Friday, February 01, 2008

Three and a Half Months

Since it's coming up soon, but not quickly enough, I thought I'd make my annual Saints and Sinners spiel.

If you write, or want to write, and are GLBT, write GLBT stories, or are GLBT friendly, the annual Saints and Sinners Literary conference is a must.

I've been to many writer's conferences. Most of them promise insights into the publishing world and access to publishers and agents. While these conferences have some panels about writing, most of them are geared to the business of writing, and that's okay, but... The panels are usually aimed at people who are real beginners. The information, while true, is so basic that it's a waste of time for anyone who has read 12 Writer's Digest's issues. (Which is about the point where Writer's Digest cycles through their articles and starts repeating.) If you have zero idea about how publishing works, go to one of those conferences. You'll probably find some helpful information. Just don't keep going in the hope that you'll get deeper insight.

One of the great strengths of Saints and Sinners is that it's focused on writing, not publishing. While some panels give the same sort of general information about getting published that you can get at other writer's conferences, these are aimed at GLBT writers. The world of GLBT writing is fairly small, so the advice is much more specific. The rest of the panels tend to be focused on genre fiction. Since the audiences are manageable, everyone can get in a question or two, and some of those questions evolve into great discussions. Some of the writers leading panels or workshops are professors and know how to teach a subject. The first day Master Classes have never disappointed in depth or breadth.

By the second day of SNS, I'm so energized about writing that it's hard to sleep. Even though this will be my fourth year, I'm confident that I'll gain new insights on how to look at my writing and how to improve it. I take notes like mad and still refer to them.

It's not just the panels and classes though. It's the people. Many are friends who I only see at SNS. Talking with other writers face to face is such an incredible exchange of ideas and information. Everyone is accessible, from the people who teach Master Classes to editors, publishers, and well-known writers. Even if you paid for a one-on-one at another writer's conference, you'd never get the quality, and quantity, of face time with the people who buy novels like you do at Saints and Sinners.

While attendance grows every year as word spreads, it's still a small enough conference that it feels personal. Part (or all) of the praise for this incredible event goes to Paul Willis, who does it as an unpaid volunteer. The man is so sweet, so smart, so sharp, and he is the soul of SNS. Of course, he probably couldn't do it without his right hand - Karissa Kary, who is an extraordinary, vivacious person.

Did I mention that the conference is held in New Orleans? As you stroll around the French Quarter, you see people from the conference, exchange nods, and suddenly it's like being home. But with better architecture. And better food. And your author-idol standing two feet away from you in the mad crush of the Ambush Magazine welcome party.

But the best reason I can give for attending Saints and Sinners is that it's such a relief to be in a room full of queer writers and feel that self-censoring weight lift away. You have no idea - but you would if you went.

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