Monday, October 25, 2021

Zooming Around

While COVID-19 may be keeping a good many of us close to home, it hasn’t stopped the ability to attend writing conferences across the country and even some internationally.  I have always enjoyed writing conferences because they present such a great opportunity to converse with other writers and listen to other authors talk about the writing process. For the past year, many conferences have gone the virtual route, and I am all in favor of that trend continuing. Virtual conferences have provided the opportunity to attend more conferences or attend conferences in faraway places. 

To me, conferences not only give me an opportunity to learn more about writing or teach writing classes, but they also give other writers the opportunity to simply sit down and chat with about their processes and problems as well as cheer on their successes. My last in-person conference was two years ago in Vancouver, BC, where I had the privilege of sitting on a panel with bestselling author Lee Goldberg. 

These days, my conference attendance is limited, like so many other authors, but I am happy to say that Zoom has come to the rescue--providing an abundance of opportunities to mingle with other writers and to attend writing sessions virtually. 

From virtual “book signings” with favorite authors to international writing conferences, to monthly writers’ group meetings, the opportunities to learn, to teach and to discuss our writing remain possible  through the internet magic of Zoom.  All it takes is a virtual connection and a computer or other electronic device. There is no need to worry about travel arrangements or parking or driving in congested traffic. 

All can be done in the relative calm atmosphere of our own home offices. 

 As someone who enjoys teaching and taking classes, Zoom has also provided great opportunities for me to present workshops to groups around the country. From the east coast to the Midwest, I have been able to either teach or attend classes right from the comfort of my writing area. Zoom has allowed me to attend conferences (even several in Canada) without ever leaving the comfy chair at my desk. No air fares, no hotel bills, no being away from the crazy cats. I can sit in my chair with my many cups of tea and meet writers from all over.

One problem of Zoom has been the loss of the opportunity to socialize with other writers face to face. I have to admit I do miss just sitting around and conversing with other writers that you happen to run into at conferences. I especially miss those opportunities at conferences to meet new writers from around the country or from around the world at the lunch tables or in the bar after a long day of worthwhile sessions.  Some conferences I have attended, though, have virtual “bars” or meeting places and that has been a good opportunity to chat with new writing friends.

This past weekend, I was able to journey virtually to a writers’ conference in Surrey, British Columbia. This is a conference I have always wanted to attend, but have never been able to due to either scheduling conflicts or time constraints. What a great discovery! Imagine getting to listen to not only sage writing lessons from a well-known teacher, but also hearing two favorite authors spend time talking about their work, one an international bestselling author whose work is popular around the world.

I had never attended a convention that featured best-selling author, Diana Gabaldon, and this weekend I got to hear her speak about crafting her characters, how to make them stand out through their point of view as she discussed her writing of the “Outlander” series. My arm got tired from taking notes! What a great experience not only to hear her talking about constructing her stories but also to hear her answer questions from fellow writers. 

An opportunity like that doesn’t come often, but there are many chances for all writers these days around the country. This is happening in many places around the country, and I advise all my writing friends to look for conferences or local writers’ meetings that invite others to their Zoom sessions. This is a great way to not only hear from other writers, but from readers as well. Last week, I attended a conference that featured author Anne Hillerman discussing her new book and setting the mood in her stories. 

I don’t attend the sessions just to hear what authors are saying about their latest work, though. There are often writers in the audiences who ask questions about writing, and it is possible to learn a great deal about the writing process by hearing what other writers say about how they accomplish their work. One of my favorite Zoom sessions in the past two months was an interview done by two best selling authors, Michael Connolly and Harlan Coben. It was set up to be Connolly interviewing Coben about his latest book, but it turned into a dual interview with both authors asking each other questions so that by the end, we were all receiving a great tutorial on the writing process from two of the best in the writing business.

But it’s not only the writing process we can learn about from these Zoom sessions. The opportunities abound for research.  Many groups also invite experts to their groups to talk about certain subject. I spent one Saturday afternoon hearing from a coroner in British Columbia because I have several books set there. Another local writing group featured two private investigators discussing what it was like to be an actual PI. Again, these were Zoom sessions, so I didn’t have to move beyond my desk

This conference “in” British Columbia was more than just a writing conference for me. It also gave me a chance to talk with writers in BC as I do research work on my next book Deadly Intentions, a book that is a sequel to my book Deadly Messages that opened in Stanly Park in Vancouver, BC. 

As the cold days move in, and it is harder to get around, these Zoom sessions can become even more valuable. So don’t despair! Get online and check for writing groups that might offer Zoom sessions. The opportunities are out there if you just look around. Don't miss the chance to  meet other writers from around the country or to conduct research for your next book through the Zoom experience! 

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