Friday, September 21, 2018

Novel Beginnings - a Google Search

I finished writing my first book of 2019 yesterday (which is why I'm late with this post, and I apologize profusely)!! By "finished" I mean I got through second-round edits, filled in the blanks I left on the first pass and started obsessing about my opening pages for real. I know that I have a finite amount of time to "hook" a reader and the first pages can make or break a novel. Hell, the first sentence is sometimes enough for a reader to decide to dive in or jump ship.

So, I took to Google, as you do, for some inspiration on "best novel beginnings." My exact search:

The search results for best novel beginnings start with a list from Bored Panda. On it are books like Anna Karenina, The Martian, 1984 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. 

The second entry on the page is from The American Book Review. No Douglas Adams or Andy Weir in sight, although lots of Toni Morrison. But the ABR is a list of 100. Bored Panda is only 10.

So, let's compromise at 30, compliments of The Telegraph. George Orwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Vladimir Nabokov are the only authors who made all three lists for 1984, The Great Gatsby and Lolita, respectively. 

"Best novel beginnings ever" brought up a similar list of search results, so I dove further in and took at look at Entertainment Weekly's list. Lots of repeats from the above lists, but some unexpected additions like Life of Pi by Yann Martel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and (my personal favorite) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J. K. Rowling. 

This list on Buzzfeed has the most currently published books of all of the lists, including Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. 

The thing that all of these lists have in common? The first lines are attention-grabbing. Alone on the page, they're even more so and it made me want to go back and re-read some old favorites and add others to my TBR. As a writer looking for answers, though...the thing it proved to me is that what makes a first line resonate with a reader is totally subjective. I vividly remember picking up The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, reading the first page and putting it down again. Only to pick it up a couple of weeks later and devour it, sobbing, in one sitting. The first time I picked it up, it was as simple as not being in the mood for the story, nothing else. The second time, it was exactly what I was looking for. Does that make the beginning any more/less powerful? I don't think so.

But don't take my word for it. These are some famous first lines from the above lists (sans titles to make it fairer, but I'll post the answers in the comments). Which ones appeal to you? Which ones would you pass over completely?

  1. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
  2. “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen."
  3. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” 
  4. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” 
  5. “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”




Thursday, September 13, 2018

Small Change, Big Freaking Difference

Hellllloooooo, ATB readers!

It's a gloomy September day in the Poconos. Perfect weather to write a murder mystery set during gloomy weather in the Poconos. Oh, I need a better outdoor description? Why don't I just crane my neck, look out my living room window, and write what I see? Perfect. Easy and done.

I'm drafting a new book. And in typical KGG fashion, I was 53K words into the story before I recognized that it needed to be fixed. Normally this would be depress me but I took a class (Write Better Faster) last summer that enlightened me to my strengths. It turns out that this is part of my process and I should just go with it--so I am. And I feel loads better for it. Not all is wasted. Most of my material can be used in the new draft. So everything's truly fine.

This class also taught me to focus on forming one new habit to help my efficiency, and that is what I'm here to talk to you about today. Everyone has a different stumbling block. For some, it's finding time to work but for me, it's making efficient use of the time I have. I'm a stay-at-home mom but during the summer my kids are home. They're running around outside, throwing on swimsuits to play in the neighbor's pool, asking for snacks a bazillion times a day. It's constant interruption. And the minute I get out of my mental zone, I check Facebook and Reddit and Twitter.  

I've lost my train of thought. What's on AVClub?

So what's the change I made? Did I swap out my kids for noise-canceling headphones? Did I barricade myself in a soundproof room? No. I did this:

I woke up earlier than them.

5:15 am to be exact.

Blech. It's so early. It really is. And I don't like getting up early. But there are so many pros to being up before everyone else.

First, it's so damn quiet. Just me and the dog. I pour a cup of coffee, grab my laptop, and head downstairs into the basement where my desk is. I don't browse Facebook nor do I check my email (who's sending me anything important at 5 o'clock in the morning?). I simply open up my manuscript and work.

Second, it's a hyper-focused 90 minutes. Sometimes I get a little done--half a scene written. Sometimes I'm on a roll. Sometimes I finish up in the afternoon. Sometimes I don't. But all the time, I'm making progress. There have been one or two days where I couldn't wake up. I was sooo damn tired, and that's fine. Better to recharge than burn out.

