One of the most hurtful things I was called as a kid was “weird”.
Confusingly enough, this insult was usually hurled at me by a friend. Right after I’d made her laugh with some witty remark.
“Oh Holli,” she’d say, still laughing. “You’re so weird.”
Yep, clearly I had asshole friends.
When you’re a teenager, the last thing you want to do is stand out. You don’t want to be different. I loved making my friends laugh, but I hated it when they described me as funny. I wanted to be beautiful.
But if you’re a creative person, you’re going to be different. I’m sorry, folks–that’s just the way it is. Conformity is for people who like to stay within the box, and your entire being depends on stepping outside it.
So how did I embrace my inner (and sometimes outer) weirdo?
Moving away from a small town helped. In my experience, cities seem to be more accepting of all kinds of people.
But the first time I ever felt like I truly wasn’t alone? The Surrey International Writers’ Conference.
It was as if I’d been speaking Mandarin to a bunch of Anglos my entire life, and then suddenly stepped into a room FULL of people who spoke Mandarin. It was that dramatic.
Sure, writers’ conferences have agents and editors and publishers, which is all well and good, but do you know what they have tons of? WRITERS. Writers of every kind–fat ones, thin ones, ones with gray hair, ones with blue hair. Ones that dress in business attire and ones that dress in costume.
Which is wicked, because writers are the only people who really get stuff like:
- It hurts like hell to kill your characters, but you still have to do it.
- Our characters are alive. Sometimes they are more real than the actual people in our lives.
- When we finish a book, it makes us sad, because we’re saying goodbye to a world we’ve spent a lot of time in and people we’ve come to love.
- We don’t “choose” what we write. Most of the time, it chooses us.
Not all writers like attending conferences. A very good friend of mine hates them. But the benefit for me is so much more than pitching my work to agents and editors.
Conferences are about forming connections with people who truly get where you’re coming from.
You might think conferences would be competitive, with so many writers pitching their work to a handful of agents, but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve seen writers help others improve their pitches, celebrate their requests for partials and fulls, and calm them down when they’re nervous. Since we all write something just a little bit different from every other writer there, it’s the most supportive community I’ve ever seen. Agent X may love your memoir and Elle’s romance, but that doesn’t mean she can’t love my paranormal mystery, too. There isn’t a limited amount of success to go around.
In fact, these writers are hungry to see others succeed. When any writer succeeds, it means agents are still signing clients. Editors are still buying manuscripts. And people are still reading books. A win for one is a win for all.
Due to various day jobs, I haven’t been able to attend my favorite writers’ conference in FIVE years. That’s way too long. So, as of tomorrow, I’m going back. I’ll be blogging from the conference on Thursday, Saturday, and maybe Sunday. Friday is Fiction Friday, of course, but I may do a double post that day, depending on whether or not I have any news to share.
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow I’ll be in Jack Whyte’s masterclass, trembling in fear as he tears my novel a new one in front of eleven other writers. Wish me luck–I’m terrified!
I’m looking forward to returning to the land of the weirdos.
And if it makes you feel better, trust me–there’s always someone weirder than you.