The EPOCH! | Reflections on DFWCon

I was advised to blog, so here’s a blog. Numero uno. The first ever. The epoch! I am stoked, so you should be too. Or, you know, don’t be. Either way, I’m still going to toss my ramblings into the abyss of cyberspace.

Since it’s fresh in my mind, I think a good topic for this is my experience at the DFW Conference. I had a great time this past weekend, met lots of aspiring and established novelists, and learned some helpful tips about writer life in general.

But allow me to be real with you for a moment–that’s not why I went to this conference.

On December 23, 2015, I started writing my sixth novel. That was approximately eleven months after I started writing my first novel. I wrote five full length novels over the course of 2015, all of which were published with Liquid Silver Books, a romance publisher that deals exclusively in eBooks.

I know what you’re thinking.

“Wow! You got published!”

Or maybe you’re thinking:

“Wow! Five books in one year! That’s amazing!”

I know you may be thinking that because that’s what I thought in the beginning of this journey, but then reality set in. Reality, where your friends leave scathing reviews about your books and where the writers in your family ask you, “When are you going to write something serious?” Or they say, “That publisher is not legit. It’s just a romance mill.”

Among other things.

I’m fortunate to have lots of very supportive people in my life, and it’s important to keep in mind that even the detractors saying these things to me were also very supportive in a tough love kind of way. Nevertheless, it’s hard to not allow such things to get in your head–and get in my head they did.

However, the fact that these detracting words got in my head seemed to benefit me by lighting a fire under my ass to step up my game. And that brings me back to when I started writing novel number six, RISE.

Write something serious, in my mind, meant get the hell out of the contemporary romance genre. This was partially a result of an issue with my publisher that I can’t discuss on a public forum, but suffice to say I learned I’m not really cut out for the romance genre. The natural progression was to women’s fiction, so that’s what I started plotting on December 23, 2015.

As a person preoccupied with politics and current events, as well as having a background in journalism, I decided I wanted write something that touched on the Syrian refugee crisis, but I also wanted it to be something relatable, so I drew from personal experiences and came up with a pretty compelling premise.

About two months into writing this novel, one of my writer friends sent me a link saying, “I saw this and thought of your new book.”

The link was a press release from the DFW Writer’s Workshop announcing that a certain agent would be attending the April Conference and that she was seeking pitches for exactly the type of book that I was writing. I read the agent’s profile and bio, visited her agency’s website, skimmed over the books they represented, and decided this was a good fit for RISE, so I registered for the conference.

This particular agent is–quite literally–the entire reason I went to this conference. But once I started skimming over classes and connecting with other attendees on social media, I realized this conference was a wealth of information and professional connections at my proverbial fingertips.

It’s worth mentioning that the past sixteen months of my life has been more than a bit isolating, because it’s extremely hard for non-novelists to understand how emotionally and mentally taxing it is to write books. Prior to this conference, I only knew two novelists–my sister, Asher Lee, and a friend of mine who lives in San Francisco–and they were the only people I found to whom I could relate about what I was experiencing. That changed the instant I stepped in the line for registration.

The common denominator that drew each person to this conference subsequently drew all of us together. As an introvert, I’m not big on socializing, I’m not very talkative, I prefer to listen, so on and so forth. But I noticed sharing the common of experience of being a novelist helped me to connect with people in a way that I haven’t before. Don’t get me wrong–I am an introvert in the truest sense of the word so merely interacting with too many people for more than a couple of hours at a time causes me physical exhaustion. And I was certainly tired over the course of the two days at the conference, but I was simultaneously quite fulfilled. I remember driving home on Sunday, thinking to myself, “Oh my God. I have found my people.

So what started out as a means to simply get my sixth manuscript into the hands of an agent ended up becoming a defining moment for me as a novelist.

I don’t have to feel isolated, or alone, or like nobody understands what I’m going through,  because there are people out there who do–and now I share a connection with quite a few of them.

Anything and everything in life is better when you have people in your corner–and in the world of attempting to write and sell books, you need those people even more. One of my mottos in life is, “People matter,” meaning that we have to remember the complexities of the human experience is shared by all of us, everywhere. Each of us matter and each of our diverse experiences matter. But last weekend, I learned that people matter because sometimes I need a reminder that I’m human, too, and sometimes I need my fellow humans.

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