Guest post by Karen Junker
It all started in 2002. I decided that I wanted to be a writer, but other than knowing how to run Word, I had no idea what else was involved. So I decided I wanted to attend a well-known writing workshop. I talked to my husband about it and I am sure he regrets his next (fateful) phrase now, even almost ten years later, “For that amount of money, you can run your own conference.” This got me to thinking and planning…
I started looking at local hotels and realized why these conferences were so expensive. Have you ever paid for a wedding reception? You understand. So I hit upon the brilliant idea of using my huge backyard. I started calling tent rental companies, and then I picked the weekend of the local Microsoft Annual Picnic, because they consult meteorologists for the perfect date and can’t be wrong (it also ended up having even more positive consequences, but more about that later.)
I realized that I had to have speakers that people would pay money to come see. I had worked in a bookstore for years, and one of the authors I had always wanted to meet was Steven Brust. I emailed him through his website, and I was thrilled when he said he’d be happy to come. Feeling emboldened by his acceptance, I asked him if there was anyone else he thought should come? His response was, “Invite Larry Dixon. He owes me money from a poker game.” Jackpot! You see, Larry Dixon is married to Mercedes Lackey. I emailed the webmaster from Ms. Lackey’s website to ask if she would be willing to put me in touch with them. I was nervous about this, because it is a well known fact that they had not made any public appearances in several years. However, Steven’s endorsement saved the day. And since Misty was making a public appearance, her publishing house, Tor Books, ended up sending three editors to the conference.
So, on that beautiful perfect-weather day (compliments of Microsoft), I had some of the best names in the science-fiction and fantasy industry sitting in my backyard. Now, I was truly blessed that day. The staging area for the buses to take people to the event was at Factoria Mall. The bookstore where we had our event book signing arranged to have Mercedes Lackey’s name on the reader board, along with Deb Schneider, a friend who had recently been published. Thousands of people saw my friend’s name and many bought her book. Over the years, I’ve had authors such as Jim Butcher, Jay Lake, Jacqueline Carey, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Elizabeth Bear, Jim MacDonald, Susan Sizemore, Jo Beverley and many others attend my conferences.
That backyard get-together led to several years of successful workshops, success stories, and a non-profit called Cascade Writers.
Two things I learned from putting on writers’ events: one is never stand next to the person who’s been hitting the Captain Morgan’s all day when you want to make a speech and the other is never pitch your NaNo novel without editing it.
See http://cascadewriters.com for more information.