Lastly, I'm not a night owl. After a long day, and a hectic evening trying to do homework, make dinner, attend soccer practice, I don't want to write. My brain doesn't work. It can't form words right, let alone sentences. For some reason, I am my best self in the morning. Tired, but best.

While I don't looove my early alarm, I do love getting words on the page before breakfast. I love feeling productive. I love feeling like I'm moving toward the finish line even if it's by inches and not miles. I wrote 2K words yesterday, half of them before sunrise. Go me!

So...have you recently made a small change that has a made a big difference in your life? Sound off below.


Monday, September 10, 2018

An Old Dog in a Social World

After about four years of this writing gig, I seem to be socially stuck. Yep, I can finally admit that my social game is in a pit of quicksand that exists right smack in the middle of:



AND



I’m no stranger to stepping out of my comfort zone. If I never stepped out then I never would have published a book, let alone three. I have an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters in Business, and I spent 17 years climbing the corporate ladder before publishing my first book. Writing and publishing that first book was so outside my comfort zone that in my first post here on Across the Board I talked about how it was scarier than jumping out of a plane.

But when it comes to social media, I’m an old dog. If you don’t believe me, I was in college when email was an ‘innovative’ thing. It was so exciting to get an email address and connect with people through the computer! Mind. Blown. Of course, most common people didn’t have personal computers at that time so you couldn’t check your electronic inbox until your scheduled time at the computer lab. But that just made it as exciting as waiting for those yellow slips to show up in your mailbox letting you know you had a package to collect.

Now we live in a time where my 12-year-old has more Instagram followers than me (and she’s only had access to it for less than a year) and email is so old school.

I’ve read the articles that tell you how to do good social media marketing. I’ve read about the best ways to connect to build your platform—and I can easily recognize when others do it to me. For simplicity, I bucket them into three categories:

The Soft Connection:
This is when I get random comments of “Great pic! Thanks for sharing!” or some similar sentiment. I know they are leaving a nice comment on my post in the simple hope that I will click on their profile and follow them.

The Medium Connection:
This is when someone leaves the random comment from the Soft Connection AND they follow you first. It’s as though they’re saying “I’m being nice and I’m going to stick around, so how about you give back?”

The Hard Connection:
This is when someone straight out asks me to follow them because we’re all in this together and need to support each other.

I don’t really have any issues with any of these approaches, although I’ll admit to being a bit more drawn to those who fall in the Medium Connection category.

But here’s the thing: I haven’t been able to look at my social media venues as straight up book marketing tools. I know some of you might be thinking that statement means I’m looking at it wrong. That doing it right means showing my personal life as well as my book life. And I totally agree. I can keep posting about my books and my life, however, if I start randomly following and commenting on twenty random posts/accounts a day in the hopes that I’d get five in return, then I’m still only doing it for the business.

I know that being ‘old’ is not an excuse for being able to adapt successfully to the social media trend. I’ve seen several people older than me do an amazing job of building a robust social media platform. So this is where the comfort zone part comes in. I’m just not comfortable doing it any other way than what feels genuine to who I am—and I’m not someone who randomly follows people just because I want to pull the attention back to myself.  I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with it if that’s what you’re doing. Many times I’m super jealous that I can’t do it that way. It’s just not me, and I have a very hard time sounding sincere when I’m doing something that isn’t genuine to who I am as a person. And I’m old enough to know that going that route will certainly backfire in my face.

So here I am, an old dog trying to find a way to at least nudge a toe outside my social comfort zone because I do know that its important to the long-term success of my writing life. I will say that I do like when people leave comments showing they actually read and connected to my post. It means they were at least paying attention enough to give a thoughtful comment rather than a ‘one comment fits all’ approach. Maybe I’ll create a new category—The Genuine Medium Connection—and shoot for that. Compromise is the spice of life after all, right?

How about you—is there any place where you feel stuck?


~ Carrie

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Why is mythology still relevant?


www.karissalaurel.com
When I first started writing, I didn’t realize I was such a fan of mythology. Of course I studied the Greek myths in high school and college, but they never really inspired me. But then I researched some Norse myths for another project years ago, and I was hooked. That obsession turned into my Urban Fantasy series, The Norse Chronicles (on sale now for $0.99!). Since then, more and more mythology has seeped into my writing. My short story “Handful of Seeds” (appearing in Wicked South: Secrets and Lies coming October 31, 2018) relies heavily on the story of Hades and Persephone, and my upcoming paranormal romance Touch of Smoke draws from middle-eastern and Islamic lore about djinns (a.k.a. genies).


