I am back from DragonCon, and I have a shortened week in which to get done a great deal, so today’s post will be fairly brief. Mostly, I want to say thank you — to the convention organizers, who did a wonderful job — yet again — with a near impossible task: keeping 65,000 people happy and safe throughout a weekend of fun, spectacle, and, for many of us professional networking and promotional activity. I want to thank the track chairs who once again welcomed me into their programming, treated me with respect and courtesy, and guided my colleagues and me through productive and interesting discussions. I want to thank the fans who came out to listen to us speak and buy our books. Without you, we writers are just a bunch of people with word processing software and voices in our heads.
And most of all, I want to thank my friends, of whom there are too many to name, who made me laugh, who engaged me in wonderful conversations — some silly, others fascinating, the best ones a combination of the two — and who expressed concern and support for me and for my family. This was a fun weekend for me, but also a hard one. At a time in my life when a part of me wants to retreat into my work and interact with no one, you all made my interactions feel safe and positive and comforting. I’m grateful to you all.
I often write and speak about the solitary nature of the writing profession. Most of us work in relative isolation, crafting our stories, polishing them, and venturing onto social media to promote them. Conventions like DragonCon offer us opportunities to emerge from our shells and reconnect with people we care about, people who understand the unique challenges of a publishing career, people who are witty and intelligent, passionate about their art and compassionate with their friends. I love to write, but I was reminded this week that I also love being a writer and having a diverse and committed creative community.
As part of my professional activity this weekend, I gave a series of brief mentoring sessions for aspiring writers. During each one, and also in several extracurricular conversations with writers seeking to break into publishing, I found myself asking them if they had Beta readers, people they could ask to read their work who would then give them honest feedback. Most of them had some, but clearly needed to widen their circle of such friends.
Since these Professional Wednesday posts are usually geared toward writing advice, I will close with this: cultivate those relationships. Find fellow writers with whom you can share your work, with whom you can talk shop, with whom you can commiserate over disappointments and celebrate successes. They are more than people who can help you improve your writing. They are your future colleagues, your convention friends, the people you will see year after year, picking up where you left off at the end of the last con that you attended together. They are your moral support and your sounding boards, your partners in goofiness and the emotional undergirding that will sustain you for the rest of what I hope will be long and fruitful careers.