Paying It Forward

This year’s RWA National Convention in San Diego was one of my favorites I’ve attended for a lot of reasons. To my surprise, one of the highlights of the conference was also one of my biggest sources of stress leading up to it. Namely, teaching a workshop.

To be fair, this wasn’t my first time teaching a workshop. It wasn’t even my first time teaching this workshop. I’d given it for my local chapter and then for a small group at Chicago’s Spring Fling conference. And yet, giving it at Nationals?? That was a whole other ballgame.

It’s hard to believe I attended my first RWA only three years ago. At the time, I was still at the beginning of my career. Every workshop I went to, I sat in rapt attention, soaking up the wealth of knowledge being laid out for me. I was in awe of the people who stood at the front of those rooms, speaking so authoritatively about things I was only just learning. I won’t pretend to be so humble that I never imagined I might someday be up there, doing the same, but it seemed like something for a far-off, distant future. Surely, I could spend decades and still not know enough to be able to pretend to pass that knowledge on.

Funny how time passes.

In the intervening three years, I’ve been to a lot of workshops, both at conferences and at local chapter meetings. I’ve worked with three different editors and a half dozen critique partners, received lots of feedback from readers and reviewers, and spent hours talking with my peers about the intricacies of what we writers do. Basically, I’ve learned a lot.

And in the end, the thing I decided I knew enough about to pass it on to others was one of the things I used to be the weakest at: writing in deep point of view.

I believe it was fellow Bad Girl Tanya Michaels who first gave me the advice that it’s easiest to teach others about topics you once struggled with. If you’ve always been good at something, chances are it came to you naturally, and it’s going to be difficult if not impossible to put your understanding of the skill into words. By contrast, a skill it took hard work and patience to develop? You remember every hard-won inch of that slog. You already know how to explain it to someone else because you know how you wish someone else had explained it to you.

Me in front of the packed house for my Deep POV workshop at Nationals

Me in front of the packed house for my Deep POV workshop at Nationals

So it was that I found myself at the front of a packed auditorium, laying out the wisdom I had gained through years of practice and education to over a hundred people, many of whom were probably at the beginning stages of their careers, listening to me the way I had once listened to others. It was a heady feeling. Look how far I had come.

Look how much good I could do, helping others.

The romance-writing community has always been a special, amazing place, and a huge part of that is the sense of comradery and cooperation. The feeling that we’re all in this together—that one person’s success is not another’s failure, but an opportunity for all of us to learn and grow. Where else do best-selling authors take time out of their day to travel to chapters or present their wisdom and share their stories at conferences? What other genre has such a tradition of writers helping writers?

Paying forward the things I’ve learned from this community has been such an incredibly rewarding experience. I loved getting to share what I’ve learned. I loved the conversations I got to have with the people who came up to me after the workshop. I love feeling like I can give something back after everything this community has given me.

Have you ever thought of presenting a workshop? What topics would you want to teach?

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