what's new with the newbies?
We caught up with a few MCWC 2017 first-time participants to see how they felt about their experience two months post-conference, when all the excitement had settled down.
Dana Wagner, a MCWC 2017 scholar, had never been to a writing conference. “I had standard, imposter-syndrome concerns about whether I'd really fit in and be able to contribute well to the discussions, but everyone involved—organizers, instructors, and participants—was extremely welcoming and supportive. My main hope when I signed up for the conference was that I would enjoy, learn from, and be inspired by the community of authors at MCWC, and that certainly happened in spades,” he told us.
MCWC 2017 scholar and contest winner Chris Hall shared a similar story. “I had never been to a conference and I was going by myself. I wondered if people would be welcoming or if it would be awkward and isolating. I’m happy to say my anxieties were unfounded. From the first moment I arrived, I felt like I was part of a warmly welcomed community of writers.”
Cameron Lund, another writing conference first-timer, agreed that MCWC was a safe space to share. “It was so fun being surrounded by other writers and being able to talk about our craft. It’s not everywhere you can have a heated discussion about adverbs over lunch!”
Some of our first-timer participants were new to MCWC but not to writers’ conferences. Writers’ conference veteran Jennifer Siebert compared MCWC to other conferences she has experienced. “What I like about MCWC that is different from other conferences is it's not just a sit-and-listen-to-speakers conference. It’s interactive: you have the opportunity to work on your craft in a small focused group. It’s a good-sized conference, you aren’t lost in a sea of 1,000 people.”
And some of our first-time participants were writing faculty elsewhere. “As a writing teacher and MFA grad, I appreciated the level of instruction and the insightful and honest feedback I received from instructors and attendees alike,” said Julie Sullivan who teaches at USF. “The sessions were challenging, but supportive. No souls were crushed in this workshopping process, at least not in my workshop!”
Two months later, our first-timers have found that their MCWC experience has changed their writing lives. Dana told us, “Since leaving, I’ve been setting aside more time each week to write, and I’ve joined a Bay Area writing group that I was introduced to through friends I made at MCWC. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t attended, so I’m very glad I did.”
Cameron expressed similar excitement. “I left the conference feeling so inspired! When I got home, I immediately wrote two chapters of a new novel idea that came to me over the course of the weekend- and I got back to the editing grind on my existing novel. In fact, I ended up trading manuscripts with Jody Gehrman, who taught the Master Class, so once I got all of her notes back, it lit a fire under me to get my book as polished as possible!”
As a self-published author hoping to move into traditional publishing, Chris found success at MCWC as well. “I felt like I learned a lot about the process of getting an agent interested in your work and how to deliver a great pitch. And I even had a real-life literary agent express interest in reading my book!”
“Me too!” Julie chimed in. Julie first drafted her novel as part of her MFA a few years ago. At MCWC 2017, she finally was invited to submit pages by an agent. It was the step forward she had been waiting for.
Full notes from an accomplished (and busy) author like Jody Gehrman or interest from an agent are dreams that may not be immediately realized by many conference participants, but Jennifer was equally satisfied with her experience. “I left with direction on my manuscript. I also loved spending time with other writers. There was a feeling of community at MCWC. To describe it in one word: Tribe.”
Because writing can be such a solitary occupation, investing in communities like MCWC is often crucial. “It can be hard to self-motivate and push yourself toward your goals—it can really help to have others to cheer on and to commiserate with,” Julie said. “At the start of the conference, Shirin Bridges, the Executive Director, welcomed the newcomers. And then to the returners she said, Welcome home. By the end of the conference, I fully understood that sentiment. There is something special about this conference. It’s not just welcoming, it’s like a hug you didn’t know you needed or didn’t know how to ask for.”
We look forward to welcoming you all home in 2018!