I’m writing this late after returning home from a fantastic weekend. On Friday I travelled to Ottawa with friends from my writing group to attend Can Con, a sci-fi and fantasy literature convention aimed at authors. Can Con is open to anyone and has things like author signings and book launches for fans, but it caters more to the creators and industry people. I’ve been to conventions aimed at fans before but this was my first time attending something more industry-focused.

In addition to signings, book launches and discussion panels, this convention also features opportunities for authors to pitch their books directly to agents, one-on-one discussions with editors, agents and publishers to ask any questions you have about the industry, and casual group chats with authors and other publishing industry people. I didn’t sign up for any of these sessions myself as space was limited and my book isn’t ready for pitching, so I was a little worried that maybe there wouldn’t be much for me at this event. I was hoping for a few interesting panel discussions and maybe a fresh shot of motivation, and was just happy at the prospect of a weekend away with my friends.

The convention exceeded all of my expectations. Over the weekend I think I attended 8-10 panel discussions and they were largely excellent, interesting and relevant. This was, in large part, because every person speaking clearly had passion for what they do. The other huge factor was the honesty and candor they all had about the industry. Every discussion felt like friends talking, every question answered truthfully even if it wasn’t the answer they might want to give or that the audience wanted to hear, and every question answered enthusiastically. I always felt like the speakers really wanted to talk about their experiences, and that they really wanted to give us the best shot at success with good information.

Every author, agent and editor was accessible, sitting in on other panels, mingling with the attendees, and happy to talk when approached. The organizers and volunteers were friendly and helpful, and even the other attendees were all lovely. Most people were repeat attendees, all happy to chat, and thrilled to learn we were a large group there for the first time.

I’m absolutely stunned at how valuable this convention felt. What an amazing resource and networking opportunity! One of my friends just hit the nail on the head as I was writing this entry when he said he felt that our world just expanded. I met authors and agents. I learned so much about the publishing industry and the roles of the different people in it. I’m very excited at the idea that at next year’s convention I could be sitting down with agents, pitching my novel face-to-face, rather than going through a faceless digital submission process.

What I’m saying is yes, it did give me that burst of motivation I was hoping for. But what’s really miraculous is that I’m feeling motivated despite the things I learned. Because every single author there, even when “successful” in the sense that they have agents and published books, is still struggling. Be it money, inspiration, mental health, or all three, every one of them is fighting every day. They all still have a day job that isn’t their writing. Agents and editors both freely admitted that you don’t make enough money to live off of except for rare cases, at least not until you’re years in with multiple books. It’s always a challenge and it’s always a struggle, even when you’re successful by any normal measure.

If you’ve learned anything about me from reading this blog, you know that this sounds like it should be deeply depressing to me. I often joke that writing is my only way out of the industry I currently work in. Knowing that the struggle never ends and that I’m not going to be able to quit my day job should be crushing.

But here’s the thing – yes, every single panel member talked about how it’s always a challenge. But every single one of them lit up like a Christmas tree when you asked them a question about their writing. Every one of them was delighted when you told them how something they’d said or written really resonated with you. And every single one of them, when asked if the struggle is worth it, said yes.

I spoke with one author who I’d previously never heard of but was really impressed by in her panel. I stopped her as she was walking by, saying I’d seen her discussion earlier that day. Even before I said anything about the panel, she was all smiles and genuine delight to be approached. I told her how impressed and inspired I’d been by her candor and insight, and that I didn’t know her writing but was looking forward to reading it now. She was so excited to hear this, and asked me about my own work and my own writing journey. She gave several minutes of her time to speak with someone she’d never met before, who has nothing to offer her but some thanks, and she was so genuinely thrilled to encourage a writer who is barely started on this path. She’s the only one I spoke to like this, but I saw these kinds of interactions all around me, all weekend.

To see that kind of enthusiasm from someone who, only a few hours before, had been talking about how damn hard it is to be a writer speaks volumes to me about how genuine she (and the other speakers) are about it being worth it. I like to think I read people well enough to know genuine joy when I see it, and these people all took great joy in what they’re doing. I know I feel that joy in sharing my work too.

So I have a task and a goal now. The task is to remember that joy when I’m feeling overwhelmed; both the joy I saw in others at the convention and the joy I’ve felt when people have told me something they loved about my writing. The goal is that next year, when Can Con rolls around again, I’m going to have an edited, ready to pitch novel, so I can sign up for those one-on-one sessions. It’s time to roll up my sleeves, let myself feel the joy, remember why I’m here, and do the work.

3 thoughts on “Expansion and Joy

  1. Annie

    Hi Erin, I’m so glad you had such an affirmative weekend. There is nothing better than being in the company of people who also love what you do!

  2. Whiteley Eric

    Glad you enjoyed and great for you that you got your motivation.Looking fwd to see a book from you.Might help me to instill some reading skills and time in myself.

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