Tomorrow I’ll be leaving work early to meet a Super Shuttle at my house to go to the airport, where I will go on an eight hour journey diagonally across the country to the AWP Conference in Portland, Oregon. AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and so a lot of its content is directed towards students and teachers of writing, either at the K-12 level or at the college level, specifically MFA programs. So for a lone wolf like myself looking to learn about the industry, it can seem a little daunting.
I was thankful that I could get a taste for what the conference was like last year, when it was in my home area of Tampa. I was able to save on a lot of the costs like airfare and hotel and simply drive to the convention center each day to participate. I found that I loved walking around the book fair and seeing all the different ways we can write and share our creative work. I was able to find 2-3 panels each day that I could go to so I could learn about how the publishing industry works. I went to one about agents, one about querying, one about character development, and one about the debut year for an author. It was a veritable smorgasbord of WHAT IS PUBLISHING??? for me and it was very helpful and useful. I can attribute this as the final push that convinced me to put my all into writing a book.
Based on my experience in Tampa I decided to shell out the dough and attend in Portland. Not only have I written the entire first draft of my first novel, I am also prepared to begin serious revisions over the summer (I’m kind of picking at it right now in the time that I have). I am choosing my panels this year with more of a single focus. I’ll be attending revision panels and structuring panels, especially those that talk about the middle of the book, and how to make sure I’m always moving the story forward.
Obviously flying to Portland and staying in a hotel is much more expensive than just driving, but there were several reasons why I felt that the expense was justified. It’s acting as a vacation as much as a learning experience. I get very few opportunities to get away from home by myself. It’s also acting as a writing retreat; I have an office at home but with two dogs, two cats, and a husband it’s not always the easiest thing to get motivated. I’ll be going to the conference and bookfair in the mornings and early afternoons, sightseeing in the late afternoon, and writing/revising and relaxing in the evenings.
I am approaching this writing thing as a learning process. I want to listen and learn from as many reputable sources as possible so that when I enter the ring I am as prepared as I can be. I’m sure eventually I may want to spend my money elsewhere on other kinds of learning experiences. For now it’s useful, and a nice retreat, so off I go into the wild blue yonder.