacations so as not to miss attending, who think of this conference as their yearly chance to meet up with hundreds of old friends—and to make new friends, to network and forge new alliances in the publishing world, to meet with editors and agents, to hear from amazing voices in the field, and to learn new marketing techniques.
I cannot even tell you how much I hate this conference. The last time I attended? 2011.
Fast-forward to September of 2014, when I received one of two WU scholarships to attend the UnConference in November. In a year when I was on sabbatical (thus, with lots of free time AND very little income), this news was especially exciting.
For about six hours. [Read more…]