30 October 2011

Death Camp Withdrawals

Last year at this time I sat in my car, driving down to St. George, Utah. The occasion? Dave Farland's Writing Death Camp.

I'd wanted to go the year before, but didn't. Now I can't even remember why. So last year I took a deep breath, let my finger hover over the mouse before letting it click—signing me up for a week long writers camp.

Conventions aren't new to me. I'd even been to one conference at this point, but never a camp. And I'd only briefly met Dave Farland once before—the day I gave him my e-mail address so I would receive his Daily Kick in the Pants.

Needless to say apprehension began filling me the closer I drove to St. George.

I don't know about anyone else, but even after I've worked on a writing project for a long time, and I'm pretty sure it's good, I still question whether or not it's, well, good. Perhaps I'm paranoid. Better that than dead, right? Or humiliated or whatever. So going to Death Camp, and presenting my work to a New York Times Best Selling author was more than a little intimidating. Even though there isn't much about Dave Farland that would intimidate anyone. He's very simply a nice, soft spoken guy. But I didn't know that going in.

I'd have to say that Death Camp has been, thus far, the best move I've made for my aspiring author career. First, I got to meet and pick the writing brain of a New York Times Best Selling author. Dave Farland has more insight into the world of writing than I'm sure he has the time to share. The sheer scope of the writing world hadn't even occurred to me until I went to Death Camp.

Second, I got to spend a lot of time, well, writing. We had a class from 8:00am until noon, and then we all sat around typing or plotting or whatever. It was the first time that I'd been able to devote more than an hour or two a day toward writing. I discovered that with a little peace and quiet, and a lack of things clamoring for my attention, that I could crank out a lot of words.

Third, I got to meet other aspiring authors—people who were at the same(ish) point in their writing career. The experience of speaking with people who were trying to accomplish the same thing I was, was invaluable.

Fourth, I drove away having made some good friends and some good contacts. I now have a writing group that has the same goals that I do, and they've been a great help. Plus, I have people to go to writing things with so I don't have to hang out by myself the whole time.

Sure, some of the conferences I went to provided me with wonderful experiences. And I did stalk some editors at World Con this year. These things are all important. Very important. But, in retrospect, I'd have to sat that Death Camp launched me into the world of trying to become an author more than anything else I've ever done.

Here's to all the other Death Camp survivors!


CNHolmberg said...

Someday I will attend a similar event... I'm hoping to sign up next year.

Jordan said...

I've got a bit of Death Camp blues right now. Last year, at the camp, was one of the best weeks in my life. Focusing on nothing but writing all day is a dream... Dave's seminar let me live that dream for a few short days.

Like you, Jo, I felt like my writing "career" began last November, despite having been writing for several years prior to going down to St. George. It's been a good year since. I feel that I've Improved so much more than I could have on my own.

Anyone who wants to become an author ought to check out Dave's Death Camp.