Last year November, I took my first big step in attending my first Writers' Conference (of which I'm still writing blog entries). Last night, I took an even bigger step. I attended my first local writers' group meeting. This was the Writers' Publishing Group meeting at the Press 53 Center for Creative Writing.
They meet the first Tuesday of each month. They discuss anything having to do with getting published. The topic for last night was how to market yourself and your work.
Now, let me tell you: going to meet with other local writers has got to be the scariest thing I've ever done. I figured one of two things would happen. Either they would be friendly and helpful, or they would be exclusive and make me not want to come back. I'm so happy that it turned out to be the former.
I was already nervous well in advance of walking into the building. Even when I found the address, I had trouble finding the center. (It's downstairs in the northeast corner behind the glass. You can't miss it.) When I walked into the center, I saw the publisher Kevin Watson and a few others sitting in a circle. I knew right away that I was in the right place, as we writers have a certain aura about us. They looked at me and I saw an immediate "Who the heck is this"-ness all over their face, but then after a few seconds (probably when they recognized my aura), they invited me to sit down.
Kevin suggested I go to the bar to get a drink, and I lied, "I'm okay" as I sat down and froze up for at least ten minutes. The other writers went on talking amongst themselves while I sat there thinking, "What the heck am I doing here? I have no idea what I'm doing!"
A few more writers showed up, and we began with introductions. Stacey Hope Jones, the new center's director, went first after Kevin. Then went Anne, Ray, Me (I told them I was as green as they come), Cory, Steve, Dan, another Steve, and Pat.
After introductions, Stacey broke into an awesome exposition of different strategies to promote oneself. I had trouble taking notes quickly enough, and I'm amazed at how much information there was to absorb - and not just from Stacey. There were plenty of tips from all the other writers as well. It'll take me ages to apply what I've learned.
Stacey was also able to tailor the discussion to the people in the room. In particular she targeted me as a sci-fi writer, and Cory who does horror. Evidently there are different strategies for each genre. She asked me if I had a blog. When I said, "Yes," she answered that she guessed I did, because sci-fi writers almost always have blogs. I guess it all goes with the stereotype: computers, science, D&D, video games, Twilight Struggle, comics. I might as well hold up a sign on my forehead that says, "YES I DO ALL THOSE THINGS!" It didn't help that I gave out business cards that looked like this.
Throughout the evening, I learned a lot about each individual person. Pat and Steve (the first one) showed their websites. Cory talked about his zombie books. We must have spent at least five minutes talking about The Walking Dead. Cory's zombies eat everything except themselves. Dan also has a zombie-ish book where an evil scientist takes over the world with stem-cell diet pills that eat you from the inside out.
And Ray's a vet.
After the meeting, I talked with Stacey and Kevin for a few minutes. Stacey talked about what all the center has to offer. Kevin told me the story of why he picked the number 53. It turns out he wanted to pick 7 as his favorite number, but that was taken by his brother. (I think it was his brother. And I think it was 7. You should ask him to tell the story.) So, he picked a number he thought no one else would pick: 53. It's actually is a cool number. It's prime. It's a deck of cards plus one (or minus one if you include the jokers). After he picked the number, he started seeing it everywhere, such as on Herbie the Love Bug, and the length of some 18-wheelers. Funny thing is, the temperature of my graph diode is currently reading 53 degrees C. (I have to watch that temperature due to an early Intel iMac graphics card anomaly.) Is it a sign?
After talking with them, I walked out of the building with Dan. We talked outside on the corner for a few minutes. Dan invited me to check out the Winston-Salem writers group. I told him that I was happy to meet other people just like me.
My verdict: if you're serious about writing, go to one of these local writing groups. You'll learn a lot, and you may make friends in the process. In order to be successful, you need to get out of your shell. Now that I've been to one of these meetings, and the jitters are all gone, I feel like I can do anything. I plan on attending the Press 53 Open House on March 15. If you're in town, come check it out. Then if I still have enough energy I may check out the Open Mike upstairs later that night at the Rana Loco. I'll let you know how it goes.