A Heso Lost and Found (Part 2)

Still wondering what my HeSo project is? I hinted at it in the last post. Since I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a writer – I sold photocopies of my stories to the kids on the block. In college, I stayed up every night writing a magical realism trilogy.  In Mozambique, I enjoyed warm, mosquito-filled nights discussing writing with my roommate, Sojourner. For the last six years I’ve been meeting with writers about once a month to critique our work. Yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer BUT I also had some serious problems with this career choice:

  • It can be lonely. I sit across from my laptop for about eight hours a day. When I’m not writing I’m reading, which is also anti-social.
  • It’s scary. There are no guarantees. In almost every other job, you show up and you get paid. I have been working on my current novel for three years. I spent my savings traveling to Idaho to do research for it.  I turn down most social gatherings because I either need time to write, or I’m out of money. Chances are I’ll never make a cent for all this hard work. I truly believe that creative pursuits are a calling – a calling that can be full of disappointment but nonetheless impossible to ignore.
  • It uses a small part of my skill set. Writing is extremely difficult for me, but I still need other challenges. I love public speaking, I love connecting people, and I love organizing events. The thought of writing a novel is wonderful, but the thought of planning a book tour for my novel is even more exciting!

So my HeSo project is not merely to become a writer, but to become an advocate for writers. I didn’t set out to do this – it naturally evolved from my interests. A year ago, I organized a reading for my writers group. This seemed like a fun event to get me away from my computer while still fostering creativity. (I have another reading coming up this November if you’d like to join!)

I had so much fun putting the reading together that I started to think of other social events for writers.That’s when the idea of a conference hit me. I had always wanted to go to a conference but they were so expensive, and I kept hearing the same complaint: writers get lost in the crowd and it becomes a competitive environment rather than one of support. I knew plenty of people who have something to share about writing, so I figured why not create a conference that’s affordable and supportive.

All of the presenters" Christina Bryza, Gayle Squires, Annelise Sorensen, Tricia Remark, Melissa Baumgart, Tracy Sayre, and Whitney Jacoby.

All of the presenters” Christina Bryza, Gayle Squires, Annelise Sorensen, Tricia Remark, Melissa Baumgart, Tracy Sayre, and Whitney Jacoby.

I organized the first Writers Work conference last May. It was actually surprising how easy it was. I asked about twelve people to present and eight of them jumped at the opportunity to help inspire fellow writers. I was on such a high after the conference, and so many guests were telling me they wanted to come to the next one, I immediately began planning an expanded conference.

This is when all the lessons from my past failures came to help me. I had spent hours learning how to make a website for Brutal First Impressions, so it was easy to make the website for Writers Work. BFI also taught me to be ballsy, so I emailed a company that I really love and basically said, “Listen, this is my dream and I need $500 to get it started.”  In less than 24 hours, Scrivener sent me the money! (btw, if you want to purchase their amazing writing software, they give all of my readers 20% off the regular license. Enter WRITERSWORK where it asks for a promotional code.) Trying to create a manufactured product, taught me how to handle lots of balls in the air, which helped when booking the venue, getting the speakers, planning the schedule, marketing the event, among many other tasks. Most importantly, my past failures taught me that if the conference wasn’t a success, I would eventually get over it.

Well the conference was a HUGE success! Here are just some of the survey responses:

“A fabulous, well-organized event.”

“I felt invigorated and inspired by the day.”

“I went to the BEST writing workshop ever! It learned so much! I got to meet great people, and even got the chance to pitch my book to a real agent! How amazing!. I cant wait until they do it again!”

“Inspiring, motivating and a great way of connecting with professional writers.”

“Stimulating, encouraging, invigorating.”

I think I'm bracing myself on

So happy to be making this dream come true!

Well it was exhausting planning this conference, and I lost $700 on it, I would have to say it was one of the best moments of my life. I started planning the next conference for this Spring and I’m confident that this one will be profitable. I’m on the path to getting paid to do what I love. It’s not easy, but it makes my soul happy.

It’s important to stress this was a journey. If I had sat down three years ago and tried to think of what would make me happy, I never would have thought “hey, how ’bout a conference series for writers.” I only figured this out by trying lots of different jobs, making lots of mistakes, losing lots of money, and listening to myself. I’m so glad I started this blog over three years ago, and that I got to share this journey with you! I hope this story helps you with your HeSo project.

P.S. I’ll be sharing more about this conference in the upcoming weeks!

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