Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dispatches from LA

I spent last weekend in LA, at the Bindercon conference. For those who don't know, Bindercon is a conference of women and gender non-conforming writers. I decided to go last year, almost on a whim. I saw a tweet or an ad or something about early bird registration, and the price was low... and I thought, hey, I need to learn more about the literary world, and this seems like a relatively low cost way to start doing that.

Also, I was feeling a bit put upon by constant demands from my family, and the idea of a weekend away in LA sounded really nice.

So I bought tickets.

As it got closer to time to go, I started second guessing myself, and almost donated my tickets to someone else.

I'm glad I didn't do that. This was one of the most welcoming conferences I've ever attended. The organizers set the tone, by announcing at the start that "everyone who is here is meant to be here," and the participants really lived up to that. I had a great time. I was struck by how many things are the same for women writers and women scientists, and I enjoyed learning about the things that were different. The experience made me wish I could go to equally welcoming conferences in a variety of fields. The compare-and-contrast thing makes for a really intense learning experience.

I don't want to summarize the entire conference, but I want to mention a few things I picked up, in no particular order.

From a discussion on having a diverse career, led by Pamela Redmond Satran, I picked up three things:

  • "Seize your confident moments" (Satran was telling a story about submitting a pitch for a TV show: she had done the development work even though she thought she might be wasting her time, and so when an opportunity and a confident moment coincided, she pitched... and it worked. I love this phrase because it acknowledges that we won't always be confident, but also encourages us to take advantages of the times that we are.)
  • "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable" (This may become my new mantra. So much of what I am doing now makes me uncomfortable, but that is because it is stretching me and helping me grow what I can do. It is in support of the greater good.)
  • The idea that different projects can be good for different things. It is OK to take a project that bores you but pays well so that you can make the money you need to allow you to pursue the projects that interest you but don't necessarily pay well.
Some advice from Lisa Kudrow (she and Robin Schiff had a "keynote conversation" during lunch on Saturday):
  • When negotiating, don't think about what you "deserve." Thing about how much the people on the other side need you, and how much leverage you have. That will help you know how hard to push.
  • Don't take rejection personally. Take it as a message that what you have "is not what they need right now."
The writers were big into networking, but they don't call it networking. They call it building a community. That is a nice way to think about it, I think.

Some more thoughts:
  • Several different people talked about allowing 1-3 days of mourning after a big rejection or when something fails. But then you put it behind you, and get on with the next thing.
  • A nice thought from attorney and writer Natashia Deón (whose book Grace sounds amazing): start each day with your own thoughts. (This was in response to a question about not letting social media take over your time: she doesn't open social media until after her morning routine.)
Some things I am working on really believing, and that the conference helped me get closer to really believing:
  • It is OK that I'm figuring things out as I go.
  • As long as I don't misrepresent myself to anyone, my best is good enough. No matter what happens.
  • If someone doesn't like me, I don't have to fix that. I can just avoid that person. (Or, as the writers would say: "surround myself with a community that supports me.")
Some things I learned from having a weekend on my own:
  • Having dinner and drinks with a good friend is an incredibly restorative thing to do.
  • Reading an entire novel is one sitting is an incredibly restorative thing to do. (I read Ancillary Mercy.)
  • It is good to take a little time to just do what I want, without regard to anyone else, now and then.
And the final thing, which was not from Bindercon or having time on my own or any of that, but from taking the opportunity of a 2.5 hour solo car trip to finally listen to Hamilton:

I'm not throwing away my shot.


  1. Sounds really amazing. Would love to go to a writing or blogging conference someday but waiting to feel like it's the right moment. Reminder not to wait forever :)

  2. I loved this whole post but was particularly pleased by the end :D


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