Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Health website, “personality disorders are a group of mental health conditions in which a person has a long-term pattern of behaviors, emotions, and thoughts that is very different from his or her culture’s expectations.”[i] Hmm, seems the U.S. National Library of Medicine had writers in mind when they developed that definition. Not to say we’re suffering from a mental disorder; on the contrary, I’m not suffering, I enjoy it! Especially when I’m in the company of fifty other writers with my hands wrapped around a chilled glass of pinot grigio and the conversation is wrapped around hilarious experiences. What’s that kids’ song by Butterfly Boucher?
I’m different, different, different
Nobody is like me
Different, different, different
And that’s okay with me
Yeah, that’s okay with me[ii]
Yep, I’m just stepping right along to the music I hear!
By definition, and by necessity, writers live immersed in the moment, watching, absorbing, collecting, seeking. The twinkling is our timeline, the world our experiment, our imagination the tool that metamorphosizes hyper awareness into something . . . breathtaking. We live in the moment, yes, but we create—we thrive!—in retrospection, especially when our reflection is reinforced with timely affirmations, God’s little kisses on the cheek. Where the moment provides junk car parts, retrospection produces a bizarre and mesmerizing recycled metal dinosaur. Affirmations are the spot welds binding it all together. And so it was this weekend as I attended LexiCon 2014, in Denton, Texas, a small but intense writers’ conference organized and hosted by Mitch Haynes, author of Hollywood Agent Provocateur.
LexiCon is the first writers’ workshop I’ve attended since I immersed myself in the, uh, curious world of ArmadilloCon in Austin twenty-odd years ago. Back then I focused on building my skills as a writer, listening to published authors, and swapping tales with fellow horror writers. I even had the opportunity to pitch my novel, On the Inside, to an acquisitions editor, and to ride the elevator with Klingons and crewmembers of the Starship Enterprise. It was kind of spacy . . . .
But this year’s LexiCon presented an experience far different from past workshops I’ve attended: this one was intimate. We, as writers, cared. The conference provided the opportunity to learn more about blogging, social media, web presence, marketing, goal setting, and the inner workings of indie presses. I even heard the term “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) for the first time ever. I had no idea . . . . The presenters helped reveal weaknesses in how I blog, opened my eyes to the necessity of facing my unease about public speaking, and showed me how grossly out of tune I am with social media. We encouraged each other, we encouraged Mitch, we encouraged the bartenders to keep us topped off in the evening. Lexicon provided plenty of opportunities to restock the experience cabinet! But the conference went one step further: it reasserted my direction as a writer.
Over the past 34 years I’ve written everything from comic books to poetry, a monthly column to semiweekly essays. I wrote countless short horror stories and a 510-page novel. But three years ago God set my feet solidly on the path of His will, shined crepuscular rays of hope over the mountain of challenge, and gave me a pat on the butt to get me moving in the right direction. What those three days at LexiCon did was reinforce that direction by providing answers to questions I’d been knocking around.
I had the pleasure of sitting in on Harry Hall’s talk on promoting my book from the stage (or in my case, the pulpit), something I’ve been contemplating as The Epiphany of Joy rolls toward publication, and The Epiphany of Trust begins to solidify. His lively discussion convinced me to suck it up and get back on the horse of public speaking. Giddy up! Vivian Zabel’s presentation on writing children’s books helped answer a question about the organization of my book, On My Daddy’s Lap, by convincing me to split the content into two books, one fun and lighthearted, the other fun and Grimm-like. Now I just have to write ten more stories! And it just got better.
On Saturday morning I sent my wife, Mary, to sit in on Julie Hall’s discussion about building custom websites while I attended Bill Wetterman’s talk on the joy of researching a novel, a seeming oxymoron. Mary and I met up again at a panel discussion where she introduced me to Jan Sikes, author of The Convict and the Rose and Flowers and Stone, who explained how I could add a widget to my WordPress site pointing to my books on Amazon. She chatted about her websites and endeavors while I shared about my books, especially The Epiphany of Joy. I also told her about The Epiphany of Trust, now in its infancy, and suddenly her expression changed, as if she herself had experienced an epiphany. “I just had a vision,” she said. “I see someone falling backward into a group of people like in a trust-building exercise.” Holy mackerel! Just the day before, I’d had a clear vision of a man falling backward, in silhouette against a crisp dark blue sky, into the uplifted arms of his fellow teammates while on a team building retreat. Whew! Talk about prophetic confirmation! So guess what the cover of The Epiphany of Trust is going to look like?
Then the neatest thing of all happened. As I headed into the conference room to attend the last two panel discussions, Mary handed me five one-dollar bills to buy raffle tickets as a contribution toward next year’s LexiCon. She wanted to win a bottle of wine. After the final panel discussion concluded, Mitch Haynes and author Jeanne Guzman began drawing tickets. After most of the raffle prizes had been doled out, Jeanne called one of Mary’s numbers and she won . . . a bottle of red wine! Then Mitch picked up a card from the table, glanced at it, then asked Jeanne to draw for it. “350526,” Jeanne called.
“That’s my number!” Mary squealed. Mitch handed her the card, which entitled the holder to $150 worth of printing from Book Partners, a printer and distributor in North Manchester, Indiana. I smiled at Tim Malott, Manager of Business Development at Book Partners, and mouthed a sincere “thank you” across the room to him. I’d planned to work with Tim through Amanda Thrasher, co-owner of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, my publisher, to develop a limited-run special edition of The Epiphany of Joy, and this generous coupon confirmed that vision. Later, as Mary and I left the conference room to head to the car, Jan Sikes met us in the lobby and smiled. “God’s shining on you!” she declared. Every step of the way.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect,” Anaïs Nin wrote. It’s in retrospect that we savor those moments, and it’s with fondness, excitement, and renewed vigor that I look back on LexiCon 2014 and how this small but powerful conference helped refocus my direction and reaffirm why I do what I do. “It’s the streaming reason for living,” wrote Enid Bagnold. “To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus.”[iii] Because, to me, the written word truly is the answer to everything.
Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes
[i] “Personality disorders.” PubMed Health. 10 November 2012. A.D.A.M. 15 July 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001935/
[ii] Butterfly Boucher. “I’m Different.” Lyric Wikia. n.d. Wikia. 15 July 2014. http://lyrics.wikia.com/Butterfly_Boucher:I’m_Different
[iii] Petit, Zachary. “72 of the Best Quotes about Writing.” Writer’s Digest. 22 June 2012. F+W. 15 July 2014. http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/72-of-the-best-quotes-about-writing