The Writers Conference Come Down

I recently attended my very first in-person writers conference. You guys I was so excited. I want to say it was worth the money but I just can’t this time. I think the organizers did a great job, and the volunteers were amazing. And, I get it, we’re in a living, breathing economy and people need money to eat.

DUDE: How Much Did You Spend?

I’m glad you asked. I spent about $500 on the conference itself, and about $1,000 in hotel room fees. That doesn’t include the keynote luncheon (another $55) and the $50 I paid for the honor of 10 minutes with a working agent. During the social at night (during dinner hours – 5-7pm in which there were crackers and cheese) there was a $14 glass of wine to keep me company. And I don’t even want to talk about the books I bought and how much that was. (About $74…) Not to mention the gas driving there and back from the Woodlands. (I’m going to conservatively guess about $100).

What Did You Learn?

Don’t get the liquor because it’s $2.00 cheaper than the wine…just sayin’. I did receive some great tips from the agent who was nice even though my pitch was rambly and awkward. My favorite presentation was the Diversity in Kid Lit meeting with Candace Buford. She was honest, funny, engaging, and informative. I did buy her book – ‘Kneel’ and I recommend you do the same. (Y’all know I’m not getting paid for that.)

POC Characters in Fantasy Novels

I had a chance to ask if it was alright that I write a mixed-race character or POC as my main character in the YA Fantasy novel I am writing. The answer was, basically, no. I know there is a lot of controversy around this – and, at least when it comes to Fantasy, I can see both sides. My intention wasn’t to ride the ‘POC’ bandwagon but from a sincere desire to see more representation in fantasy. We’ve all seen enough straight old white men running around the Shire, am I right? I mean, it’s time for some color, literally and figuratively. Having said that – I don’t want to take away the opportunity of a young black or brown writer trying to break into YA Fantasy. I’ve decided to chuck the whole ‘white fragility’ thing and I am changing the color of my main character back to white. I have POC as my secondary characters just like I have same-sex couples in my secondary characters as well. I know not every white person will agree with me. Heck, I know not every person of color will agree with me, but that’s what feels right to me right now. There is a lot I could say about white privilege but looking around the rooms this weekend it was clear it was working well. I saw maybe 5 people of color. That says something about our society as a whole and the literary society specifically. We need to do better. We need to make these types of conferences more accessible and seen by more people of color. We’re trying, I think, but there is so much more work to do.

Saving Money at the Conference

So here are my solid tips for saving money at a writer’s conference.

  1. The Hotel

The hotel is fun if you can afford it (I brought the family and they had a nice pool outside) but it definitely isn’t necessary. I could have saved about $600 if I’d stayed off the main hotel and got an air B&B or a Holiday Inn and just driven in for the day. I will do this next time, assuming I have the money for a next time.

2. The Wine

Don’t buy a $14 glass of wine. That is ridiculous. Ditto the $12 liquor drinks. Bring your own in a mug if you need to or better yet – keep a clear head and drink water or tea instead.

3. The Extras

Skip the luncheon unless it’s an author you would shove your grandmother aside to see and get yourself another agent opportunity.

4. Volunteer

A wonderful way to save money is to work as a volunteer. This wasn’t available to me as I don’t live in Austin but if you’re nearby and your job or family obligations allow it – there is no reason not to take this opportunity.

I met some wonderful writers. Women who were funny and awesome and literary and the conversations you can have with someone who shares your passion for creativity are golden and amazing and worth any price to pay.

Having Said That…

Having said that, and here I am going to be so honest I will probably never be allowed to another writers conference ever again – I have to say I felt the jadedness. I felt the exhaustion and irritation of the agents and the desperation and confusion of people committed to writing who may never see their words in print unless they do it themselves. It kind of broke my heart. I’m not a political animal. I’m not bold or confident or loud. I’m just quietly working away at this word-craft that I love. And everything I heard last weekend told me that was not going to be enough. That I, was not enough.

