Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Volunteering Pays Off: Lesson #1 from the 2019 RMFW Colorado Gold Conference

View from my hotel room at Colorado Gold

My first Colorado Gold conference, in 2014, was powerful. Although I’ve attended every year since then, subsequent conferences have been less impactful as I struggled to connect with the writers who had made such great impressions on me.

This year was my sixth conference, and since I don’t feel the need to absorb every morsel of content anymore, I volunteered to sit behind the registration desk. I was hoping to meet attendees and get to know the dedicated folks who run the conference. I purposely signed up to share the shift with Nathan Lowell, a successful author who I had heard interviewed years ago on an RMFW podcast. His independently-published series of space opera and fantasy are so successful that traditional publishers can’t tempt him to sell through them.  I didn’t have high expectations for our meeting but it turned out he was friendly and brimming with advice (in a good way). He offered that I could reach out to him in the future, but I figured he probably wouldn’t remember me. 

Then, at the Saturday banquet, when I was feeling deflated about reaching but not placing in the contest finals for the second year in a row, Nathan sought me out to tell me he had judged my contest entry two years in a row. He liked my story and thought it had improved a lot. We ended up chatting extensively about our projects, processes, and experiences. I felt honored to be granted so much of his time and enriched by all that he could share. Days later, I’m still glowing* with the validation that comes from a successful author liking my work and with the potential offered by an influential mentor in the business.  

I’m not sure if any conference will ever beat that first experience of finding my tribe but this year came close.

*Note for writers: This emotion manifests physically as warmth spreading through the crooks of my elbows and knees, and it literally makes me smile to myself a full week later.

No comments: