Sunday, August 10, 2008

Are you a serious writer?

Two days in New York can really change a person. Especially if you’re a writer attending the Backspace Writer’s Conference.

The Backspace Conference is for serious writers. I don’t mean writers who write only serious material, but writers who are serious about writing. Serious about getting published. Serious about a career writing and publishing. Serious about finding and keeping readers. Serious about helping other writers achieve their goals in a relay of success.

I attended the first Backspace Conference in 2005. Built around an online writing community, the first conference was attended by many of the friends I’d made through my participation in the forums. Dozens of the people I met at that first Backspace Conference have gone on to publish in a variety of genres. I want to talk here about three of them.

Jackie Kessler. Full of sparkle, humor and quick wit, Jackie had written several novels and had not been able to get an agent. She loves urban fantasy, but at the time was writing a chick lit set in a sexy lingerie store. Jackie was already an accomplished storyteller and writer, but talking with other writers and listening to the success stories of published authors gave her a jolt of inspiration. When she got home from the conference, she laid aside that project and went full bore on an idea that gelled her love for urban fantasy with a sexy theme. Within months she’d written HELL’S BELLES, had five agent offers and a three-book deal with Kensington.

Jon Clinch. Imagine writing five novels and never landing an agent. When I met Jon Clinch at the first Backspace Conference I found it inconceivable that this brilliant, literate, intense person had not been published. He writes literary historical fiction and two agents he spoke with at the conference told him that men don’t read historicals and literary historicals don’t sell anyway. Jon went home from the conference and put his marketing hat over his literary mind. He began imagining the story of a figure almost historical, a character seen only in sketches through the eyes of an American literary icon so familiar he feels like a real person. I’m talking here about Huck Finn. Jon wrote FINN in a matter of months, got an agent from the strength of the first chapter, the book sold at auction and he announced at this year’s conference the sale of the film rights.

Karen Dionne. Tireless co-founder with Chris Graham of the Backspace writer’s site and community forums. Author with one book that didn’t sell. Along with running a household and family business, Karen took her time writing her second novel, FREEZING POINT. Her agent put it on submission and they waited through several rounds of rejections. Undaunted, Karen continued to believe in the strength of the manuscript and the experience of her agent. Karen has whooped with dozens of other authors when their YES came along, but when it did for her, you could hear her whoop all around the globe.

Success doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t land on you like a rare butterfly. You must go after it. Success comes from listening to the stories of those who have gone before you. It comes from applying what you hear in those stories. Jackie learned that you must write about what you love and she went home and did it. Jon learned how to position historical literature with commercial appeal and he went home and did it. Karen learned that no matter how many no*s come around, it only takes one yes.

Each of these three authors were at this year's Backspace Writer's Conference to share, advise and encourage. If you're a serious writer, next year consider spending a two days in New York City at the Backspace Writer's Conference. It's worth it every minute.

You can see more pictures of authors at the Backspace Conference here.


Heather Fowler said...

Great post, Carolyn! Inspirational! Would have loved to have gone this year. Warmest, H

Rebecca del Rio said...

The only thing better would have been there in person with all of you again.
Beautiful job on making me feel as close as I could get this year, Girlfriend.
LOVE the fotos. Aren't we a beautiful bunch?

Lynn Sinclair said...

I've gone to every Backspace conference, so was sorry to have missed it this year. Perhaps in 2009.

Carolyn Burns Bass said...

Heather--We shall have our own little conference when I get back to SoCal. Much to share.

Rebecca--As you already know, photos capture only a fraction of the vitality behind these photos. The place was virtually pulsing with creative energy.

Lynn--I missed you terribly this year. To think you were in my neighborhood while I was in NYC really broke my heart.