The single thing I have loved most about writing a novel is writing the novel, especially on those occasions (more frequent than you might think), when the characters take over and I seem only to be channelling them directly from the Eighteenth Century. My other favorite thing is being part of a writing community. You will never feel that community around you more than when you are down, unless it is when you are up. How amazing is that?
I’ve just returned from the PNWA Summer Conference, where Of Ships and Sealing Wax was a finalist in the 2017 Literary Contest. I was honestly overwhelmed just to be named a finalist. As it happened, I walked out of the awards dinner still a finalist and still feeling overwhelmed. The warmth and support from fellow writers, including those nominated in the same category, was palpable during the entire conference. Yes, when you have that “finalist” ribbon on your badge, people go out of their way to congratulate you and ask about your work, but guess what? Every time I turned around someone was asking someone else about their work. The dinners, large assemblies, and breakout sessions all vibrated with energy, intelligence, and humor. There is not much to beat the feeling that you are among your tribe.
At the moment I’m both exhausted and inspired. I have new connections, new ideas, new ambitions. I am full of admiration and gratitude for so many people.
Once I had a finished MS, it was time to start thinking about what to do next. The logical steps seemed to be (1) attending conferences where there’s an opportunity to pitch to agents and editors and (2) maybe entering a few contests. Deep breaths, Suzanne. Deep breaths. In spite of a certain amount of nerves, I’m looking forward to my second Historical Novel Society conference in Portland later this month. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the 2016 HNS conference in Oxford — an unforgettable introduction to conferences for writers and readers. According to all I’ve heard and experienced, conferences are chock full of opportunities not only to network and to pitch, but also to take in one-of-a-kind workshops, seminars, and panels or to sign up for in-depth master classes.
In July, I’ll be hitting the road again (even if only for a short distance) to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference near the Seattle Airport. I’m particularly excited about this conference because I just learned the MS for Of Ships and Sealing Wax is a finalist in the PNWA Literary Contest, in the historical category. More information on the contest will be forthcoming soon.
I also entered a couple more contests sponsored by publishing houses. All of this requires homework. Every contest and every interactive conference workshop demands a different iteration of your material. As a result, I now have a one-page synopsis, a full synopsis, cover letters, a bio, a resume, and outline. I also created a template for query letters because queries are on my to-do list right after honing those conference pitches.