I could make long lists of popular writers who have written about or included mythological elements in their books, but I bet most readers could make their own lists. Mythology is pervasive in both classic and modern literature as well as pop culture, and it doesn’t appear to be losing favor. The ancient myths derived from mankind’s need to explain how the world worked. Thousands of years later, science has unraveled many of the big mysteries (we know a horse drawn chariot isn’t pulling the sun across the sky) but we crave an understanding of the world on a personal level, and mythology still exists to serve that purpose. It makes the complexities of life relatable.

I believe that’s because, in its roots, mythology addresses basic human philosophies using highly identifiable archetypes. By that I mean the characters of any mythology (Greek, Norse, Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Native American, etc.) are embodiments of core human characteristics and emotions like courage and fear, strength and weakness, love and hate, generosity and greed, peace and violence, wisdom and foolishness, ambition and apathy. In any time period, in any setting, and in any culture those themes remain significant and relatable.


I think that’s the same reason super heroes continue to survive in pop culture year after year. Super Man is today’s Hercules, Thor, Prometheus, Achilles, Samson, and Moses. Batman is Hades. The Joker is a trickster god like Loki, Anansi, or Sinbad. Wonder Woman is Athena, Freya, the Amazonian. Superheroes are somewhat literal interpretations of the ancient archetypes, but those epitomic characters exist everywhere. The strong warrior, the seductive beauty, the betraying sneak, the mother, the wise teacher, the father—we see bits of ourselves—or the people we wish we could be—in these characters, and the proof is in the fact that they show up over and over in our favorite books, movies, and TV shows.

Here’s a few specific examples that illustrate my meaning:

Neo from The Matrix series: Christ, Baldur, Dumuzid, Osiris, Adonis,
Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean series: Loki, Anansi, Coyote
Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City: Aphrodite, Venus, Inanna, Bastet

Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series: Jason (of the Argonauts) or Perseus
Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Athena, Frigga, Neith, Saraswati



Humans are hardwired for stories—it’s how we’ve exchanged information since the dawn of time. In, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories make us Human, Jonathan Gottshall says: “We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” This, to me, is the ultimate explanation for why Mythology is still alive today.

Mythology is the fountain of life from which all stories spring. It might evolve, or be reinterpreted for the times, but myths and legends will continue exist as long as humans continue to crave a connection to and an understanding of the world in which we live.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Vital Websites for Authors

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!
amazon.com/author/kozeniewski
Hey everybody! Hope you're having a lovely Labor Day, or, if you're one of our UK fans, "Labour Day," or, more accurately, if you're actually one of our UK fans, "Monday."

As I'm scrabbling on this holiday morning to just barely get my social media in order for the week (I have a book signing on Saturday) it occurs to me that I'm really scrabbling just to get my social media ready for the day.  (Later addition: you may note that this post did not, in fact, go up in the morning.)

So it occurs to me in doing so that social media for authors is a little askew from what your average internet user might use.  There are some author-specific websites which I use on a daily basis, which beginning authors may not be familiar with.  So let's run down a list of some absolutely essential websites for authors and their social media presence.


I remain absolutely shocked at how many times I go to look up an author and they haven't set up their Amazon Profile.  If someone buys a single book of yours through an Amazon link, they are going to want to buy other books of yours in the future (assuming they like it.)  And if you don't have all of those in one place, you're doing yourself a disservice.

With Author Central, you can create a home base on Amazon to claim all of your books at a minimum.  You should also put up an author bio and a headshot.  And if you want to do more with it, you can link your blog, Twitter feed, videos, and the like.  There are all sorts of bells and whistles on Author Central.

But perhaps even more important, if you're not a self-published author Author Central is where you can view your sales statistics.  It's not crystal clear, but Amazon will provide you with a line chart for each of your titles, so you can note spikes in sales, drops, and plateaus.  You can also more-or-less gauge how many copies you're selling a day.  And guess what, if your Amazon sales differ significantly from what your publisher is paying you, you may be dealing with a shark.  So you should at least be periodically monitoring your sales statistics.  Author Central also gives you quick access to your reviews, although this feature for some reason is always delayed by a few days.

In short, this is essential, and if you're not using it, don't say I didn't warn you.

2.)  Goodreads

Goodreads is the social media platform of choice for readers.  (Some readers swear by Library Thing, Shelfari, and the like, but that's a bit like preferring RC Cola to Coke.  I mean, that's fine if you're a reader to go where you prefer the functionality, but as authors, the fish are swimming in the Goodreads lake.) 