It doesn’t help I applied to an actual MFA program at Sam Houston University and I found out on the way to the conference I didn’t get in. The reason I was given? It’s competitive. So, I wasn’t good enough. Whew. That’s tough.

And, in a way, that is the most valuable lesson I learned from this conference. Rejection is normal. It’s part of the process. And since no one thinks I am anything to write home about (pun intended) I am free to dance away in my own little corner as freely and creatively and backwardly and awkwardly as I want. I’m over here doing the ‘Seinfeld/Elaine’ of writing and there is no one who gives one shit. And that is amazing and wonderful and freeing in a way I can’t even tell you.

So – just go freaking create. Create whatever is inside you and don’t hold back. You are the author of your own story and you get to write it any damn way you please. Oh, and don’t you dare give up. Writing is MAGIC and you are a freaking WIZARD. OWN IT!!

Staying Awkward, Kind, and Brave

I stood behind my little table rearranging the Phoenix statue, OCD lining up my books, and just in general feeling awkward and out of place. In this post-COVID era, I think I have forgotten how to human. How do I do this interaction thing with people I don’t know, or haven’t seen in years? And for god’s sake why can’t I do this in my comfy clothes? Do we even still dress up anymore? Is that a thing? Why? Just…why?

Me – awkwardly posing for a photo.

Selling Books

There is a reason I have a book to sell. Sitting alone by myself for hours on end seemed like a great idea. A perfect idea. But now I have to human? I have to look people in the eye? And TALK!? Not only do I need to keep eye contact (but not too much!) I need to sell my book. I have to delve deep – way, way past my insecurities and doubts and imposter syndrome that feels like the real me but isn’t, and assure these hard-working people that my work is work the money – their money?

I tell myself there are so many reasons not to do this. The world needs smarter, more hard-working people to solve these serious problems we have. Why am I wasting everyone’s time with a bit of cozy fantasy? Why can’t I be like Rebecca Solnit? She’s doing serious work. Helping women and changing the world in a real way. Or Margaret Atwood? Their work has impact.

Why I write

And then I think of the teenager I was – facing endless hours in a hospital room with nothing to occupy me but a staticky TV (if I was lucky) board games and books. Social issues, feminism, changing the world, all of those things took a back burner to the need I had to turn away from reality. Because there was no joy in reality. There was only pain and fear and, honestly, the unmitigated terror of a future I had no idea if I was going to be a part of. I didn’t expect to live past 18. And when that is your expectation, you turn to fantasy. And in fantasy there is hope. Fragile as it is, hope that miracles happen. That magic is real (or at least imaginable). And for a while, if the story was detailed and vast enough, I could forget who I was. And that is why I write.

I want any person reading my books to feel transported, for a little bit, into a world that is wonderful, fantastical, and cozy. There are real terrors too, but always the hope that our light is brighter than the pain we face. And that’s all I have to say about that.

What is your why? Why do you write? What fuels your world-building?

Five Ways to Build Creativity into your Daily Life

Life is busy. We have bills to pay. Wouldn’t it be great if we could infuse our daily lives with shots of creativity? Wouldn’t that be amazing? It IS possible and the best news ever is that it pays to start slow and build on good habits you are already doing.

Before we get Started: Some evening prep work can pay off in spades.

Set yourself a glass of water by your bedside (I use a mug with a lid because two kids, two dogs, a cat, and a gecko). Also is anyone else clumsy in the morning? No need to add shattered water glasses to your morning.

Habit One: Waking up. 

(What a great habit! You’re off to an amazing start! Confetti!)

Let’s add a good stretch before crawling out of bed. Even the thought of a leisurely stretch sounds delicious, doesn’t it? I have ‘waking up’ as the first habit because mornings are a freaking miracle. A MIRACLE. Do you know how many people go to sleep and never wake up? You don’t? Really? Okay cool because I looked it up. About one in eight people or about 41 million Americans will die in their sleep. It makes sense, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping. So if you are alive and blinking, count your lucky stars my friend.

