This last weekend, I attended and presented at the Kanab Writers Conference. Kanab is a small city in very Southern Utah– about 4 miles north of the Arizona/Utah border. It is the city nearest to the Best Friends Animal Society, which is world famous and back before it was a full on legit animal charity, it was a cult. The cult in which I was born and raised.
After leaving the cult, I moved into Kanab and lived with my dad and his wife, Susan, and their daughter (my half-sister), Emma. That was the one year of my life that I lived like a son in a regular-ish family. Good times.
I graduated from Kanab High School. I had powerful and important life experiences in Kanab. I did summer cowboy and gunfight theater there.
I kissed a girl for the first time in Kanab.
So going to the Kanab Writers Conference was a sort of homecoming. Small town, former unwilling cultist boy goes back to the town where his dreams were hatched- returning in glory and stuff.
Which isn’t what happened. But it was really neat to go back and be a writer who is legitimately on the road and journey to working as a full-time, monetarily compensated author. I drove and walked around the town, soaking in countless memories of friends and chats and minor crimes and the like.
The conference was small and very nice. My books had a nice place in the bookstore. I sold about 15 books– selling out of Beyond the Cabin, which was frustrating because I only brought 5 copies. I should have ordered and brought more, since it is the novel about my life in the cult that ended up just up the street from where the conference was held. People were very interested. I also donated four books as door prizes, which was smart in terms of exposure.
I attended the conference on Friday, but wasn’t able to attend any of the classes due to exhaustion and the need to put the finishing touches on my presentations.
Saturday began with a talk from Laura Wilson, a fantastic photographer who spoke a lot about the practicalities and such of doing art as a business. Incidentally, she is the mother of Owen and Luke Wilson.
Then I debuted my Anatomy of Action class (click the link to get the PDF). I’d been working on it for quite a while and was more nervous than I should have been. I mean, I’ve delivered training globally for Amazon and have been teaching for 16+ years. But this writing business is my passion profession, the thing I want to do forever. I wanted to get this class right. And it went well. The participants were engaged and contributed a lot to a really fun, productive class.
I also debuted my presentation on How to Not Sleep Your Dreams. This was more loose and rough than I would prefer, partly due to the media platform that I’d been planning on using not functioning on that restrictive wifi. I think it was still good, but it could have been better.
So this was the first conference I was able to actually teach at- combining both of my life’s careers. And it was awesome. I loved every bit of it. I talked to writers and had a ball.
A funny thing too: I saw myself in the eyes of some of the just-getting-started writers there. I saw the way they looked at me and saw myself looking at writers at the conferences I’ve attended over the years. I feel like I’m still just getting started, but in their eyes, I’m not. Having people come to me and ask me for advice and my opinion on things and such– well, it’s an odd turnaround. It’s an ego-boost to be sure and I love the validation. It’s surreal though. I’ve got a long way to go still.
This was the first writing conference I’ve done that was not a financial loss- something I’ve accepted in the interest of exposure. I actually came out ahead by a couple bucks- although that’s partly because I was able to pay for my flight with miles rather than dollars.
I come away from this kind of thing where I can be a full-time writer for a couple days feeling great. Fulfilled. Happy. At peace. And that’s so much different from my usual state of mind which is full of discordant notes where my day job and writer job clash. I need to do this stuff as much as possible.
And one day it will be full time. I can’t wait. And while I can’t wait, I’ll keep loving as much of it as I can,