As with Author Central, you should be maintaining a presence here.  At a minimum you should be collating your works and have a bio and author photo.  And, as with Author Central, there are also various bells and whistles like connecting to your blog.

Where Goodreads shines, though, is the interactions you can have with readers.  The groups there are par excellence, and if you can establish a good working relationship with the moderators of a few good ones, you can really get you name out there.  You can also hold giveaways, and even answer questions from readers.  Also of great note: Goodreads lets you organize events, a la Facebook.  So for your book launches you can invite some of your GR friends who will, in fact, be readers, rather than Grandma Smith like you would on FB.

A word of caution though: unless you're very familiar with the etiquette there, try to limit your direct fan interactions on GR.  Flamewars are pretty common there and some readers are of the opinion that authors have no place there.  Others are less myopic, but the point remains: if you don't know how you're supposed to act, don't risk acting poorly.  At a minimum, never respond to negative reviews.  (GR even has a cute and hilarious warning when you try to.)  Responding to good reviews is less frowned upon, but not strictly necessary.  So just plan to be a lurker here unless you're already a GR maven or plan to learn to become one.


Off of social media slightly, forewarned is forearmed.  There are a lot of sharks out there that will try to scam you by stealing your work, not paying you, or worse.  Realistically, you're never going to be able to avoid ever schmagent or schmublisher, because some of them never reveal their true colors until it's just in time to screw you.  But you can at least avoid the obvious ones.

Preditors and Editors used to be the sine qua non of identifying bad actors.  It's a shame, but the site went dormant recently and seems to be being retooled.  So hopefully they can reclaim their mantle at the top of this list, but I'm reserving judgment.

In the meanwhile, Author Beware is a stellar site for rooting out bad apples.  You can even reach out to them with specific questions and, time allowing, they will respond.  It's a work of kindness on the part of good authors who are running this site for the newbies, so please take advantage of it now and pass on the good vibes later.  That's what we do here in the writing field.

Absolute Write is another option, but it's a bit much for me.  Whereas P&E was like a water pick, Absolute Write is a firehose.  You'll find a lot of opinions about every publisher and agent imaginable, but unless you particularly enjoying sifting through snotty message board posts (hey, I'm not going to front, I do sometimes) it may be a bit too much.


Closer to social media but more like a news source, "Publisher's Weekly" is akin to the literary world of what "Variety" is to Hollywood.  (Or, anyway, what "Variety" was to Hollywood in the 1950s...I don't know what it's like there now.)

Every major book deal is going to be listed on here.  And while they won't call out bad actors the way P&E and Writer Beware will, you can go on PW and see which agents are landing which deals and see for yourself.

Now, this one is a paid service, so you will want to consider how seriously you're taking this whole writing business thing, but it can certainly be worth plunking down a small chunk of change to be in the know.

***

And there you have it!  A brief rundown and just barely still posted on Monday.  How about you?  What websites do you consider essential to this beautiful business of ours?  Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Back to School




By Cheryl Oreglia

Do you feel it? That subtle shift in temperature, the slightest re-positioning of the sun, a gust of wind that takes you by surprise, it's as if I'm caught up in the long good-bye to summer, freedom, and the gift of unmitigated time. How do we harvest that which we planted in our time of leisure, what fruits can we gather for the work that is before us, who will accompany me into this seemingly endless stretch of the unknown?

Today, near the end of our welcome back assembly at Notre Dame, we were asked to place our left hand on the shoulder of the person sitting next to us, and our right hand over our heart, as we set before God (life) a prayer for the new semester. I felt this heartfelt connection to everyone in the room as over seven hundred people bowed heads, bound to neighbor, bound by heart, offering up our gratitude and joy for the challenges that lay ahead. It was a powerful reminder we do not enter into this work alone. There are co-workers, staff, and most importantly our students who accompany us on this journey. Each dependent on the other, for not only safe passage from one grade level to the next, but a well defined curriculum that stretches the imagination, encourages critical thinking, and a school-wide dedication to life long learning.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work I go...

I love the first day of school although I usually get a severe case of the butterflies before the first bell. The students are excited, the classes are short, the expectation is simply to establish community. I've learned over the years if you fail at the first day it is almost impossible to get back on track. I think that might be true for many things in life? 