Habit Two: Feet on the floor. 

You are really kicking butt at this waking up thing! First thought? Water. Drink some water. Feet on floor – water in body. Excellent. You may need go to the water closet to get rid of some water first. Your organs will thank you. 

Try this for three days – if you made it – celebrate! Confetti! A latte from Starbucks! We’re not writing yet – you’re easing into things here. Carry on with your day.

Habit Three: Grab a cup of hot tea or coffee. 

Whatever makes you happy in the morning. I splurge on Yogi tea first and switch to coffee at mid-morning otherwise I’m as jumpy as a squirrel on meth. If you have a coffee pot with a timer, set that up for right before you wake up. Basically, how can you make things easy for yourself? The best is if you’re living with a morning person and you can ask THEM to make the coffee for you. To find, interview and/or date a morning person to live with, please see my article from 2012,  HOW TO FIND THE WORM FOR YOU. 

Habit Four: Write down your Routine

Writing down your routine gets you one step closer to keeping it. What days do you want to wake up early and write? Don’t say all of them – that’s crazy talk for people like Stephen King. Start with two. (Tuesdays and Thursdays work great for building new habits). Find a cozy corner to write in that is already set up with all the things you love. Your favorite candle, plant, a place to put your mug, a warm blanket. This should feel like a date with yourself, because it is.

NOTE: Not everyone can get on the morning routine train and that is TOTALLY OKAY. Why are you feeling guilty? That’s ridiculous. This is your life. Maybe after dinner is done is the perfect time – maybe after the kids are in bed is that sweet spot for you. Experiment with different times of day to see which one works best – maybe Thursday nights and Monday afternoons is your jam – maybe it’s Saturday afternoons and Sunday nights. Stay flexible and ask yourself, how can I make space for creativity in my life?

Habit Five: Accountability 

Accountability isn’t just for budgets and exercise programs. It isn’t required to have a buddy do this with you but it does make it easier (and more fun!). Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find anyone – if you start the habit and let people know you’re doing it someone will join you I can guarantee it.

Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native that lives and works in the great state of Texas. Angela is a black belt wanna-be who loves to garden, write about magic, and eat cake. She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and three cranky fur babies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram (@thatpluckygirl).

Writers Never Quit

“Many paths lead to the same destination; it doesn’t matter how you get there.”

I’m sitting here feeling shame because although I have been busy writing blogs for other people and working on my next novel (I just finished the messy first draft – VICTORY DANCE!) I realized I haven’t written a blog post in over a year.

I have fallen off the blog horse.

The horse has gone on without me, probably to greener, more reliable pastures. I pour some hot water onto my YOGI tea bag and the little quote on the paper tab twirls before me. I grab it with my thumb and forefinger to stop the spin and read it. The quote is what I’ve written above and I have to laugh. Well, yes.

I’m pretty sure this blog is not my path. But, it does get me writing and it does get me thinking, and it does make me feel like I am helping some beginner writer somewhere maybe hold on a little longer.

There are so many paths to being a successful writer, the world cannot contain them all.

There are so many ways to become a successful author – and you just need to find one. For me, the first step was to start calling myself a writer. Do you write? Good. You’re a writer. You don’t need to be published or famous. A writer writes. Period.

There is a lot of talk about defining what success means to you, and for the most part, I feel like rolling my eyes and chasing that butterfly out the window. But, there is some truth to this. Think of it as climbing a mountain and at the top is that thing you’ve always wanted. What if you get there, and you realize what you ACTUALLY wanted is up that other hill? I mean, no worries you can start climbing that other hill, and maybe that’s your path. I’d rather just figure out what it is I actually want and then climb that hill.

There are a lot of writers who make their bread and butter by ghostwriting, freelancing, editing, copywriting, or coaching other writers. I’m not knocking it – if that’s your jam go for it. It means you get to stay creative and your day job is working with and for writers. How awesome is that? But it is a business and one you need to build. Like I said, so many paths to being a successful writer, or authorpreneur!

