I just got back a few days ago from the Superstars Writing Seminar in Colorado Springs, and I am still. blown. away.
It wasn’t that the conference had fabulous sessions on craft or the business of writing (it did). Or that it featured several A-list SFF authors, some of whom I grew up idolizing. (It also did. One author whose author mother’s vision of dragons basically defined my pre-teen years walked by not 2 feet from where I was sitting, and all I could do was stare like a fan girl, tongue-tied.)
It’s that the people who attended — the people like me, who aspire, and the people who have published and are gunning hard for Nebula awards and other achievements — welcomed without prejudice the experience and feedback of everyone who was there, no matter where we were in our careers. They called it “Tribe”, and I got an intoxicating taste of it for the 3 days I was there.
For most of the conference, I sat near a woman who does all of the transcription work for Kevin J. Anderson, and she is one of the sweetest, most genuine, down to earth people I’ve ever met in my life. She is writing a historical fiction novel that she has sunk hours of research into perfecting, and I can’t wait to read it.
I listened to James A. Owen speak about the deeply personal experiences that have guided him — by choice, however accidental it appears — through the extraordinary life he leads today. He writes about those choices in a powerfully inspirational novella, “Drawing Out the Dragons“, which I promptly bought and asked him to sign. It is the first time I have asked anyone to sign anything, period. His story that he shared had moved me to near tears, and I still couldn’t entirely hold back the emotion the next day when I thanked him for sharing that story.
I met another aspirant who wrote the craziest story about a backwoods veterinarian neutering the dogs of war, whose premise and pitch had a senior editor at Tor howling with laughter all the way down the hallway. I can’t wait to read this one, too, when it comes out — and probably published by Tor. My fingers are crossed for this to happen. Good on Anne! And yet, instead of bragging, Anne helped calm my fears about my own pitch to that same editor. I found out about her success later, from others. She welcomed me to an impromptu chocolate tasting party later that evening after dinner and read her poem about peach pits to a small group of us. It reminded me of the days, 20 years ago, when I was a literature/writing major at UCSD, sharing words for the love of good writing in whatever form. It brought a warmth and joy to my heart that reminded me, poignantly, that this is where I belong.
And when it was all over, as the crew started moving in for tear-down — an all-too-familiar scene I remembered from my field marketing days — I found Kevin J. Anderson and thanked him for a wonderful conference. I told him how I believed, finally, that this conference was truly something special, after seeing it for my own eyes. Again, I couldn’t do so without choking up a bit, somewhat to my embarrassment. But he gave me a hug, as if he understood, and I felt like I didn’t need to say anything more.
SSWS isn’t the only conference I’ve attended, but it was the first and only one so far that has reached deep into soul and kindly, gently reminded me that I’m not the only one with a big dream. That there’s many of us who share that same dream, and who are willing to help each other get there.
That’s more than just another writing conference. That’s Tribe.
I’ve already signed up for next year. If you’re an aspiring author, like me, I hope to see you there — and to welcome you into my Tribe.