We have an amazing student body at Notre Dame and I've never been anything but enamored with my students (it is my hope they feel the same about me). This year did not disappoint. I floated home, enchanted, charmed, and excited to dive into a curriculum that not only challenges our deeply held beliefs, but asks us to confront controversial issues with compassion, humility, and respect. Our school motto teach them what they need to know for life.

I find the dynamics of a classroom not unlike the dynamics of a home. A place where you can take off your armor when you walk in the door, abide by agreed upon expectations and rules, confront the work that needs to be done together, striving for peaceful resolutions should conflict arise, and injuries call for amends. It can be difficult at times to keep peace in one's own family but removing the emotional reaction to what appears to be disobedience or a derogatory attitude is key to identifying the real issue. It is almost never about the behavior. It usually stems from hunger, exhaustion, anxiety, or fear of rejection, sometimes even the appearance of rejection. 
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. Brene Brown
I've learned to expect the unexpected the first week of school. My first block went off without a catch (other than a few technical glitches and mispronounced names) we warmed to each other. By block two I was forced out of my room, moved upstairs (due to a student on crutches who needed a ground floor room), and spent fifteen minutes corralling my confused students, sending others to hastily reassigned rooms. It was a bit of a snafu. But our sense of humor prevailed and we eventually pulled it together. My final block entailed a small group of students with an interest in discernment, pilgrimage, and journey. Martin Luther King, Jr. says the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. 

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” Charles R. Swindoll
After my classes today I picked up my three granddaughters from daycare, their parents had work obligations, and I was available. I liken it to picking the short stick on purpose although managing to get three children (3years and under) from daycare to home is no simple task. The first challenge was opening the stroller which requires not only strength and agility, but an engineering degree, and enormous perseverance. It's a good thing I'm resourceful and when the hidden latch unexpectedly popped open things sort of fell into place. So with a whole new appreciation for previously unknown stroller operating skills I strut across the street to the daycare with a functioning carriage. 


I now realize (lifelong learner) you can leave the triple stroller outside of the facility while you gather the children, bottles, papers, sweaters, art work, and such, but I was blissfully aware of this policy (some people refer to it as ignorance), so I brought said stroller into the unusually small infant exchange area (not unlike picking up clothing at the cleaners) without a clue. I marred every doorway and may have dented the sheet rock in a few places. Try not to judge, it's like an obstacle course in there, wee ones running about, and of course I have the Winnebago of strollers to navigate. I was able to procure all of the grandchildren safely home so that's pretty much a win.



When we enter the house I mistakenly brought our dog Shaggy because he was needy after spending the entire day alone. But he's a dog, not very helpful, and by no fault of his own he sort of knocks the children over with his exuberant greeting. So with three crying children I race to the pantry and pull out the prohibited fish crackers before dinner. As quickly as possible I strap the one year old twins into high chairs, it's so much easier when they are secured, and generously dump fish crackers onto their trays. I hand Audrey a bowl because she is a big girl (three) and as for me I simply eat straight from the box.



As the children are happily munching on prohibited foods I'm able to prepare the fruits, yogurts, and pasta as instructed by Julie. Audrey wants a blended drink? It took about twenty minutes to find all the parts to the blender, cut up the appropriate fruits, not allowing them to touch before blending (which makes them yucky), and managed to create just the right texture. Yeah, I was totally sweating it out. 


In the meantime the twins are starting to fuss so I spring into action and for an entire thirty minutes supply them with an endless array of cut up foods. They are crusted over with unspeakable stickiness by the end of the "meal." I consider carrying both highchairs out back and rinsing them down with the garden hose. I don't think my daughter would approve although I believe I can pull it off as entertainment?

After removing some of the crud I take our little entourage to the back yard where I quickly lose control of the situation. The perfect storm; pool, water, dirt, and dish soap ~ three kids and a dog. At some point the three year old starts losing it, she needs protein, attention, and maybe a little calm. As a grandma you can observe deviant behavior from a distance, it doesn't get to you like it did with my own kids. I can see beyond the expression into the source of the issue. Which is the only way to alleviate her distress as well as my own. With that all said it was not easy reigning her back in, even with professional distractions, and Grammie bribes. By the time Julie walks in the house I'm ready to crawl into the playhouse and curl up in the fetal position. She offered me a glass of wine so I preserved and helped with the baths. 