Seriously, I am not knocking it – I work for diymfa.com and I love, love, love it. I get to work for and with writers from all over the world. Unless you are financially independent (always a worthy goal) you’re going to need to pay the bills. For a list of authors who also worked full or part-time, click here: The Day Jobs of 10 Famous Writers

Success, to me, means finding a job that pays the bills while allowing me the freedom to create and to be there for my kids when they get off school. That’s the dream. That’s success for me. If I end up making enough on the books to pay the bills – great – but I won’t put that pressure on myself or my creativity. I want the joy – that feeling of flow when I write and I want that forever. I will follow that ‘time-has-no-meaning’ feeling until I croak and you know why? Because real writers never quit.

What are you doing still here? Go write something amazing. (Or write rubbish – but keep writing).


Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native that lives and works in the great state of Texas. Angela is a black belt wanna-be who loves to garden, write about magic, and eat cake. If you’d like to check out her first published novel, A Phoenix Rises, she will send you cookies (not cake – she’s already eaten the cake). She lives with her husband, two lovely human children, and three cranky fur babies. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram or on her website.

Inspiration is for Waiters

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I recently heard a writer friend ask another writer friend what she did to get ‘inspired’ to write. The question threw me off guard. Who are these writers who wait for inspiration? In my experience inspiration only happens once I’m warmed up and that only happens when I sit down to write on a consistent basis.

The Secret is Consistency

The secret to finishing a book or a writing project is not a terrifically held secret. The secret is…consistency. As it is the ‘secret’ to success in any endeavor. You make a daily or weekly habit of writing. Not researching, not editing, not staring out the window (although there is a lot of all those things that happen). Not outlining or planning or vision boarding or plotting or structuring your three acts. These can happen at any time.

What you need is a dedicated time that you set aside just to write. Even if it’s noodling in your journal or free writing about that cat you saw in the window you walked by. Taking the time to prioritize your writing over all the other demands in your life will serve you well. Will this make you an instant best seller? Maybe. It will make you a finisher of projects and that is one step closer to authorship.

Angela’s Writing Habit – Better than Wheat Grass

My writing habit needs to be in the morning, before the kids wake up, or at night, after they’re in bed. I can’t write while distracted. It’s not just harder, it’s frustrating to be constantly pulled away from the thought and then I’m being not just a half-assed writer but an inattentive mom and both feel bad.

Writing should be all good. I had to experiment a few different times and days, and I found the best time for me is 5am, five days a week. I don’t recommend this for everyone but for me, with two young kids who are often awake by 6am for the day, and two part time jobs, this is what works. And I carry that satisfied, I admit it, smug-I-got-stuff-done attitude all day. Try it – the feeling is better than eating wheat grass for breakfast and recycling all your plastics.

A Sacred Space

Try making your writing time a sacred meeting with yourself. Light a candle, listen to your favorite music, it isn’t a ‘have-to’, it’s a ‘can’t wait to wake up and do this for myself’ thing.

Everyone who knows me knows I am not with the self-discipline. The only reason I’m not 600 pounds overweight is because my stomach is a delicate flower. Cake is my nemesis. And I love, love, love to sleep. Sleep is my favorite. So what pulls me out of bed and into the chair isn’t sheer will power. It’s that I know I’m going to enjoy this calm, quiet time to indulge in creating something all to myself. It’s my ‘me’ time. Writing isn’t a choice with me it’s a need, and I’ve learned to incorporate it into my life like all the other self-care things I do. It’s okay to need these things girls (and guys).

So, sorry for the dramatic title. But don’t wait for inspiration okay? You’ll be like skeleton guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the arrow of time through your heart. It’s never too late to start writing but life is better if you just give into it now. Right now. Off you get!

“If you wait for inspiration to write you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” Dan Poynter