On Saturday I was part of a panel called Pathways to Publishing at the Mendocino Coast Writer's Conference. The Mendo Conference is my favorite writer's conference, and not just because it happens at one of the most beautiful places in the world. In only a few days the organizers manage to create a sense of community amongst the attendees based on the love of writing. Everyone is supportive and friendly. There isn't the same competition I've felt at other conferences; participants are genuinely interested in helping each other. Don't think this is a hippi-dippy, kick back kind of conference though. There are agents and editors from New York and the Bay Area offering advice and giving one-on-one consultations as well as award winning writers and poets teaching classes on revision, plot development, character development, writer's block, structure, and pitching. There are lectures about the power of writing to change the world, the needs of a YA reader, and how creative writing and other types of art can stop gangs.
This year I was only able to come for the one day of my talk, but I usually go for the entire three and a half days. In just one day, I met an agent from Manis who was excited about micro-publishinf. I discovered an up and coming author named Benjamin Percy (keep an eye out for him. His short stories are phenomenal. I had lunch with on of my co-panelists,the poet and very funny Robin Ekiss, whose first book debuts this fall. My other co-panelist was Stephanie Freele, whose collection of short stories also debuts this fall.
Our panel went very well and the room was mostly full. We each told how we became published and each of our stories was very different. Stephanie quit her corporate job and got an MFA while Robin went the only route available to poets: contests. I talked about why and how I started my own press and explained all the different paths a writer can take to share their work with the world. The one thing we all focused on was HOPE. Keep trying to get your work out. Keep believing in yourself and your desire to write. Hold fast to your dream. Not all of us will get that contract, but all of us can write and be published. We are not tied to New York City anymore.
Unfortunately I had to leave shortly after the panel. I would have loved to stay and soak up more of that cool, Mendocino Coast air and creative energy, but life is too hectic now days for that. Next year, though. And maybe I'll see you there.