“Why would you want to?” my agent said.
“You don’t think I need to?”
“You’re a published author,” she said, giving me that look, the look that says I picked you out and we worked our keyboards off and you got published by a real publisher and that means something look.
“Well,” I say, “that was your doing.”
“But I’ve gone for years,” I said though she’s still looking at me.
“You don’t need to go to writers conferences now,” she said, “unless they invite you to be on a panel.”
So we went on our ways and about three or four days later I called her.
“They invited me to be on a panel! The First Book Panel!”
“That’s good. Who invited you?”
“Santa Barbara Writers Conference.”
“Good,” she said as though that settled it.
So I went and I had a grand time even though I’m still learning this public presentation and speaking thing. But I learned something that even my agent didn’t know. Something that I didn’t know. I used to tell my husband and my non-writing friends that I went to meet up with other writers because the Santa Barbara Writers Conference was easy for me to get to and because the connections and the chance to shop for an agent and the practice in giving and taking crit were all so valuable. No. That’s not it.
I go because I have friends, old and new ones I haven’t met yet, who’ll be there. I go because the top of my head gets lifted gently off and inspiration blown in. I go to hang out and eat pancakes with some of the most original and funny minds I’ve ever met, and I have surely met a lot. I go to sit up too late and get up too early to hear more wild and wonderful minds and hearts at work. I learn new ways of seeing work, new ways of crafting and finishing. It can never be too much, you can never get too many tools for your personal toolbox. Maybe a fragment of a comment overheard will spin your mind into a whole new direction or solve a gnarly problem in one of your plots. Maybe someone responding to your new novel with that crushing phrase “Well, I just can’t believe…” will push you the needed extra ten degrees onto a new course. You simply never know.
So it’s settled. I go because it’s fun, and yeah, you bet; God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back….