When I started writing, actually, when I thought I was ready to start submitting my manuscript, I started looking to writers who were already successfully published. I wanted to know their publication story – how they made it happen. If I’m being honest, I was in search of getting to the end zone as quickly as possible. I was not pleased to discover that more often than not – it doesn’t happen overnight. In most cases – it doesn’t even happen over a couple of years.

I wanted to be the exception to the rule. I wanted to have the manuscript that agents and editors fought over.

That is not how it happened.

Within Reach, is not the first story I wrote – it’s the second. Once I completed my first YA novel, I thought it was ready. I thought I was ready. Then I went to a Romance Writers of America Conference held just outside of Chicago. Where, I discovered that I was no where near ready to pitch whatever it was I was holding in my hands to agents let alone an editor.

In a tiny hotel room sat an editor waiting for my pitch. Instead of pitching the unpolished manuscript I had, I decided to use my three minutes to discover as much as I could about the publishing industry. She was less than thrilled with my lack of product to show her and gave me very little information.

After I regained my dignity – I became a sponge. I learned more in those three days about writing than I have anywhere else. I absorbed everything anyone was willing to share with me. I filled an entire notebook of writing basics…what are the elements of writing, POV details, tension – you name it, it was written in that notebook. I followed successful romance writers into small rooms where they offered intimate details of their writing process. They were more than willing, excited actually to help the dozen of us that eagerly listened to how they made it work. They were happy to help us make that leap from aspiring writer – to author.

And, to this day – I reference those notes. It was at this conference, I figured out my plotting structure that I still use.

These bits of information that still come in handy are fantastic. However, that is not the most important thing I took away from that conference. I learned something about writers – they are not like other artists. To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations after living amongst ballet dancers, actors, and models. Writers, they are not competitive. Instead, they support one another. They want to see other writers succeed. They want to learn from other writers. They truly believe that there is always room on the bookshelf for another story and are willing to help in any way they can. They are a community. They are supportive – even to the newbie’s that walk through the door – dreaming of seeing the stories in their heads into the hands of readers.

I walked into that conference ready to see my story. Ready to land an agent. Instead, I was armed with a pathetic slew of words I called a manuscript. But I was welcomed. I was believed in. I had finally found a place where I belong.