I guess the very long point I've been trying to make is I'm continually learning because life and the prevailing circumstances keep changing, I'm either compelled to react with empathy and compassion, or ruthless apathy. The goal, my harvest, the fruit of unmitigated time comes in the form of creativity. Creativity expands the mind, stretches it beyond ordinary human comprehension, resulting in a mind capable of transcending, of discerning new and complex situations claims Michael Johnson. We live in an unpredictable world, we need each other, along with creative problem-solving skills, and when strollers are involved perseverance and agility. 
Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual and carried forward in every field of human activity, the world will be so much a better place to live in. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam




Meet me in the comments, share a few of your own life lessons, or maybe you have a back to school story worthy of repeating.






I'm Living in the Gap when I'm not writing for Across the Board, drop by anytime.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Ten Reasons Why Cons Rock

Listen, I know that traveling is expensive and a hassle and that you often don't have time to put your life aside and go to a conference. I know it because the same happens to me. I also know that some writing conferences are ridiculously expensive and basically keep out regular folks like me. However, there are a plethora of reasons why you should try to go to at least one or two every year if you're seriously doing the writing thing. I spent some time this weekend at KillerCon in Austin, TX. The conference, put together by Wrath James White, used to be held in Las Vegas, and after a few years on hiatus, the new incarnation is here, and it is an awesome thing. In any case, instead of telling you about all the things I heard and read and did or about all the cool people I hugged and talked to, I'll give you ten reasons why you should go to the movies a bit less and eat at home more often so you can safe money to go to a writing conference. Here we go:

1. Old friends
I'm not going to lie: cons are sometimes like huge play dates with friends you don't see regularly. The writing community is great, but this is a big country and an even bigger world, so many of our friends live far away. Cons bring friends together.

2. New friends
Writers are weird. We have peculiar interests, keep bizarre hours, and constantly worry about what the people in our head are saying. Meeting individuals who inhabit the same reality is great. Also, writing conferences are about writing and books, so the ice is basically broken from the second you walk in because everyone in there is more than willing to talk about those things, which minimizes awkwardness. Adults usually have a hard time making friends, but wiring conferences are great places to meet new folks who are into the same things you are. Take advantage of that.

3. Creative energy  
The thing I love the most about the weeks following a conference is the creative energy inside me. When you get together with other writers and talk about your projects, something starts making you wanting to write with renewed passion and focus. Writing is a lonely gig, so whenever we get together with others who do the same thing day in and day out, we feed off each others' energy and amplify it. The result is an even greater desire to write. Yeah, that's a great thing.

4. Feedback
Cons are a great place to get feedback on new writing. You can attend workshops when there are, consult with friends, and get a reading spot to try out new material. You can also bounce ideas off people who work in your genre or talk to those who have been doing it professionally for longer than you. This leads us to...

5. Readings
Lots of people hate readings. I'm one of them. In fact I've written about how incredibly boring readings can be. That being said, I keep going to them because sometimes you attend one that revives your faith in readings. Also, listening to your friends and favorite writers read their own work is a mesmerizing experience. Last but not least, sometimes readings can help you get the creative juices flowing.

6. Parties
No con worth going to is devoid of parties. Room parties, random parties, bar parties...you get the idea. I like partying. I like partying even more when I get to do it with people I like and don't get to see every week.

7. Books
Sure, you can but books online, but there's nothing like walking into a dealer's room packed with tables stacked with books. You can buy something and get it signed by the author immediately. You can see new stuff your favorite presses are about to publish but decided to give con goes an early taste. I could keep going, but the point is this: bring money for books and pack light so you can go back home with a suitcase full of books.

8. Panels
Just like readings, panels can be the quickest way to wishing for a nap or something new and exciting. When you have experts talking about an important topic, what you're doing is getting advice and education for free. Panels can evolve and turn into amazing discussions. They can be wild and entertaining as well as weird and touching, all depending on who is talking about what and why. And yes, going to a few weak panels is worth the risk just like watching horror movies is worth it for the occasional gem that comes across your screen.

9. Community 
Old and new friends are one thing, but the building a community goes beyond that. Building a community comes from meeting people and supporting what they do. It comes from becoming interested in what everyone is doing and supporting indie presses with your actions and your dollars. When you build something fatastic, getting people to support it is very easy, and that should be your goal as a writer.

10. Fun and mayhem
Yes, there are very serious writing cons out there, but if you write crime, horror, or bizarro, chances are you will be going to cons that are as wild as they are entertainment. I don't know about you, but I like having fun. That's why I try to get to cons at least once a year. This is also why I will now try to make it out more, and why I hope to see you there. 
 
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