I love all the conferences and conventions that I attend throughout the year (because why else would I spend the money on them), but my absolute favorite is In Your Write Mind. This writing workshop is hosted by the alumni of my creative writing graduate program, and is basically an excuse for us to go back to campus every summer. Other writers are welcome and encouraged to join us, but for me this is essentially a fun family reunion where I get to share my love for creating stories.
In a weird twist of fate, I visited the Seton Hill University campus twice in the summer of 2019. Once for IYWM and a quick visit about 2 months later when I was driving home through the area with the spouse, and I got to show him around a bit. Little did I know that it would be another 3 years before I could return. Did I shed a tear while driving up the tree-lined main road toward the campus on the hill? Absolutely.
Then, it was a bit of a whirlwind of greeting friends, finalizing all the details of my responsibilities for the event, and settling into my room at the dorm. (Yes, dorm. It’s not great, but it’s a wonderful way to easily spend time in the evening with other workshop attendees and current grad students.)
Later in the afternoon, I greeted the author guest of honor because I was one of her official gremlins for the weekend. I’ve been online acquaintances with L. Marie Wood for a few years (I even hosted an author interview with her in 2020), but I didn’t meet her in person until I shared a panel with her at Balticon last month. She is just as lovely in a casual setting, and it was certainly the easiest possible introduction to the role I hope to hold for many IYWMs in the future.
I shared a late dinner with friends at the Primanti Bros. in town, where I once again expressed my confusion of the Pittsburgh area obsession with putting fries on things like sandwiches and salads. Then it was back to the dorm for some lovely conversation with new friends and getting to sleep early after my long day.
I was absolutely convinced that I hadn’t forgotten anything for this trip, so of course I woke up, put on a pair of jeans, and realized I had no belt. I’d already worked a Starbucks trip into my morning plans, so it was easy enough to add that to the to-do list. Once I returned to campus, I made sure L. Marie had everything she needed and then, to my utmost shock, wrote 500 words. It’s no joke that this place inspires my writing. Following a quick lunch in the campus dining hall, it was time to set up for my alternate history presentation. We had a few tech issues, but then I had a great time sharing my love of this storytelling method with attendees both in the classroom and online for our inaugural hybrid programming.
I love sharing this presentation because the interactive portion is different every single time. For the nexus point idea, we played with the idea that Russians assassinated Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, and for the true alternate history, we discussed the implications of iron not existing on planet Earth.
Click here to download the PDF version of the slide deck for the IYWM 2022 version of Creating Stories by Changing the Past.
Later in the afternoon, I also spoke on an Editing Q&A panel. We didn’t really have a plan going in, or even a moderator, but we naturally zeroed in on a discussion of the best ways for an author to do some self-editing before sending their draft to beta readers or professional editors.
I spent the rest of the day with more socializing, having dinner at an Italian place and getting to have a lovely discussion with L. Marie, and then back to campus for more evening shenanigans.
I slept in the next morning, then spent some quiet quality time with one of my IYWM besties, Deanna Sjolander. This year marked the 15th anniversary of graduating with my MA, which makes it difficult to keep up with so many new students who followed me. I’m lucky to be so close with some of my predecessors.
That afternoon, I was on a panel on Writing While Neurodivergent, where I was able to share my experiences and difficulties of being part of my chosen field while also experiencing chronic anxiety and occasional moderate depression.
Then it was time to get ready for the mass book signing! It was the first time I had the opportunity to share Steel Justice live, and I was thrilled by the interest both the new book and the revised version of Steel Victory garnered. I was even more excited to buy the hardcopy versions of books by old friends (including one I beta read!) and new. (Find the full book haul below.)
I stayed up way too late that night and regret nothing.
Okay, I regretted it a little, but it was nothing some coffee and painkillers couldn’t cure. My final event for the weekend was a panel on writing dialogue, where even I collected some new tools and tricks I’ll be putting into use (never assume the panelist knows everything on a topic, because usually we don’t). And that was it! I said my goodbyes, had lunch with a smaller group of friends, said more goodbyes, and hit the road.
Funny story: When we got the Tesla Model Y in the summer of 2022, it was intended to be the official convention road trip car. The spouse and I have driven it to Atlanta and back multiple times, but last weekend was the first time it fulfilled its intended purpose. I’m pleased to say that she performed admirably and that I entertained many of the people I drove around with its spaceship-like qualities.
Rain and traffic extended my 4-hour drive to closer to 5, but I was happy to get home, snuggle my kitties, and chill out with the spouse the rest of the evening.
I’m already looking forward to next year, at one of my favorite places in the world, with some of my favorite people.
The final haul, featuring two unimpressed book models: