I write alone. Characters surround me while I type like ghosts, but I can’t reach out and touch them. My editors email me and send me notes, but they’re at the other end of a computer screen. When I have a new book coming out, cover art appears in my inbox for comment and approval, but I don’t discuss it face-to-face with anyone.
When I signed up to go to the Golden Crown Literary Society Conference this year in Las Vegas, I was excited to meet some of the people I’d worked with. I wanted to meet my fellow authors and see if their experiences were like mine. I thought I’d sit in the back of a few master classes and learn from the best. I thought I’d attend panels and presentations, listen in on author readings, and learn my craft from the experts. That’s all I thought GCLS would be. Wow, was I wrong.
I did get to put faces to names. I got to meet the incredible Katherine V. Forrest and thank her for her kindness and gentleness when editing my debut novel. I got to sit in on a panel get tips on writing an accidental detective from Jessie Chandler to help me with a series I’m planning to write soon. I heard an amazing, funny, and inspiring speech from Rachel Gold about gender. I got to thank KG MacGregor for writing the book that made me want to be a Bella Author (T-Minus Two). I even got to listen to a speech from Dorothy Allison, though I was far too star struck to introduce myself.
There was so much more to GCLS than meeting fellow authors, however. I made some wonderful friends along the way. Cade Haddock Strong and I compared notes on publishing our debuts around the same time while our wives gambled. (Mine lost, her’s won. Such is life.) EJ Noyes gave me Tim Tams (delicious), Vegemite (not delicious), and Australian rum (jury’s still out). Jaime Clevenger was so kind and supportive that I forgot to tell her that I finished A Fugitive’s Kiss the day before flying out to Vegas. Becky Harmon talked me up so well at the vendor table that my debut novel sold out in two days.
But GCLS isn’t just about published authors. I met the amazingly talented and soon to be published Andy, Kate, and Britt, all products of the GCLS Writing Academy. I’m jealous of their experience in this year long, immersive program for new writers. The more I hear about the program, the more I wish I’d found it when I was working on my first novel. Learn more about it here.
Then there were the readers. Somehow, it never occurred to me just how many readers would be there. But there were so many readers! On the first full day I met Etta, a reader from Oakland who had a collection of over 700 lesfic novels piling up in her home. She must have had room for more because she bought a ton of books, including both of mine! Then there was Kim, who heard about the conference on Facebook just before leaving New Zealand on her way to Sacramento and made a last minute change to her travel plans. We met at the 8am author reading on Friday. She’d come straight from the airport without sleep and was more awake than I was!
That was the best part of GCLS. Meeting the famous authors was great, but meeting the readers was something truly special. It is, after all, the readers who make it possible for us to do what we do. It’s the readers who turn the ghosts of our characters into real people. When we’re alone, we are authors. When we meet the people who read our books, we become a community. That’s what GCLS is all about to me. That’s why it’s so important.
I love how many readers I met in Vegas, and I hope to meet even more in Pittsburgh next year.