How Deb Susan Found Her Tribe

On August 2, 2010, literary agent and Query Shark Janet Reid blogged a recommendation for the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold Conference. Although the conference was then only a month away, I decided to see if I could still register.

Registration was open. I went to Colorado (on very short notice!) – and what I found there surprised and delighted me.

At the time I was writing historical fiction, and even though most of the RMFW authors  seemed  focused on romance, mystery, or speculative fiction (like my friend Tammy Salyer, pictured here, whose debut novel CONTRACT OF DEFIANCE won the RMFW writing contest in 2010), the conference and its attendees welcomed me with open arms. I discovered that many RMFW authors attend the conference every year, and it took me no time at all to understand why. I’ve been to many conferences, but never one that welcomed every person – published or not, newbie or veteran – with such supportive and open arms.

The conference organizers provide each first-time attendee with a special nametag ribbon – which embarrassed me a little until I realized that all the veteran authors (many multi-published) used those ribbons to find new authors to welcome into the fold. By the time I left three days later, I was an RMFW member myself – and a devoted fan of the conference and the organization.

In 2011, I returned as a speaker and Master’s Class presenter – and also a newly-minted mystery writer with a story about a ninja detective to sell. I met my agent, Sandra Bond, at the 2011 RMFW Conference. I didn’t get a pitch session, but I pitched her after the Saturday evening banquet. She requested the full manuscript, and four weeks later she signed me as a client.

This year, I returned to RMFW’s Colorado Gold for the third of what I intend to be many more.

Once again, I taught classes – on publishing law and writing historical mystery – and once again I enjoyed the company of an amazing, supportive group of authors who welcome everyone to the fold with open arms.  One of my RMFW friends, Piper Bayard, even opened her home to me before the conference. We went shooting and spent some time on Boulder’s Pearl Street … where I might have made a bit of a *donkey* of myself.  Piper chronicled – and photographed – the whole crazy adventure here.

I was also honored to receive the RMFW Pen Award, granted to RMFW Member authors who made their first sale during the preceding year. (That’s me, in the photo below, with author friend and RMFW Conference Chair Susie Brooks.)

I am a Writers’ Conference success story, in many more ways than one.  The Colorado Gold conference helped me find my agent, my book deal, and the kind of amazing recognition that left me both joyful and humbly appreciative of RMFW’s support. But before any of that, the conference introduced me to a group of people that I am honored and delighted to call my friends. I email them. I read their blogs. We chat on Twitter and Facebook and sometimes on the telephone.

Conferences offer authors many things, from professional development to pitch opportunities and critique. But the best thing conferences provide is a chance to make friends who walk the same paths and dream the same dreams we do. The RMFW conference has given me many valuable things – but the greatest of them, the priceless one, is the friendship of all the amazing authors I meet there every year.

Have you made lasting friendships at writers’ conferences or other kinds of conventions? What’s your favorite part of going to conferences – with writers or otherwise? I’d love to hear your stories!

15 Replies to “How Deb Susan Found Her Tribe”

  1. What a great experience. Very different from mine…which you can read about tomorrow! The lesson here is that you read about the conference and actually did something — YOU WENT. Many people just think about it.

    1. I saw the pen award recipients during my first trip to Colorado Gold in 2010 and dreamed of being among them. It was a real dream come true to receive my own!

  2. The conference sounds like a great one! Maybe I should look into it, even though I don’t like in the Rocky Mountain region. Are there many writers from other areas of the country?

  3. I love Colorado Gold. It has made me a better writer and fed my hunger for sharing my experience with folks who genuinely understand and don’t just nod politely and change the subject to the weather. I am so glad you discovered RMFW. I am so glad we met at Linda’s party last year. It is everything you say it is.

    1. I’m glad we met too Thea! You’re one of the people I look forward to seeing every year. I’m so glad we met and became friends. Yet more of the “Colorado gold” RMFW has to offer!

  4. I have been to the Backspace conference in NYC and the Desert Rose RWA conference in Phoenix – both were great and very well run. Lots of informative panels and sessions and plenty of opportunity to meet with other writers, which has been, by far, the best part. It’s a great way to get inspired (or re-inspired) and be reminded that although we sit and write alone, we are part of a community of wonderfully smart and supportive people.
    And I love your ribbon story – that’s awesome!

    1. Isn’t it fantastic that we have so many great conference options – and also that it’s possible to meet amazing friends at every one? Author friends are treasures – whether we meet at conferences, in person or online.

  5. Well said, Susan. I, too, have made many priceless contacts through writers conferences, but the greatest reward has been the wonderful friendships I’ve made. And it’s so true what you say about RMFW. It is absolutely the most welcoming atmosphere for noob writers that I’ve ever found. I never once felt like there was a clique shutting me out when I’ve gone there. It’s very warm and unpretentious.

    I also can’t over-emphasize the importance of writers conferences. My first was DFW Writers Conference, and it, too, is an outstanding event. That’s where I met Kristen Lamb in 2010 and got started down the path of novel structure and a social media platform. Total game changer for me. That same year you and I met, Susan, at RMFW, which has also been a priceless connection. Writers are fish. Conferences are our spawning ground. It’s where we go to make connections and get input on where we are in the big scheme of things.

    Thanks so much for the shout out! Can’t wait to go shooting and shopping next year. 🙂

    1. I totally agree about the welcoming, “non cliquey” atmosphere of RMFW. It’s one of the things I love most. I also love all the amazingly talented people I meet there – like you!!

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