This was the second year I have gone to the Tallahassee Writer’s Conference put on by the Tallahassee Writer’s Association, in, you guessed it, Tallahassee, Florida. I have yet to go to any of the larger conferences in the big cities, but believe the Tallahassee Conference to be a very good weekend of workshops and speakers and good food. And the best thing in my opinion is I got to spend each night in my own bed, and didn’t have to try and get used to unusual sleeping platforms in a noisy hotel. Not sure how noisy the Holiday Inn actually gets, but I am sure it gets noisier than my almost sound proofed house with familiar background noises.
The speakers were very knowledgeable about the craft and business of writing. Last year the major workshop presenter was Author and Writer’s Digest instructor James Scott Bell. This year it was Jessica Morrell, and again the instruction was first class. I also enjoyed several of the other presenters who introduced their topics from a different perspective. There was also New York Times Bestselling Author Steve Barry, who gave a speech after lunch on Saturday, followed by a short workshop on how to pace a novel. Not that I agreed with everything the speakers and instructors said. That is the thing about writing. There are so many practitioners of the art, and not all of them follow the same path, the same practice, to get to the holy grail of publication. Some will say that one must follow their path, their number of rewrites, and their manner of constructing a novel. One presenter said that he revised his novels 70 times before they were ready. Another said that she did five revisions, which seemed much more in line with others I have heard. As another organization I used to attend would say, take what you want and leave the rest.
But probably the best part of the conference was talking to other writers in the informal sessions that occur at meal times and breaks. Many of them probably didn’t understand much of what I was saying about fantasy and science fiction, and I’m know I didn’t always get where they were coming from in their writing projects. But there was still the connection that one writer has for another. The connection of one crazy person trying to put their heart and soul in their production and then place it before the public eye. And sometimes that public eye, especially when it belongs to the gatekeepers of the industry, is not always kind in its appraisal.
The best thing that I have received from both conferences is the realization that almost all writers go through the process of years of rejection before they actually “make it.” That was very important to this writer. You see, when I first started writing I made the acquaintance over the internet with two very talented writers who didn’t go through as much of the rejection process as most, if at all. Holly Lisle, though rejected many times in the media of short stories, sold her first fantasy novel to the first publisher she sent it to. Charles Sheffield sold the first short story he wrote to Jim Baen, then was asked to write a novel by Baen when he started his publishing company. So no matter that I read how many rejections Steven King or Jim Butcher went through, it seemed that the writers I actually knew seemed to slide into the industry so easily that my efforts looked pathetic. It is nice to meet actual people who have stories of years of struggle and rejection before they finally made it. It validates the effort and seeds the soul with hope that most anyone with some talent and the will to succeed can make it if they persevere long enough.
I look forward to next year’s conference, even though this one has just ended. A time of getting together with other bat shit crazy people and sharing our stories of perseverance, rejection and triumph. A time of sitting through an endless series of workshops that take the entire day and still don’t seem to be long enough. And the coffee, going into the body in huge quantities so the attendees can stay awake and catch all the gems thrown out by the presenters.
Kudos to the people who bring this thing off every year, the committees of the Tallahassee Writer’s Association. They are not paid for this, but they put their whole heart into the effort, and it can be seen in the end.