The last month has been kind of rough. Of late too many of my days felt like this meme.
To make things worse, the wife and I just had to say goodbye to our beloved pooch, Briza. She was dear friend and companion, and our daily walks through the neighborhood were some of the best stress relief I had to get away from the pressure of covering the lunacy of American politics. Losing her so suddenly was hitting me in a way that – writer or otherwise – is hard to express. So deadlines and workload be damned, I decided to forget about statehouses and take a few days to attend the 2015 San Diego State University Writers Conference. After spending the better part of two years working on this book project it seemed like time to do what former Boston Celtic Danny Ainge might call a “heat check” – putting it out there for some public scrutiny to see what the people think. Do I have a good enough idea? Is the market right? What do I know that’s true and, more important, what do I not know that I need to know? And there was no time like the present to find out.
It was a good call if I do say so myself. I spent two days meeting and hobnobbing with many very talented writers, editors and agents, all in an atmosphere of camaraderie and support we literary types rarely can find in our everyday world. It wasn’t my first rodeo – I attended my first SDSU conference sometime around 1997 – but it was the first one in a really long time. After completing two book manuscripts way back then, including a novel that drew some interest from agents, a few of life’s constant turns knocked me off my feet a bit and those projects fell to the wayside. It happens. After a brief detour I got back in the saddle, albeit on a different horse, focusing on covering politics and business issues as a full time reporter.
Soon, however, I found myself needing more. I had learned about a group called the Sacramento Press Club, a group made up of Capitol reporters like me looking for camaraderie. Sign me up! Except for one thing: the club operated almost like a secret society. It took a while to get any info at all, but I did and eventually became a real dues-paying member. Within a few years I was its president. My first order of business was to kill off the Skull and Bones element of our group for good. Working with a lot of good people, over time we made it a vastly more open organization that served a far greater role in the community. And by us I mean the board, the rank-and-file members and the rest of the Capitol community working together.
So what does this have to do with the SDSU conference? Everything. Spending a weekend hanging out with fellow writers, many of whom I would never have met or even read otherwise, I felt like Charlie finding Willie Wonka’s Golden Ticket. I was reminded constantly of the immense power of a group of like-minded people that come together to support one another even if their individual goals are not the same. And that no matter how hard the task, being able to lean on someone going through the same struggle makes everything a little easier.
Maybe it was just coincidence that one of the first folks I connected with was New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, who was giving the keynote speech on Sunday. Or that the theme of that talk was “Good Guys Finish First: A discussion about how positivity, community, and cooperation can build a successful career.” His point was simple: we’re all in this together and as writers we should do all we can do to help and support each other at every opportunity. Let me be the first to say, amen!
So over the new few weeks expect to see posts introducing some of the other talented, interesting writers I am privileged to know or meet in this world. Some I just met, like romantic comedy maven Belinda Jones, author and entrepreneur Jan Moran and aspiring non-fiction authors Kate Recore and Erin Castelloe. Others, like Sacramento Bee reporter and aspiring filmmaker Ed Fletcher and literary consultant and author Laine Cunningham, have been friends of mine for years.
I’m also now openly trolling for info on you. What books are your favorites? Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kind? If you travel for your work, how do you manage eating well or working out while on the road? There are more, but you get the point. Feel free to drop me a line any time. And if you don’t already, please follow me on Twitter at @WordsmithRich or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Finally, stay tuned for my new author page on Facebook.
By the way…the conference had one other benefit for me. A pair of agents expressed interest in my book. Some changes to make but I have a toe now solidly in the door. So excuse me – I have to start clawing out some new words!